Advanced International Relations Theory - 1st Review Assignment Name Department /NPM Resource : Andhyta Firselly Utami : International
Relations / 0906550373 : Fierke, K. M., ³Constructivism´ in Dunne, Kurke, and Smith, International Relations Theories, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 178-195
Constructivism: Challenging Challenges of International Relations For decades, traditional scholars of international relations are gratified to have championed theories and concepts explaining states¶ behavior which used to remain as unanswered questions. As the Berlin Wall fell and Cold War ended, however, there are tremendous changes in the shape of world¶s structure. Security and economic issues are now challenged by value-saturated, non-conventional problems such as human rights and the role of civil society in forming a country¶s policy. This phenomenon oppugns prevailing approaches (i.e. rationalism, post-structuralism) and raises new inquiries. How would international relations scholars explicate transnational and social dimension of the science? More importantly, is objective reality socially constructed? Fierke in his work ³Constructivism´ tries to elucidate the emergence of constructivists, the grand picture of constructivism shaped by debates within IR, as well as War on Terror as its study case. This article is going to review his work, portray several comparisons of understanding with Emanuel Adler¶s ³Seizing the Middle Ground´, and in the end root it back to Alexander Wendt¶s ideals in ³Anarchy Is What States Make of It´. Broadly defined, according to Fierke, constructivists shared a critique on static material assumption of traditional theories and emphasize the possibility of change. Fierke commenced his assessment on constructivism by bringing forward the idea that international relations is a social construction, under three themes: (1) it is across context rather than a single objective reality, (2) norms, rules, and language become very important as the emphasize goes to its social dimension, and (3) international politics is a world of our making.1 Under these conditions, the possibility of agency with highlight on processes of interactions is introduced. Thus, constructivism is mainly a critique to rationalism, although it does not involve a wholesale rejection to the scientific method and rather argues towards the nature of being, structures-agents relationship, constitution of material world, as well as the role of cognition as its central points. In this sense, the individualist ontology of rationalism is questioned and thoughts for social ontology are presented. As fundamentally social beings, individuals or states cannot be separated from normative meaning which shapes their identity and thus options available for them. Structures, which in rationalism are seen as function for competition of power distribution, constrain and constitute the characteristics of actors. This leaves more space for agency, in terms of how states and environment influence each other. Rather than limited, choices in constructivism are said to be mutually constituted. Constructivists also see that material objects and institutions are but a product of social facts. Lastly, they suggest that intersubjective understanding or reasoning is not merely aggregation of individual beliefs but has independent status as collective knowledge.
Fierke, K. M., ³Constructivism´ in Dunne, Kurke, and Smith, International Relations Theories, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), page 180
In the next section Fierke tries to depict the position of constructivism in the science of international relations. He comes to a conclusion that, instead of placing it equivalent to poststructuralism as an opponent of rationalism, constructivism should be located as the middle ground between both. Although it confronts ontological assumptions of rationalism, constructivism does not defy any epistemological views in positivism (i.e. hypothesis testing, causality, and explanation). Constructivists are interested in providing a better explanation, rather than emancipation per se. 2 This, however, does not guarantee that there is a unified consensus as today¶s constructivists are developed into conventional and critical ones. The subsequent inquiry would be constructivism¶s status. Distinct scholars argue differently that it should be accepted as either a way of study, theory, or approach. Marrying constructivist ontology with positivist epistemology is as inconsistent as building a constructivist theory on it. Therefore, the most common way to designate constructivism is to accept it as a middle-ground approach which was introduced by Emanuel Adler in a friendlier manner. Emanuel Adler¶s piece on µconstructivism in world politics¶ injects an acceptably fresh point of view on how international relations science should place and see constructivism. According to him, a great deal arguing that international reality is socially constructed by cognitive structures has been written. However, inter alia, most of the epistemological, theoretical, empirical, as well as methodological foundations of the approach remain unclear. Its aim for bigger contribution to establish a better understanding of the science is also not widely appreciated. This is because constructivism opens areas for empirical investigation which did not exist for realists, overlooked by liberals, and unimportant to psychological approaches. In that article, he concludes that constructivism may hold the key for developing dynamic theories about the transformation of international actors, institutionalized patterns, system of governance, as well as new political identities and interests.3 The last two famous µi¶s, identity and interest, are given exogenously by structure and process is reduced to interactions between those parameters. This theme and spirit is similar to one that was brought by Fierke. As non-traditional scholars, both Fierke and Adler try to help their broader audience to really comprehend what this approach aspires for. While the latter convinces that it is imperative to attempt µto pull together the pieces and provide synthetic explanation of the constructivist approach¶, the first answers it by relating the problem to United States-led War on Terror. Through such case study, he affirms that the attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon on 11 September 2001 and War on Terror policy have called the µtimeless¶ realist assumption into question. For example on how realism has a little say on µterrorists¶ as non-state actors. Constructivism would, instead, be able to explore how identities, actions, and human suffering of those terrorists are constructed through a process of interaction.4 As a result, he says, War on Terror has produced a multidimensional reality which composes of meanings that the two actors brought to their encounters. Constructivists¶ perception on how language creates certain comprehension and causing is direly important also becomes certain impacts in analyzing the situation.
