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International Relations' Last Synthesis?Decoupling Constructivist and Critical Approaches$
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J. Samuel Barkin and Laura Sjoberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190463427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190463427.001.0001

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Constructivism Does Not Have a Politics

Constructivism Does Not Have a Politics

(p.63) 4 Constructivism Does Not Have a Politics
International Relations' Last Synthesis?

J. Samuel Barkin

Laura Sjoberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter lays out the argument that constructivism is fundamentally a social theory of the mechanisms at work in global politics, rather than a political theory of what, in international politics, constitutes “good” and “bad.” Constructivisms provide a set of tools that can inform understandings of the substance of global political structures and decisions about how it is possible to maintain or change political structures, but constructivisms cannot by themselves inform decisions about the desirability of particular political structures. Constructivisms, as social theories, can only meaningfully inform the practice of international politics in combination with some political theory, understood as a theory concerned with the “ought” when constructivisms are concerned with the “is.” Constructivisms as such are no more “naturally” wed to critical theory than they are to realisms, liberalisms, Marxisms, or any other political theories.

Keywords:   International Relations theory, constructivism, ontology, methodology, political theory, social theory, norms and values

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