Constructivism today does not accept the social world as something ‘given’, as a natural identity. It was created by human beings with their ideas, concepts and thoughts.
Constructivists focuses on how reality is ‘socially constructed’ .Constructivists of all kinds share two basic assumptions:
- The fundamental structures of international politics are social rather than strictly material; and
- structures shape actors’ identities and interests rather than simply their behaviour. Constructivists thus believe that human ideas define the international structure; this structure shapes the identities, interests and foreign policies of states; the state and non‐state actors reproduce that structure or sometimes transform the structure. Constructivism believes that our social world is not made essentially by material forces, external to human ideas and control: our world is made of human thoughts, beliefs and innovative ideas. From the constructivist perspective, realist, liberal, see material factors such as money, territory, and weapons as driving international politics. In contrast, constructivism looks at the powerful role that ideas play in international politics. Although they do not deny the importance of material factors such as money and weapons, constructivists argue that the effects of these factors are not predetermined. Instead, the effects of these factors depend on how we think about them. Every material manifestation in international affairs ‐ cooperation, conflict, allies, enemies, interests, power ‐ bears meaning given to it by humans. everything is a product of conscious construction by human beings. These structures are created through human ideas. For instance, a ‘security community’ ‐ for example, the NATO ‐ is a social structure created by human beings; as also the ‘security dilemma’ of states, where one country views the other as its opponent or enemy.
For constructivists, the norms of a society formulate the interests of the society that impacts the relation of the society with other societies.
For constructivists the creation of identities is a necessary feature of international politics.
Identities imply a particular set of interests or preferences. In other words identities inform interests which in turn outline particular forms of action. Constructivists claim that it is necessary to understand how actors develop these interests and identities.
Constructivists believe that the formation of identity is a dynamic process that is changed through culture, norms, ideas and international interactions. For example, the American invasion of Iraq is understood by constructivists as the collision of conflicting identities. America’s constructed identity of a promoter of democratic society led to the war to protect friendly governments from the threats caused by the authoritarian regime of Iraq.
Constructivism tries to find out the causes behind such cooperation and conflict. constructivist approach would focus more on human ideas and beliefs, rather than on the so‐called ‘material’ causes and events.
For a constructivist, cooperation happens because people want to achieve it. In other words, a constructivist may see cooperation as agreements or adjustments of two minds or mindsets. For a constructivist, idea precedes matter; for realists, matter precedes ideas.
A realist, therefore, would establish anarchy as the reality in international politics; a constructivist, on the other hand, would search the roots of anarchy in human minds.
One of the main assumptions of a constructivist approach is that identities, norms, and culture play important roles in world politics.
Identities and interests of states are not simply structurally determined, but are rather produced by interactions,
institutions, norms, cultures. It is process, not structure, which determines the manner in which states interact.
The core debates in the discipline of International Relations today revolve around normative issues put forward by
constructivists‐versus material forces‐highlighted by rationalists (realist and liberal); differences over the nature of social structures, and continuity and transformation in international politics.
constructivists put emphasis on ideas as opposed to matters in the analysis of the international society. For example, conflicts between states can be viewed as ideational conflicts or antagonistic mental constructs of the ruling elites; and not always due to physical or material aspects.