Innovative thinking about a global world Monday, May 21, Giddens on agents and structures Anthony Giddens is one of the theorists whose ideas are most often invoked when the idea of social-structural explanation is in play.
As with any school of thought, there are internal rivalries within constructivism; some scholars make use of organization theory and some draw from discourse analysis. This begs the question: And is it sufficient? This essay will argue that, due to the inherent nature of a social approach to international politics, constructivism is indeed predominantly focused on the shared understandings of actors but that, although the relationship between the social and the material could be further explored, this approach still supplies an adequate explanation of the role of material forces in the world.
The second section will analyse how constructivism accounts for the material within international politics and whether this is indeed an insufficient explanation. The final section will summarise and conclude the key points that have been argued in this essay. Too Focused on Norms? First of all, it is important to note that constructivism underlines the significance of both material and discursive power in international politics.
Agents are seen as knowledgeable and reflexive; their actions inform the structure which in turn informs the action of the agents. We are constantly creating normative structures and inventing new ones as we act; constructivism applies this logic to state action within international politics and this is imperative to understanding why constructivism places the majority of its focus upon norms.
Therefore, the constructivist focus upon norms is of greater use in accounting for change and cooperation in international politics in comparison with an inherently materialist theory such as Neorealism which cannot truly account for change or cooperation in international politics.
Even further, norms such as human rights, non-intervention, humanitarian intervention and the right to protect have evolved over a substantial period of time.
For instance in Libya, Britain, France and the US intervened after the Libyan people themselves requested assistance; not only this, but the fact that it was a multilateral effort demonstrates how states now work cooperatively instead of individually in order to gain legitimacy; the normative structures informed their action.
Thus, constructivism is predominantly focused on the duality of structure and agency through which norms, interests and ideas are both the medium and the outcome, but is it too focused on norms and ideas?
A holistic approach to international politics which aims to better our understanding of change in the world, such as constructivism, will clearly have a strong focus on norms on the whole as shared ideas and rules inform the actions of states within international politics.
As I analyse in the next section, constructivism does not lose sight of material forces in international politics and, this, combined with its dominant focus on norms is important if one wishes to understand and explain change and cooperation in the world. As the above section demonstrated, constructivism opposes materialism and places structures of sociality over structures of materiality.
Whereas, the fact that the United States holds a nuclear arsenal does not perturb the Israelis because the US has come to be perceived as a friend over time whilst Iran is classed as an enemy; as Wendt states: Is this an inadequate account of material forces?
What would constitute an adequate account?
An inadequate account of material forces would surely be one which expounded the notion that material forces are insignificant in the world or one that took the material for granted.
It acknowledges the existence of the material and accounts for material forces in terms of their incorporation within the normative structures which inform state behaviour.
It is in this respect that constructivism accepts that material forces hold weight in international politics; yes, they are dependent on the ideational but constructivists do not propose that material forces are meaningless in international politics; they recognise that material forces are a part of the international system but only through the ideational do they gain a purpose.
Indeed, the relationship between the ideational and the material could be, and should be, further explored within the field of constructivism but, as it stands, the present constructivist account of material forces acquiring meaning via shared knowledge is sufficient in explaining their role in international politics.
The Case For A Better Account of Material Force There is a growing determination within the constructivist literature to explore the relationship between the social and the material, which demonstrates that there is indeed more exploration to be conducted in order to create a better balance between the ideational and the material within constructivist analysis.
However, an approach that is able to provide a thorough analysis of how the material world impacts international politics, whilst adhering to the limitation or enablement of normative structures, would only benefit constructivism since this area has been seriously underrepresented in the literature.
In all likelihood, this is the greatest advance within constructivism that we can hope for.The aim of this course is to explore some general trends in modern sociological theory by focusing on the way in which agency-structure linkages are conceptualized in three major traditions: the Marxist, Durkheimian and Weberian one.
Structure and Agency Essay; Giddens theorizes that structure and agency are a duality that cannot exist apart from one another. Human practices create both their consciousness and society. Introduction The structure and agency debate is a common one in the field of sociology and different theorists come up with different .
This notion of ‘structure versus agency’ runs through the study of sociology generally, just as ‘nature versus nurture’ is central to the study of psychology, or whether we are fundamentally competitive or cooperative beings underpins the study of politics.
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Explain the differences between Macro and Micro sociology. Identify some of the key sociological approaches in both areas. Which do you think is more useful for studying society and why? Giddens () defines sociology in the following way: “Sociology is the .
Research on social innovation has gained momentum over the last decade, spurred notably by the growing interest in social issues related to management, entrepreneurship, and public management.