Social for a decade, and SToIP is regarded as

Social Theory of International Politics (SToIP) is the first
book by Alexander Wendt; a prominent political scientist who is observed to be
one of the fundamental social constructivist scholars within the discipline of
International Relations (IR). Published in 1999, Wendt seeks to develop a
concept of the international system as a ‘social construction’. The title of
the book is a reference to Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, the
dominant IR text for two decades prior. Contextually, adding the word social
makes sense, as social action had lunged itself turbulently into the allegedly closed
international world. Social theory had also begun to displace political theory
as the academic agenda following the end of the Cold War. ‘Social construction’
lies as a blunt rejection of the positivist and materialist origins of IR
proposed by realists and liberalists. Rather than seeing states as
characteristically egoistic and interested principally in security (i.e. Waltz),
resulting in the Neorealist “self-help” states system, Wendt contends
that there is no inherent logic of anarchy at the unit or system level. Wendt
argues that realist and liberalist approaches incorrectly place an emphasis on
materialist motivations as opposed to norms and shared values. As a social
theory, constructivism contests this materialism by speculating that human
association is governed by cultural factors rather than material circumstances.
Wendt challenges rationalism by arguing for its purpose as both
behavior-regulating and interest-stimulating, though people and material forces
“still matter” (Wendt, 1999). Throughout the book Wendt intricately explains
the core values of constructivism. He draws on the philosophies of Hobbes,
Locke and Kant to hypothesize three principles of anarchy categorized as
“enmity”, “rivalry” and “friendship”. Wendt deems himself to be a moderate of
the field, as he acknowledges the role of significant aspects of materialist
perspectives and endorses a positivist approach to social inquiry. (Wendt,
1999). This book is one of the foremost texts within the constructivist
approach and is widely cited by IR scholars. The school of thought had only
existed within IR for a decade, and SToIP is regarded as the canonical
summation of the theory. I believe that Wendt presents a persuasive argument in
favour of the approach whilst also providing a thorough assessment of the state
of IR as a discipline. SToIP delivers a radical new way of explaining change in
an international system, one which greatly opposed many of the major talking
points of the neo-neo debate.  Wendt is a
self-confessed moderate constructivist and I believe that on occasion he
over-emphasises his viewpoint rather than that of the theoretical area he is
representing. Also, he fails to provide a solution to his critique, this is a
symptom of constructivism in general, as Wendt concedes.

The book is split into two broad parts: “Social Theory” and
“International Politics”, with four chapters dedicated to the former and three
to the latter. Part one examines the underpinnings of Wendt’s social
constructivism that can be applied to a changing international system. Focusing
on epistemology and ontology, each chapter delivers an isolated discussion of a
precise theoretical issue, often using Waltz as a launching point. The first
chapter can be seen as an introduction; Wendt sets out his distinct
constructivist position and explains its origins. He states what he hopes to
achieve through the text, and how he seeks to go about this. This chapter is
important to get a grasp of his form of constructivism, and how tenuous its
links to typical IR study are. Chapter two analyses the epistemological foundation
of reasoning, and its basis for the argument. Using a realist philosophy of
science, Wendt asks how we can be both positivist and constructivist – Wendt is
observed as being particularly positivist in his approach, a minority in this
school of thought. Chapters three and four shift the focus towards ontology.
Chapter three investigates the idea that the understanding of power
distribution is assembled by the distribution of interests. The proposal that
interests are ideas stimulates the question of whether rational choice is
materialist or idealist. Wendt concludes that it is a form of idealism. Wendt
believes that power and interests should be scrutinized on the social level as
their effects are a result of culturally formed ideas. Chapter four addresses
the nature in which a constructivist analyses the structure of culture and how
it differs from an individualist. Using Waltz definition of structure, Wendt
looks to distinguish between the effects of structure (causal and constitutive)
and the two levels of structure (micro and macro). Wendt argues that culture is
a self-fulfilling prophecy, actors act on behalf of expectations, which tends
to produce said expectations and ultimately lead to structural change.

