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Palan, Ronen (2000)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
IR constructivism maintain that a proper understanding of the way subjects interact with the world and with each other alerts us to the fallacy of conventional IR theory. And yet, for a theory that is so obviously dependent upon a rigorous working of the relationship between social theory and its IR variant, it is curious that, with one or two exceptions, IR constructivists often advance incompatible theories. I argue that the confused manner by which, in particular, ‘soft’ constructivism relates to social theory is not accidental but a necessary component of a theory that asserts, but never proves, the primacy of norms and laws over material considerations, in domestic and international politics.
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    • 6 See John G. Ruggie, 'What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-Utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge', International Organization, 52:4 (1998), pp. 855-85; Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). In fact constructivism can be equated with to what Silverman calls, 'the continental tradition'. See Hugh J. Silverman, Inscriptions: After Phenomenology and Structuralism (Northwestern University Press, 1997); Gerard Delanty, for instance, includes under the category of constructivism, hermeneutics, the neo-Marxism of the Frankfurt school, communication theory, deconstruction and postmodernism. See Gerard Delanty, Social Science: Beyond Constructivism and Realism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997). This view also seems to have been adopted by Richard Price and Christian Reus-Smit, 'Dangerous Liaisons? Critical International Theory and Constructivism', European Journal of International Relations, 4:3 (1998), pp. 259-94.
    • 7 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 1. See also Ronald L. Jepperson, Alexander Wendt and Peter J. Katzenstein, 'Norm, Identity, and Culture in National Security', in Peter Katzenstein, (ed.), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); and Martha Finnemore, 'Constructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention', in the same volume.
    • 8 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 1.
    • 9 Ray Koslowski and Friedrich V. Kratochwil, 'Understanding Change in International Politics: The Soviet Empire's Demise and the International System', International Organization, 48:2 (1994), pp. 215-47, esp. p. 222.
    • 10 Ibid., p. 223.
    • 11 See, for instance, Price and Reus-Smit, 'Dangerous Liaisons?' Wendt now counts members of the English school and many prominent foreign policy authors among the list of IR constructivists.
    • 12 For discussion see: Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990); and Anthony Wilden, System and Structure: Essays in Communication and Exchange (London: Tavistock, 1972).
    • 13 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 2.
    • 14 Ruggie, 'What Makes the World Hang Together'? Ruggie clearly draws on James Bernard Murphy 'Rational Choice Theory as Social Physics', in Jeffrey Friedman (ed.), The Rational Choice Controversy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996).
    • 15 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 2.
    • 16 Key texts include: Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969); George H. Mead, 'Mind, Self and Society', in Charles W. Morris (ed.) (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1934); Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World (Northwestern University Press, 1967). For good overviews of symbolic interactionism, see Joel M. Charon, Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, an Interpretation, an Integration, 6th edn. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988).
    • 17 Ernst Glaserffeld, 'An introduction to radical constructivism', in Paul Watzlawick (ed.), The Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? Contributions to Constructivism (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1984), p. 31.
    • 18 Wilden, System and Structure, p. 31.
    • 19 Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 1 (Yale and London: Yale University Press, 1955), p. 74.
    • 20 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 4th edn. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), p. 5.
    • 21 Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, p. 76.
    • 22 Ibid., p. 85.
    • 23 Anthony Wilden, Lacan and the Discourse of the Other: Introduction to Jacques Lacan, The Function of the Self: The Formation of Language in Psychonalysis (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), p. 194.
    • 24 Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, p. 86.
    • 25 Ibid., p. 86.
    • 26 J.D. Loic Wacquant, 'The Purpose of Reflexive Sociology', in Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (The University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 9.
    • 27 Charon, Symbolic Interactionism, p. 42.
    • 28 Ibid., p. 42.
    • 29 Ibid., p. 44.
    • 30 Ibid., p. 60.
    • 31 'The self is an object of the actor's own action. The individual acts towards others: the individual also acts towards himself or herself. It is not the self that acts: it is the actor that acts'. Ibid., p. 72.
