With the active process of globalization that seems to impact every sphere of social life, together with the relatively recent global refugee issues, the problem of societal tensions tensions in Europe has come to the fore. Eurofond argues that ‘Europeans have reported a declining trust in society and institutions, societal tensions, economic and social insecurity, as well as perceived inequalities and lack of fairness’ (Eurofond). In the context of these empirical findings, it might be helpful to define an international relation theory that would be the most effective in terms of explaining and addressing these European societal tensions. This essay argues that constructivism is the more effective tool in easing societal tensions in Europe because of its focus on identity and the possibility of change that is embedded in the theory.
Constructivism emphasizes the role of identity in shaping international relations, which makes it an applicable theory to describe current state of the European society. Through the lens of constructivism, identity has two important functions in international relations. Identity gives an actor an idea of ??who is the “significant other” for him or her, as well as it informs the actor about the interests and preferences of actors who are a part of other social groups (Jervis). In this way, identities make international relations predictable, at least to the extent to which it is possible to make predictions in such a non-predetermined sphere as human interactions. States understand each other through the identities that they ascribe to each other and to ourselves. Moreover, the state may not be the “master” of its own identity. Only interaction allows actors to test. The images constructed on this path. In the meantime, through the lens of constructivism, interests are a product of identity, and interests themselves do not have an essential, primordial, or immanent, but a correlative character (Sterling-Folker 73). This emphasis on identity might be helpful in terms of understanding the conflicting interests in Europe as they pertain to the topic of migration and the refugee problem. One’s identity makes it easier for some groups to stand for the support of discriminated and socially disadvantaged group, if compared to groups with hegemonic affiliations.
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"Constructivism as a More Effective Tool in Easing Societal Tensions in Europe than Realism or Idealism".
Thus, from the standpoint of constructivism, the formation of identity is the most important goal of the actors and the main practical problem of foreign policy states. In terms of the main means that the actors have for the formation of their identity, these are shared values, ideas and discourses. Social interaction and mutual training of actors, during which there is a formation (design) of identity, accompanied by “co-constitution” of agents and structures are considered by researchers as the key international processes. No less significant is the question of how one of actors should treat ‘the Other’. In other words, constructivism returns to the problems associated with ethical dimension of international relations and world politics (Barkin 10), the urgency of which in modern Europe is growing. Unlike liberalism, oriented on the “ethic of persuasion”, the position of constructivists is closer to a realistic “ethic of responsibility”, because they come from the responsibility of the state for those concepts of good and evil that they constructed in the process of interaction, as well as for behavior based on such concepts.
The theory assumes the possibility of changes through institutional changes, which provides practical guidelines on how to solve current social tensions in Europe. From the point of view of constructivists, the meaning of the world is attached to norms, rules, culture, values ??and ideas. At the same time, it is the consideration of them as intersubjective that allows one to understand why they cannot be reduced to individual beliefs and values ??(for example, norms are the essentially divisible modes of behavior). In turn, institutions and “structures” are basically social constructs that include both discourses and formal organizations. Similarly, the goals and behavior of agents are determined by institutional frameworks and other actors.
The attention that constructivists give to what they call a coconstitution, or the mutual formation of institutions and agents, and the priority that they give to the constitutive functions of rules and norms over regulations has rather important consequences for the understanding of international relations (Barkin 10). If norms are more than coercion associated with struggle of actors for those or other advantages in the world system, they can determine the nature of interests. In other words, the “rules of the game” and “intersubjective transactions” not only regulate activities and behavior of actors, but also make them possible. This means, first, that the fundamental principles of the functioning of international relations and world politics are likely to change, which is denied the supporters realism. Realists are interested discovering how everything manages to remain unchanged. They concentrate, for example, on the similarity of Kissinger politics, Metternich and Thucydides, interpreting the changes as anomalies. Constructivists, on the contrary, highlight such changes and analyze how the goals, behavior and even the very nature of states is formed in the historical process on the basis of dominant political ideas and social norms.
In conclusion, this essay argues that constructivism is the more effective tool in easing societal tensions in Europe because of its focus on identity and the possibility of change that is embedded in the theory. Constructivism emphasizes the role of identity in shaping international relations, which makes it an applicable theory to describe current state of the European society. In addition, the theory assumes the possibility of changes through institutional changes, which provides practical guidelines on how to solve current social tensions in Europe.
- Barkin, Samuel. “Realism, Constructivism, and International Relations Theory.”‘Conference Papers — American Political Science Association, Jan. 2009, pp. 1-22
- Eurofond. Quality of Life and Quality of Society. 2017. Retrieved from https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/topic/quality-of-society.
- Jervis, Loretta M. and Les Jervis. “What Is the Constructivism in Constructive Alignment?.”‘Bioscience Education E-Journal, vol. 6, 01 Nov. 2005
- Sterling-Folker, Jennifer. “Realism and the Constructivist Challenge: Rejecting, Reconstructing, or Rereading.”‘International Studies Review, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring2002, p. 73