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In part two Wendt turns to substantive arguments about the
nature of the international system which is conditioned by the social
constructivist approach outlined previously. This part of the book can be
considered a case study, with chapters assessing state agency, international
structure and systemic process. Chapter five looks to argue in favour of states
being unitary actors with anthropomorphic qualities. Utilising Weberian and
Marxian state theory, Wendt argues that states are self-organizing entities
whose core structures exchange capacities for corporate agency on their
members. Wendt also disregards the materialist nature of realist-theorised
state interests, stating that states do not innately possess interests, instead
they are socially constructed. Concepts of state identity and its incompatibility
with self-interest are also discussed. Chapter six provides a deeper analysis
of the ‘cultures’ of anarchy touched upon in chapter four. Wendt believes that
anarchy is ideational rather than material, and that its logic can deviate. Wendt
identifies different roles played in anarchy: enemy, rival and friend; arguing
that they are constitute Hobbesian, Lockean and Kantian macro-level cultures
respectively. Wendt outlines that these play a part in different reasons for
compliance, leading to different pathways to how cultures can be realized, and
correspond to how neorealists, neoliberals and constructivists explain
rule-following. Lastly, chapter seven examines how processes of interaction
reproduce and alter systemic structures. Wendt does this by separating two
models of what is occurring when states interact, a rationalist model and a
constructivist model. The rationalist model treats characteristics and
interests as fixed, whereas the constructivist model treats them as endogenous
and fluid. Throughout the rest of the chapter Wendt applies this framework to
tangible examples of structural change in IR (a change from one culture of
anarchy to another, Lockean to Kantian). This is a direct criticism of the
neorealist belief, which deems it to be a change in the distribution of
material capabilities. Wendt discusses how four “master variables” are causes
of identity formation: interdependence, common fate, hemogenisation and
self-restraint. The result provides the social theory underpinnings for liberal
arguments about the consequences of proliferation of liberal states, while
leaving open the option that other pathways may achieve the same outcome. This
is a perfect example of Wendt’s moderate approach to the theory, often providing
soft conclusions.

Social Theory of International Politics (SToIP) is the first
book by Alexander Wendt; a prominent political scientist who is observed to be
one of the fundamental social constructivist scholars within the discipline of
International Relations (IR). Published in 1999, Wendt seeks to develop a
concept of the international system as a ‘social construction’. The title of
the book is a reference to Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, the
dominant IR text for two decades prior. Contextually, adding the word social
makes sense, as social action had lunged itself turbulently into the allegedly closed
international world. Social theory had also begun to displace political theory
as the academic agenda following the end of the Cold War. ‘Social construction’
lies as a blunt rejection of the positivist and materialist origins of IR
proposed by realists and liberalists. Rather than seeing states as
characteristically egoistic and interested principally in security (i.e. Waltz),
resulting in the Neorealist “self-help” states system, Wendt contends
that there is no inherent logic of anarchy at the unit or system level. Wendt
argues that realist and liberalist approaches incorrectly place an emphasis on
materialist motivations as opposed to norms and shared values. As a social
theory, constructivism contests this materialism by speculating that human
association is governed by cultural factors rather than material circumstances.
Wendt challenges rationalism by arguing for its purpose as both
behavior-regulating and interest-stimulating, though people and material forces
“still matter” (Wendt, 1999). Throughout the book Wendt intricately explains
the core values of constructivism. He draws on the philosophies of Hobbes,
Locke and Kant to hypothesize three principles of anarchy categorized as
“enmity”, “rivalry” and “friendship”. Wendt deems himself to be a moderate of
the field, as he acknowledges the role of significant aspects of materialist
perspectives and endorses a positivist approach to social inquiry. (Wendt,
1999). This book is one of the foremost texts within the constructivist
approach and is widely cited by IR scholars. The school of thought had only
existed within IR for a decade, and SToIP is regarded as the canonical
summation of the theory. I believe that Wendt presents a persuasive argument in
favour of the approach whilst also providing a thorough assessment of the state
of IR as a discipline. SToIP delivers a radical new way of explaining change in
an international system, one which greatly opposed many of the major talking
points of the neo-neo debate.  Wendt is a
self-confessed moderate constructivist and I believe that on occasion he
over-emphasises his viewpoint rather than that of the theoretical area he is
representing. Also, he fails to provide a solution to his critique, this is a
symptom of constructivism in general, as Wendt concedes.

