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What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a theory in International Relations that emphasizes the role of ideas, beliefs, and identities in shaping state behavior and the international system. Unlike traditional theories like realism and liberalism, which focus on material factors like military power and economic interests, constructivism highlights how social constructs influence international relations.

Key Points

  1. Social Constructs: Many aspects of international relations are not inherent but are created through social interactions and shared beliefs.

  2. Identity and Norms: States' actions are influenced by their identities (how they see themselves) and norms (shared expectations about behavior).

  3. Mutual Constitutiveness: State interests and the international system are shaped through ongoing interactions.


  • End of the Cold War: Constructivists argue that the Cold War ended not just because of material factors, but due to changing identities and beliefs in the US and USSR, and the shift in ideologies.

  • European Union: The EU's formation is seen as a product of shared European identity and norms of cooperation, not just economic benefits.

  • Human Rights Norms: The global adoption of human rights norms shows how ideas can influence state behavior and international policies, beyond mere material interests.

In short, constructivism provides a lens to understand how the international system is shaped by the collective ideas and interactions of states, rather than just by their material capabilities.

What is Constructivism?

What is Constructivism?

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