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POSC 2200 – Theoretical Approaches

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1 POSC 2200 – Theoretical Approaches
Russell Alan Williams Department of Political Science

2 Unit Two: Theoretical Approaches
“Alternative Approaches - Constructivism, Poststructuralism and Feminism:” Required Reading: Globalization of World Politics, Chapters 10, 11, 12 and 17. Alexander Wendt, “Anarchy is what states make of it: The social construction of power politics,” International Organization, Vol. 46(2), (Spring 1992), Pp (Available as an excerpt available from the instructor.) Outline: Introduction Constructivism Poststructuralism Feminism Conclusions For Next Time

3 1) Introduction: Remaining “theories” are:
1) Newer – “work in progress” . . . 2) Mainly focused on the role of “ideas” in international politics Re-opens old debates in IR: Are there rules or values that affect behavior separate from “national interests”? Critics: These approaches = return to “idealism” =Similar insistence that we should pursue a moral or ethical IR Introduces concerns omitted/silenced by other theories: Role of culture and role of gender However, unclear status as “theories” More critical scholars reject variables and hypothesis

4 Key Thinkers: Liberal or mainstream constructivism: M. Finnemore A. Wendt Critical poststructuralism: R. B. J. Walker Feminism: C. Enloe

5 2) Constructivism: Key claim: Ideas or “norms” structure international politics “Norms” are produced by state interaction over time and non-state actors committed to certain ideas E.g. the global anti slavery movement (19th century) Key problem: Both “realism” and modern liberalism (E.g. “Neoliberal institutionalism”) are committed to “materialism” = Actors have fixed and predictable interests based on what is available in the material world E.g. All states and individuals want the same things regardless of culture, values or even norms

6 Constructivists argue that values define those interests – based on what people believe
Similar challenge to study of domestic politics – we need to know what actors believe E.g. Survey people about their beliefs? Requires more attention to cultural discourses and ideological commitments of elites E.g. Examine cultural attitudes in media and art

7 2) Focus on “Norms” and “Diffusion”/“Institutionalization”
Types: 1) “Epistemic Communities”: Expert groups dealing with complex and technical problems that shape how states “see” certain problems. “National interest” cannot exist outside this advice E.g. Climate Change 2) Focus on “Norms” and “Diffusion”/“Institutionalization” “Norms” = inter-subjective values about what is “normal” and not normal E.g. “Sovereignty” Treated as a “fact” by other approaches – exists when states have “power” But really based on “recognition” by other states (?) and has only existed since the ideas were “created” by the “Peace of Westphalia” Has spread (“diffused”) throughout world and is now taken for granted (“Institutionalized”) - there wouldn’t be 192 states in world without this norm

8 “Logic of Consequences” = Norms about IR shape how decision makers calculate costs and benefits of action “Logic of Appropriateness” = States have social “identities” which make them want to act appropriate to that identity Unless you are a “rogue state” you will want your actions to appear justified and legitimate Example: Intervention in another state in violation of “sovereignty” must be justified by reference to some other norm E.g. Afghanistan (2001) vs. Iraq (2003)

9 3) Post-structuralism:
Similar to “Constructivism” in focus on ideas, but more critical Constructivism remains committed to social science – shame on them(!) Post-structuralism rejects “foundationalist” “ontology” =No outside world of independently knowable facts – we “create/construct” that world through our beliefs IR is seen as a “discourse” = the creation of ideas that order the world into categories independent of any foundational reality IR “discourse” = “Power” Scholarship is about creating meanings that privilege some concerns and suppress others

10 E.g. R.B.J. Walker on “sovereignty” . . . .
= Not just a “norm”! “Sovereignty” constructs the political universe separating politics and values (inside sovereign states) from international relations. Has big political implications for normative political philosophy = ethical “duties” end at borders! E.g. Killing of civilians during war Creates “identities” that divide people; and are in some way, “risky”, because they are not based on some separate reality Real problem with IR is social science, which masks our actions in pseudo scientific validity

11 However, both “Constructivism” & “Poststructuralism” share a fundamental rejection of realism
=Distribution of power, “balance of power” etc. understood in material terms means nothing outside of “norms”, values, or “discourse” “Power” is relational – it only means something in a cultural context E.g. Some states do not see each other’s power as threatening E.g. Canada and the United States History, and culture “frame” who is a friend and who is a foe . . .

12 Example: Alexander Wendt “Aliens and the security dilemma”
“Security Dilemma”: Power is relative – anything that makes one state secure is inherently threatening to other states Closely related to “neorealism” and “offensive realism” – no role for interpretation Wendt: Imagine aliens arrive on earth . . . “Neorealism” = Attack them, before it is too late! “Constructivism” = We don’t know whether we should see them as threatening or not It will depend on how our interactions unfold It may also depend on our/their culture (?) Poststructuralism: How do we construct “aliens”?

13 4) Feminism: Not really “new”, but its influence is growing in international politics “Feminism”: A broader social program aimed at understanding women’s position and addressing inequality and oppression International politics is both based on, and contributes to “Gender Relations” =how “masculinity” and “femininity” are constructed is part of the theory and practices of international politics Concerns have evolved: Liberal feminism    Poststructural feminism

14 “Gender relations” in practice:
“Patriarchy” creates separate gender roles in which women are often in a subservient position E.g. “breadwinner” myth E.g. The “Double Burden” Contributes to a global “Gendered Division of Labour” in which women do not receive the same benefits and opportunities as men Poststructural feminists also emphasize the broader commodification of women in global capitalism

15 “Gender relations” in the study of international politics:
Female scholarship has been marginalized IR has been seen as “non-gendered”, though many of its ideas seem to sneak in gender constructions (?) E.g. Hobbes’ state of nature E.g. Security language is sexualized E.g. The “Protection Myth” and the construction of international security Does IR glorify men’s role in conflict and make women passive victims of insecurity?

16 The “Melian Dialogue” – Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War:
“Constructivism”: Athens acted “inappropriately” - outside of norms =Rogue state “Poststructuralism”: Thucydides is just an ancient George Lucas - what lessons can we learn from his “story” outside of the messages he was trying to convince us of? =Danger of basing today’s policy on “tall tales” “Feminism”: Ah we are basing our ideas about IR on fairytales about men with spears Really? =This is exactly how IR gets “gendered” – we should talk about the world we live in

17 5) Conclusions: Key Actors/Units of Analysis: A) Individuals
B) Cultures Potentially dangerous implications??? C) States – states are agents May follow norms, but may not . . .

18 View of the state: Agent influenced by identities/values
View of individual: Not rational - at least not in ways other theories assume Individuals socialized into pre-existing world views Can these views be changed for the better? View of the state: Agent influenced by identities/values Less important as an actor then “Realism”, but still important View of international system: Distribution of power and material capabilities less important Norms provide considerable structure Change is entirely possible and should be sought Anarchy bad? Soverignty bad?

19 5) Strengths & Weakness of Newer Approaches:
There are probably norms in IR . . . Interpretation, based on values, matters . . .

20 Weaknesses: Although it argues for a normative IR, it is possible that critical ideas undermine this Cultural relativism – there is no universal standard of right or wrong

21 “Nationalism and States in the International System”
6) For Next Time . . . Unit Three: Nationalism, Nations States and Foreign Policy “Nationalism and States in the International System” Required Reading: Globalization of World Politics, Chapter 25. Strobe Talbott, “Self-Determination in an Interdependent World,” Foreign Policy, No. 118 (Spring, 2000), pp (Available from the instructor.)

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