International Relations is a vibrant field of significant growth and change. This book guides students through the complexities of over 40 central concepts and core theories, relating them at all times to contemporary issues and debates.

Each concept is divided into five sections to allow rapid familiarization with the topic and provide signposts for further exploration:

Core questions to address; Definition; Theoretical perspectives; Empirical problems; Core reading and useful websites

In addition the major theories are covered by six-part entries that give a 360 degree view of the strengths, weaknesses, applications and methodologies of each one:

An introduction to the core questions; Overview and background; Methodologies; Empirical application; Central criticism; Core reading and useful websites

Clear and highly readable, Key Concepts in International Relations is an essential guide for students on politics and international relations courses.

Theory Concept: Social Constructivism

Theory concept: Social constructivism

1. Core Questions Addressed

  • How do structure and agency interact in international relations?
  • What is the role of norms in international relations?
  • How are international identities constructed, maintained and transformed?

2. Overview and Background

For much of the 1980s, the discipline of International Relations was polarized between rationalist approaches on the one hand and ‘reflectivist’ approaches on the other (Keohane 1988). Core to rationalism was the ‘neo–neo synthesis’ between neorealism and neoliberalism (Wæver 1997a). (→ Theory Concepts: Realism and Neorealism; Liberalism and Neoliberalism.) On the opposite side, various critical theories, including post-Marxism/Critical Theory and postmodernism/poststructuralism, criticized this synthesis through questioning the purpose of its approaches: in their view, social science was not to function like the natural sciences but to problematize the dominant ...

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