The study of international relations has been a contested ground for many decades. A specific indication of this would be explaining or understanding the nature or knowledge of the world. Many theorists from different schools of thought since the 1930’s have debated the contributions made among themselves. The main terminology here initially is the epistemology or ontology of the research among international relations theorists, much confined within the boundaries of social research either scientific or non-scientific, objective or subjective.
Fundamentally, theories in international relations are either foundational r anti foundational, explanatory or constitutive. Therefore, as a researcher you either fall under the positivist framework of research or the post positivist framework in research. Both of the aforementioned frameworks have been at odds with each other since the birth of research in international relations. In relation to the validity and warrantable acceptability of knowledge that constitutes to the focus. The focus is obviously explaining or understanding international relations.
The scale has two ends just as there is a scale among states, democratic on one end and on the other anarchy. The placement of a state on such a scale is dependent upon the domestic and foreign policy, most presently speaking. There has been much debate between positivist theorists among themselves as Rationalists and Post Positivist theorists as Reflectivist also among themselves, both still existent today. But in the present day there seems to be a new theory that intends to ‘bridge the gap’. Known as Social Constructivism. Using theoretical frameworks and methodology from both sides.
Very rationalist in its ways and not very cosy with Reflectivist, though it has been said that this theory has become prevalent. On the rounds that European integration seems to be the best place to test it. Bearing in mind it is a very new theory and it requires some refining and much more contributions in respect of knowledge. Thus far, IR terminology has occurred very often and I intend to clarify this in detail. But more importantly tackle the focus on what contributions, social constructivism has made to the study international relations?
IR scholars wish to be exempt from the extreme methodological debate and have introduced ‘middle ground’. This is found in the attempt to introduce Social constructivism as it has already been contained in a definition of ociology by Max Weber (1964:88) ‘A science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order to arrive at a casual explanation of it’s course and effects. ‘ However, Social constructivism, it has been said needs to show more to be accepted as the middle ground in researching social phenomena.
I intend to define the difference in position between two methodological positions Positivism and Post Positivism with the relevance of epistemology and ontology and other related terminology in the research of social phenomena. This will then illustrate the introduction of social onstructivism and it’s relevance and the contribution it has made to the study of social phenomena in international relations. Positivism is the most influential school of thought; scientific methods are used to conduct investigations and research in international relations.
Using empirical data for introducing theories, the epistemology and ontology is explaining objectively. Dominant theories such as Realism and Pluralism have come from the work of scholars under the positivist’s school of thought. Both, of which are rational theories and very constitutive to international relations. There are many sub theories under the category of Realism and Pluralism; this has given rise to much debate among rationalists recently. Most recognised as the inter paradigm debate of Neo- Realists and Neo-Liberalists.
The neo-neo debate is very modern as these are the refined theories of the traditional Realist and Liberalist theories. The rationalists have explicitly rejected the work of post positivistic research for epistemological and ontological reasons. There has been much development in liberalism, one such type of liberalism is that of ‘utopian’. Widely known as Wilsonian idealism founder of the eague of nation along with the French and British. Subsequently after the First World War, this is reminiscent of the work from Immanuel Kant in perpetual peace.
The idea is to bring Democracy and self-determination to the world and an international organization to resolve disputes. This effectively brings interdependence on a global stage such as previous forms of diplomacy had been unsuccessful at dissolving the problems that brought about WWI. Gilbert (1995:257) was quoted to have said the ‘Millions are being killed. Europe is mad, the world is mad. ‘ This has become the most istorical depiction upon the subject of WWI. The Kellogg-briand pact of 1928 has become the highest point in this international effort to bring peace at that time.
This effort was not able to bring peace as we had seen the historical mark of WW2. Noted as influenced by the theories of realism. Having been quoted to enforce power politics taken from the works of Thucydides, Hobbes and Machiavelli. Much of which is embodied in the states self interest that brings a need to seek power and release aggression (Hans. J. Morgenthau: 1930). Illustrated by the move by Japan and occupying Manchuria said to be he mark of WW2. Another illustrative depiction is shown by Hitler in Germany, ‘Lebenschraum’ and Mussolini in Italy preaching fascism.
This has brought many opinions from many influential scientists and philosophers in history; one such view came from a conversation between Einstein and Freud. It has been said that Einstein believed ‘humans lust hatred’ and ‘destruction’. Another major point in realism is the fact that there is a struggle for power, thus, there is no world government and the system is made of sovereign states with ‘military might’. This equates as the following: States = World Politics = International Anarchy (Morgenthau 1960:29). Therefore, WW2 can be summoned to be America, Britain and France as the ‘Haves’.
