Conventional Constructivism: Norms, Culture And Identity

Table of Contents

An opening


Way of life

Character or individuality

This is an introduction

Conventional constructivism expands classical realism’s purview by providing sociological examinations of security in relation to norms, culture and identity. Constructivists believe that global politics is social and characterized by a dynamic relationship between the actors (primarily countries) and the structures (primarily, the international system). They are interested in processes such as norms, cultures, and identities that underlie current world realities.

Alexander Wendt’s mid-1990s works are credited as having given currency to the traditional constructivist sociology, which is based on structuration and symbol interactionist sociology.

Intersubjective practice is what sustains and socially constructs the interests of state actors and their security interests.

It is also important to understand how states formulate their national interests, and how they address them.

A conventional constructivist analysis emphasizes meaning and shared beliefs but assumes that there is an a priori truth. A conventional constructivist analyses emphasizes shared beliefs and the importance meaning. However, it assumes an existing a priori truth.

According to constructivism conventional, norms are expectations collectively held that define or regulate the proper behavior of a particular identity. Norms may function in some cases as rules defining an identity and “‘ constituting it'”, while in other instances they act like standards regulating the behavior of an established identity. The norms of anarchy (e.g., states, sovereignty), intersubjective in nature, set expectations for the behavior of actors and their environment.

Further, the strength of a norm can vary, explaining why its presence may not always result in compliance. Constructivism has traditionally focused on the impact of certain norms like masculinity as a standard and its frequent institutionalization through national and global law. The norms act as actors in the social world by placing themselves both within social roles like military organizations or state institutions, as well as social environments.

Conventional constructivists also believe that ideas are more than just rules to guide action. They are ideas that are communicated “‘all the way” down, influencing global actors and their political actions. In other words: When ideas become norms, they are not just rules for guiding action, but they also influence actors’ actions. In international law, states are not only allowed to practice their legitimate practices; they can also be legitimated and permitted to behave in a manner that is meaningful for other actors. States behave as they deem appropriate.

All states recognize that they are sovereign, even though their abilities to exert internal control and international power differ greatly. Some constructivists recognize that domestic norms can also influence state behavior and action. This explains differences in state behaviors. Research has shown, however, that some military norms are not a product of the state, but rather of national organizations or communities.

CultureCulture is a set evaluative or cognitive standards such as values or norms that define the actors and entities in a given system (individuals or states), and their interrelationships. State policies then reconstruct or reproduce cultural or institutional structures.

Wendt believes that culture is an enactment of expectations shared by state actors, and these expectations tend to be reproduced. Additionally, culture moves constantly, and it is reproducing itself. People make culture into an “ongoing feat” even though it’s a constraining influence on their behavior. Although culture is conservative in nature, its bearers are often engaged in a contest that serves to drive structural change.

Wendt presents, on the basis of these premises, three cultures: Hobbesian Lockean Kantian. Each culture has a predetermined idea of how states should interact. Depending upon its needs, a state may see its counterpart as an adversary (Hobbesian), rival (Lockean), or friend(Kantian). Lockean cultures are marked by “competitors” who use violence for their own gain, but don’t kill eachother. Kantian cultures involve “allies” who work together to resolve disputes without violence.

As a result, state interaction produces three elements of internalization of culture (coercions, self-interests, and legitimacy), which intersect with each of the three anarchy cultures. Wendt says that these three cultural elements inform state identity, interests and secondary products. They also generate different tendencies for the international systems. In international relations and national policy, culture is crucial because it affects the level of security or insecurity that states experience. The quality of anarchy’s interactions is largely determined by culture.

IdentityConventional constructionism focuses on identity. This includes corporate, type and collective identities. They are more important than any interests. In fact, cultural norms influence identities which in turn determines interests. Corporate identity (state), based on a belief that all states possess a material foundation, like land and people, is considered the fundamental identity.

In addition to the interactions between people in an international context, domestic factors also have a major impact on this identity. State’s needs stem from the fact that they are self-organized entities. They have needs such as autonomy and security. Interests are objective and subjective. Wendt claims that states’ “desire[s]”, their “belief[s]”, as well subjective interests, can be defined partly by the objective interest of “security”. Corporate identity is characterized by a sense of memory and self-awareness as a specific site of thought and activity.

Mutual construction is a term that describes the interaction between two people who have different ideas about themselves and their environment. Social reality is thus created. It is important to remember that, although nationhood and statehood identities often overlap, they are also determined by the security environment.

Constructivism, on the other hand, holds that national identities (and their cultural contexts or historical experiences) help determine the content of a state’s national interest and, therefore, how it will act in international relations. Ted Hopf states: “Identities are a powerful way to express your interests and preferences about the choices you make in certain domains or with particular actors.”

Hopf goes on to say that a state’s identity in international politics is shaped by the practices and identities that are present in its society. When defining a state’s security policy, it is important to take into consideration both corporate and collective identity. In my opinion

At times, however, self-interested identities can become a barrier to identity. In some security contexts, powerful countries may decide that establishing cooperative institutions is in their best interest. Its emphasis on the national identity is one of its main strengths.


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    Jamie Lane is a 31-year-old blogger and traveler who loves to share his educational experiences with others. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been traveling the world ever since. Jamie is always looking for new and interesting ways to learn, and he loves to share her findings with others.

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