    • 32 Ibid., p. 27.
    • 33 Wacquant describes symbolic interactionism as '[t]he subjectivist or 'constructivist' point of view … [which] 'asserts that social reality is a 'contingent ongoing accomplishment' of competent social actors who continually construct their social world via 'the organized artful practices of everyday life.' Wacquant, The Purpose of Reflexive Sociology, p. 9.
    • 34 See Dario Melossi, The State of Social Control; A Sociological Study of Concepts of State and Social Control in the Making of Democrac (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), ch. 7.
    • 35 See 'The problem of corporate agency', Wendt, Social Theory.
    • 36 See, for instance, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Function in Primitive Society: Essays and Addresses (London: Cohen & West, 1952).
    • 52 Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1982).
    • 53 For an excellent exposition, see Kate Soper, Humanism and Anti-Humanism (London: Hutchinson, 1986).
    • 54 Ibid., p. 125.
    • 55 For a good discussion, see Wilden, Lacan and the Discourse of the Other.
    • 56 Marshall W. Alcorn, Jr. 'The Subject of Discourse: Reading Lacan through (and beyond) PostStructuralist Context', in Mark Bracher, Marshall Alcorn, Ronald Corthell and Francoise Massardier-Kenney (eds.), Lacanian Theory of Discourse: Subject, Structure and Society (New York University Press, 1973), p. 23.
    • 57 For an excellent discussion see John Wilkinson, 'A New Paradigm for Economic Analysis?' Economy & Society, 26:3 (1997); Philip Mirowski, 'The Philosophical Bases of Institutionalist Economics', in Don Lavoie (ed.), Economics and Hermenutics (London: Routledge, 1999); and Ian Mackenzie, 'Creativity as Criticism: The Philosophical Constructivism of Deleuze and Guattari', Radical Philosophy, 86 (1997), pp. 7-18; and Palan, forthcoming.
    • 62 Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, pp. 484-5.
    • 63 Reusch, J. and Bateson, G., Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry (New York: W. W. Norton, 1951).
    • 64 Jepperson proposes to differentiate between realism and constructivism according to the degree by which they propose to represent units as socially constructed. In low construction, or realist imagery, 'units may enter into social relations that influence their behavior, but the units themselves are socially pregiven, autochthonous … Whereas high constructedness denotes that the social objects under investigation are thought to be complex social products, reflecting context-specific rules and interactions', Ronald L. Jepperson, 'Institutions, Institutional Effects, and Institutionalism', in Walter W. Power and Paul J. DiMaggio (eds.), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1991), p. 193.
    • 65 Jepperson, Wendt and Katzenstein, 'Norm, Identity, and Culture in National Security'; they say very explicitly that: 'The map is Wendt's idea', p. 37.
    • 66 Ibid., p. 38.
    • 67 Wendt, Social Theory.
    • 68 Wilden, Lacan and the Discourse of the Other, p. 68.
    • 69 See for instance Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, pp. 74-5.
    • 70 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (London: Tavistock, 1970).
    • 71 Mirowski, 'Philosophical Bases of Institutionalist Economics', p. 79.
    • 72 For discussion of the constructivist theory of the 'real', see Ronen Palan, 'The Constructivist Underpinnings of the New Political Economy', in Ronen Palan (ed.), Global Political Economy; Contemporary Theories (London: Routledge, 2000).
    • 73 Wendt, Social Theory, p. 157.
    • 74 Thomas Risse-Kappen, 'Ideas Do Not Float Freely: Transnational Coalitions, Domestic Structures, and the End of the Cold War', International Organization, 48:2 (1994), pp. 185-214.
    • 75 Ibid., p. 94.
    • 76 Ibid., p. 94.
    • 86 Alexander Wendt and Daniel Friedheim, 'Hierarchy under Anarchy: Informal Empire and the East German State', International Organization, 49:4 (1995), p. 692.
    • 87 Onuf, World of Our Making, p. 27.
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