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Social Constructivism, Post Modernism, & Post Colonial Approaches

Social Constructivism.

Social constructivism school has become prominent in recent era in international politics.
Scholars of social constructivism: Alexander Wendt, Nicolas Onuf, Nina Tannenwald

Summary statement: everything is in mind, WE think something to be in particular way. We need to change attitude.

Social constructivism is a school which has relatively recent origin. Specifically after the end of Cold War. Nicolas Onuf has written a book titled THE WORLD OF OUR OWN MAKING on the eve of the end of Cold War. It shows that the Cold War was not inevitable. Cold War was a result of miscalculations, misunderstandings.

Later on Alexander Wendt further developed social constructivism as a critique to structural realism or Kenneth Waltz. In the words of Alexander Wendt ‘Anarchy is what states make of it’.
According to him, it is true that there is anarchy which means absence of the world govt. However it does not necessarily mean that anarchy should be understood in a way, that compels states to go for power politics. However we are accustomed to interpret anarchy in a specific way linking it with security dilemma. It may be because of the hegemony of the realist school. Security dilemma may not be the material fact. However it may be our construction, our own making.
Our construction is shaped by our values, norms, experiences. We continue with these constructions without making attempt to verify. Thus for social constructivists, ‘all is in the mind, what is needed to be changed is how we think.’ One way of verifying our ideas is through communications and interactions.
Social constructivism is influenced by that ideas of Italian scholar Vico. According to Vico, natural world is made by God but social world is made by humans. Similarly Immanuel Kant suggests that our knowledge gets filtrated through our subjective consciousness.

According to social constructivists we never look at the world through naked eyes, we always look at the world through the glasses of culture, norms, values, identities. World is not constituted by material structures, world is constituted by ‘ideational structures’. Social constructivism also emphasized on the role of ideas and the mode of thinking. According to social constructivists, interaction and communications is the only way we can verify our ideas and correct our thinking.

Social constructivism is also influenced by the concept of ‘structuration’ given by Anthony Giddens. According to the concept structures do not constrain the actions of actors in a mechanical way, actors can also transform the structures, by thinking about them in a different way. e.g. It is not necessary to interpret anarchy in terms of lawlessness as suggested by Hobbes. Anarchy can also be seen as the state of peace, goodwill, mutual assistance as suggested by John Locke.

To conclude social constructivism believe that reality does not exist outside our consciousness, it only exists as ‘intersubjective awareness’ among people.

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Post modernism

// Refer political theory (section 1A) also.
Post modernism is relatively new in international relations. Post modernism in international relations is influenced by the views of post modernist scholars like 1) Lyotard.  2) Foucault 3) Derrida

According to the approach of deconstruction, international relations can also be understood as a text, every text can have multiple interpretations. Post modernism criticise the realist assertion that the realism is the scientific explanation of international politics. For post modernists, no knowledge is free from the function of power. Realism is also a discourse or a meta-narrative. Realism appears truth because it has been established as the dominant narrative.

In international politics, the prominent post modernist scholars include Der Derian, Rob Walker, Richard Ashley.
Der Derian has applied the approach of deconstruction, he has analyzed diplomacy from post modernist perspective.
Richard Ashley has given the concept of ‘anarchy problematique’. He has provided the criticism of structural realism. According to him, the way realists describe anarchy is problematic. Anarchy does not necessarily mean security dilemma. It is a interpretation of anarchy by realists in a specific way that creates security dilemma. Anarchy as suggested by realists suffer from the number of objectionable exclusions. They have purposefully excluded the growth of cooperation in international politics from the framework of analysis. The interpretation of anarchy in a specific way by realists also create practical problems. When anarchy is interpreted as a situation of security dilemma, it compels states to acquire power. When states have arms, it results into war. When wars takes place, realists claim the scientific nature of their theory.

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Post colonialism

/ Refer political theory section.
Post colonial scholars in international politics attempt to decolonize the discipline of international relations. According to the post colonial scholars, mainstream theories are Eurocentric. Neither based on the actual history nor relevant for the countries of third world. e.g. Mohammad Ayub has questioned the relevance of security dilemma in case of post colonial states suffering from insecurity dilemma.

Post colonial scholars also put a question mark on the arrogance of western scholars. e.g. Stanley Hoffman held that international relations is American social science. Morgenthau held that Africa is politically empty. Kenneth Waltz held that it would be ridiculous if the discipline of international relations include the study of foreign policy of Malaysia or Costa Rica.

Test Your Knowledge!

1] Who is the author of the book The World of Our Making ?
a) Alexander Wendt
b) Immanual Kant
c) Nicolas Onuf
d) Rob Walker

Show Answer

Ans: c) Nicolas Onuf

2] Who gave the concept of Structuration?
a) Anthony Giddens
b) Der Denian
c) Richard Ashley
d) Mohammad Ayub

Show Answer

Ans: a) Anthony Giddens

3] Which of the following scholars influenced Post Colonialism?
a) Lyotard
b) Foucalt
c) Derrida
d) All Of the above

Show Answer

Ans: d) All Of the above

4] Who gave the concept of Anarchy Problematique?
a) Morgenthau
b) Richard Ashley
c) Rob Walker
d) Der Denian

Show Answer

Ans: b) Richard Ashley

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Amit Shah

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