The book is split into two broad parts: “Social Theory” and
“International Politics”, with four chapters dedicated to the former and three
to the latter. Part one examines the underpinnings of Wendt’s social
constructivism that can be applied to a changing international system. Focusing
on epistemology and ontology, each chapter delivers an isolated discussion of a
precise theoretical issue, often using Waltz as a launching point. The first
chapter can be seen as an introduction; Wendt sets out his distinct
constructivist position and explains its origins. He states what he hopes to
achieve through the text, and how he seeks to go about this. This chapter is
important to get a grasp of his form of constructivism, and how tenuous its
links to typical IR study are. Chapter two analyses the epistemological foundation
of reasoning, and its basis for the argument. Using a realist philosophy of
science, Wendt asks how we can be both positivist and constructivist – Wendt is
observed as being particularly positivist in his approach, a minority in this
school of thought. Chapters three and four shift the focus towards ontology.
Chapter three investigates the idea that the understanding of power
distribution is assembled by the distribution of interests. The proposal that
interests are ideas stimulates the question of whether rational choice is
materialist or idealist. Wendt concludes that it is a form of idealism. Wendt
believes that power and interests should be scrutinized on the social level as
their effects are a result of culturally formed ideas. Chapter four addresses
the nature in which a constructivist analyses the structure of culture and how
it differs from an individualist. Using Waltz definition of structure, Wendt
looks to distinguish between the effects of structure (causal and constitutive)
and the two levels of structure (micro and macro). Wendt argues that culture is
a self-fulfilling prophecy, actors act on behalf of expectations, which tends
to produce said expectations and ultimately lead to structural change.

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For You For Only $13.90/page!


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In part two Wendt turns to substantive arguments about the
nature of the international system which is conditioned by the social
constructivist approach outlined previously. This part of the book can be
considered a case study, with chapters assessing state agency, international
structure and systemic process. Chapter five looks to argue in favour of states
being unitary actors with anthropomorphic qualities. Utilising Weberian and
Marxian state theory, Wendt argues that states are self-organizing entities
whose core structures exchange capacities for corporate agency on their
members. Wendt also disregards the materialist nature of realist-theorised
state interests, stating that states do not innately possess interests, instead
they are socially constructed. Concepts of state identity and its incompatibility
with self-interest are also discussed. Chapter six provides a deeper analysis
of the ‘cultures’ of anarchy touched upon in chapter four. Wendt believes that
anarchy is ideational rather than material, and that its logic can deviate. Wendt
identifies different roles played in anarchy: enemy, rival and friend; arguing
that they are constitute Hobbesian, Lockean and Kantian macro-level cultures
respectively. Wendt outlines that these play a part in different reasons for
compliance, leading to different pathways to how cultures can be realized, and
correspond to how neorealists, neoliberals and constructivists explain
rule-following. Lastly, chapter seven examines how processes of interaction
reproduce and alter systemic structures. Wendt does this by separating two
models of what is occurring when states interact, a rationalist model and a
constructivist model. The rationalist model treats characteristics and
interests as fixed, whereas the constructivist model treats them as endogenous
and fluid. Throughout the rest of the chapter Wendt applies this framework to
tangible examples of structural change in IR (a change from one culture of
anarchy to another, Lockean to Kantian). This is a direct criticism of the
neorealist belief, which deems it to be a change in the distribution of
material capabilities. Wendt discusses how four “master variables” are causes
of identity formation: interdependence, common fate, hemogenisation and
self-restraint. The result provides the social theory underpinnings for liberal
arguments about the consequences of proliferation of liberal states, while
leaving open the option that other pathways may achieve the same outcome. This
is a perfect example of Wendt’s moderate approach to the theory, often providing
soft conclusions.

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