While Japan, Germany and Italy are the ‘Have nots’. So the imbalance in power means that there would be some significant shifting and positioning to address this problem according to the realist thinkers. As found in the ‘Just war Theory’. Post positivism is the ‘under dog’ so to speak as a school of thought; Non- scientific methods are used to conduct investigations and research in international relations such as structuralism. Idealistic data is used to introduce theories, the epistemology and ontology is interpreting subjectively.
Not to say that empirical data isn’t used in illustrating the social world but it is embodied in descriptive literature. One of the most dominant theories here is the normative theory. Other theories that come from the Post positivist school of thought is Critical Theory, Post modernism, Historical Sociology, Feminism and constructivism. The normative and most recently Constructivist theories have contributed much to the work of scholars in international relations. Many of the theories re based on the explanatory theoretical framework under international relations.
This group of theories are Reflectivist as realism and liberalism amongst others are rationalists for example. Both reject the others work on epistemological and ontological grounds as well as the framework of research conducted. However, Social constructivists do not wish to enter their position on either extreme. They claim to occupy the middle ground by moulding the theoretical frameworks together. This we shall discuss further in this essay. [pic] The diagram above gives us an approximate idea of how the different schools f thought are placed.
The theories under these two schools of thought are arranged in a variety of places on the diagram. As they encompass different epistemologies and ontological combinations some soft and some quite radical as to the intensity in following the structures. Social Constructivism is now seen to be very cosmopolitan; the very same words are appearing time and again. In the fiftieth anniversary issue, the rationalist and constructivist debate is seen to be a central discourse within the discipline. (International Organization, Katzenstein, Keohane, Krasner 1998).
The evolution of social constructivism has been steady and radical some might have it. The realists urged the Reflectivist to introduce research programs that satisfies the rationalists to enter the ‘mainstream’, (See Robert Keohane). ‘Seizing the middle ground’ was the next constructive move for those who did not want to enter the conflict between positivism and post positivism (See Emmanuel Adler) and leave the old post positivists school to enter into a conversation with the ‘mainstream’.
A sort of land grab object that is illustrated succinctly by Jeffrey. T. Checkels paper amed social constructivism in global and European integration using the Roman Empire as an example. Moreover, the most underlining point for social constructivists is that ‘Anarchy is what states make of it’ written by Alexander Wendt in reply to Kenneth Waltz paper and deconstructing the theoretical presumption for the realists on this matter. The social constructivists combined the ontology of the positivist’s school. Claiming objectively that the world is an inter-subjective domain and that it is subjective, the domain is constituted by people and events at particular times and places.
Fundamentally, disagreeing with the post positivists about their narrow epistemology, emphasising the fact that there is scientific theory. At the same time rejecting the positivists and claiming that knowledge can be accumulated and agreeing with the post positivist school that ideas and shared knowledge can be found in law, history and philosophy to develop theory on the social world and it’s realities, in the least. There are three fundamental terms ‘Autonomy’, ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Inter- Subjectivity,’ These terms partly influence the construction of agent- structure relationships.
The construction of interaction between agents acting on behalf of the states is constructed through thoughts and ideas as liberalist and Reflectivist also claim in the same light. It is rejected that the behaviour of agents is based on materialistic or physical forces, as the realists tend to claim. Therefore, construction of institutions is dependent on the fact that an inter-subjective domain is apparent. For instance, Human rights, International Law and Non Governmental Organizations. This inter-subjective domain is constituted by beliefs such as ideas, conceptions and assumption etc.
Thus, shared beliefs among people determine an identity such as culture, religion and or nationality. The interests vary across the board in relation to the identity, therefore, the composure of these interests and the expression can also vary in the same way. The ideas that evolve when deciding one’s interest are influenced by the ‘identity’ of that agent. This is not shown in many mainstream pieces of work (ole weaver p93). This gives rise to the security dilemma or community found Alexander Wendt’s work. The action of one agent can either be offensive or inoffensive to nother in the Anarchical system.
Therefore compelling states to enter competitive relationships to reinforce their ‘security’ (waltz). As we have seen situations such as the cold war and at the same time establishing an organisational ‘community’ like NATO (an alliance more like). Other scenarios include the United Nations; this example is ‘idea-ist’ as this demonstrates the point in regards to the inter-subjective domain. This also leads us back to the ‘state centrism’ as a looping effect in Alexander Wendts work; it shows signs of being constructed in ‘narrow way’.