2 Emanuel Adler, ³Seizing the Middle Ground´ in European Journal of International Relations, (London: Sage Publication, 1997; 3), accessed from http://ejt.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/3/319 on February 8th, 2011, page 30 3 Ibid., page 31 4 Op Cit., K.M. Fierke, page 190
Another way to distinguish rationalism and constructivist could be seen from theories that each covers. Political realist and liberal theories, as well as most Marxist theories, are generally understood as rationalist, while reflectivist, interpretivist, postmodern and poststructural theories are usually regarded as constructivist.5 At the same time, there are particular scholars who believe that constructivism is a midpoint between political realism and liberal institutionalism.6 Alexander Wendt, in his incredibly famous work ³Anarchy Is What States Make of It´ upholds the idea that the basic ground of all international relations theories is the relationship between actors, process, and structure.7 Consequently, debates between realists and liberals arise on the fundamental motion of whether actions of a state are mostly influenced by either one of them. Wendt¶s assessment goes back to the profound debates and need to justify international relations theories. Social dimension still stands as the core for any international relations theorizing and states decide what anarchy will be like, either conflictual or cooperative, depending on their identity and interest. Apparently, this notion leads to another perception on the basis for systemic theories of world politics which was one of Wendt¶s focuses in his writing. First, the level of importance of interaction among states for the constitution of their identities and interests might be slightly different, considering the existence of domestic as well as genetic factors. Second, the possibility of change would also impact and shape these theories. The writer believes that this ground idea plays and becomes the backbone of all discourses upon constructivism. In fact, Fierke¶s µclassic constructivists¶ title shall be rooted to Alexander Wendt himself. Building on Wendt¶s concept, we may conclude that there are three bases for constructivism which are social knowledge, social practice, as well as social identities and interests. First, ³people act toward objects, including other actors, on the basis of the meanings that the objects have for them. Second, ³the meanings in terms of which action is organized arise out of interaction´. Third, ³identities (and interests) are produced in and through µsituated activity¶. The writer believes that all uncertainties regarding the significance of each of these pillars of understanding as well as the scoop in which more inquiries are addressed might depend on how interaction are conducted by international relations actors themselves. Wendt¶s concept bridges the assumption of neorealist (logic of anarchy is structural and leads to conflict) to that of neoliberalist (logic of anarchy is a process that can lead to cooperation) by proposing the idea that µthere is no logic to anarchy¶. Cynthia Weber, for instance, calls µanarchy is the permissive cause of war¶ as a myth because the anarchy is neither necessarily conflictual nor cooperative for there is no µnature¶ to international anarchy.8 Hence, constructivism argues that identities and interests in international politics are not stable²they have no pre-given nature.
Fred Chernoff, The Power of International Relations Theory: Reforging The Link to Foreign-policy Making Through Scientific Enquiry, (London: Routledge, 2005), page 20 6 Ibid. 7 Alexander Wendt, ³Anarchy Is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics´ in International Organization, 8 Cythia Weber, International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction, 2nd ed., (New York: Routledge, 2005), page 60
In the end, Fierke, Adler and Wendt seem to agree that all theories of international relations should be based on social science principles which don¶t determine the content of our international theorizing yet structure the questions we ask about world politics and the approach of answering them. Thenceforth, constructivism is a middle-ground approach that accepts and embraces this notion by resting international relations science¶s point of view back to its nature under the realm of social science. Constructivism acknowledges the likelihood of change, appreciates identity and interests, and it stands as an essential critique to traditional theories. Although Fierke argues that constructivism is, to some extent, inconsistent in their reasoning, we may say that it managed to properly respond and retort most puzzles and challenges of contemporary international relations.