Constructivism: Social Theory of International Politics by Alexander Wendt

1056 Words3 Pages

Alexander Wendt in his work entitled Social Theory of International Politics (1999) explain the basic propositions of constructivism, arguing that “structures of human association are determined primarily by shared ideas rather than material forces; thus, identities and interests of purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by nature” (Palan, 2000, p. 576). As such, these shared ideas construct identities and interests. In this regard, Wendt supports Thucydides who explains how language and convention form identities and enable power to be translated into influence (Lebow 2001, 547). As a result, this means that the cultures of anarchy depends on “how [actors] construe their identity in relation to others” (Zehfuss, 2001, p.318). This also means that the structure of the international system is a social phenomenon, not merely a material phenomenon because (Hinnebusch, 2003), as stated above, “the character of international life is determined by the beliefs and expectations” that are constructed mostly by social structure “rather than material structures," (Wendt, 1999). As such, interaction between the actors is structured by the embedded norms of the system.
As for interest, constructivism argues that, “interests presuppose identities because an actor cannot know what it wants until it knows who it is” (Wendt 1999, p. 231). This means that the basis for interests is identities themselves (Bozdaglioglou, 2007).
Interestingly, constructivist theory on risk also says similar thing to the aforementioned international relations theory. Constructivism argues that risk knowledge is not free at all from the socio-cultural contexts in which this knowledge is created (Lupton, 1999). This ...

... middle of paper ...

...f Global Jihad. St. Paul: Zenith Press.
Smith, P. (1991) The War Before the War. The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 143, December 13, 2010.
The Iraq Inquiry (2010) RT Hon Tony Blair [Online], Available at, 11 December 2013.

The National Commission On Terrorist Attack Upon The United States (2004) 9/11 Commission Report [Online], Available at http://www. report/911Report.pdf, Accessed 10 December 2013.
Walt, S M. (1998) International Relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign Policy, 110 (Spring 1998): 29-46.
Wendt, A. (1999) Social Theory of International Politics, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Zehfuss, M. (2001) Constructivism and Identity: A Dangerous Liaison. European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2001, pp. 315-348, p. 318.

Open Document