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Social Sci LibreTexts

4: Constructivism

  • Page ID
    11308
  • Constructivism’s arrival in IR is often associated with the end of the Cold War, an event that the traditional theories such as realism and liberalism failed to account for. This failure can be linked to some of their core tenets, such as the conviction that states are self-interested actors who compete for power and the unequal power distribution among states which defines the balance of power between them. By having a dominant focus on the state, traditional theories have not opened much space to observe the agency of individuals. After all, it was the actions of ordinary people that ensured the end of the Cold War, not those of states or international organisations. Constructivism accounts for this issue by arguing that the social world is of our making (Onuf 1989). Actors (usually powerful ones, like leaders and influential citizens) continually shape – and sometimes reshape – the very nature of international relations through their actions and interactions.