Eschewing Constructivism-­‐as-­‐Panacea: What it Can (and Cannot) Tell Us About IR

29 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 17 Aug 2011

See all articles by Samuel Barkin

Samuel Barkin

University of Florida - Department of Political Science

Laura Sjoberg

University of Florida

Date Written: 2011


Can constructivism inform an ethical international policy? The question of the relationship between constructivist approaches to the study of international relations and the political morality that underlies the practice of international politics has been the topic of growing discussion in the IR literature over the past decade and a half. The claim is increasingly being made that constructivism is well-suited, perhaps uniquely suited, to the creation of an ethically and normatively informed international politics. This claim has not gone unchallenged, but it appears for the moment to predominate the IR literature, particularly in the United States, both within and outside of the constructivist community. To the extent that constructivism has not yet provided a normative guide to politics, scholars have argued that the development of such an approach should be a priority for constructivism and constructivists.

This article makes the argument that there are no constructivist political ethics per se, and that speaking of a constructivist politics, or of scholars’ politics as constructivists, is misleading. In other words, it is not that constructivism should be a guide to the normative in IR but has not yet been developed sufficiently for that role. Rather, it is that seeing constructivism as uniquely suited to (or even appropriate for) providing a guide to the ethical in global politics is theoretically and ethically problematic.

Suggested Citation

Barkin, Samuel and Sjoberg, Laura, Eschewing Constructivism-­‐as-­‐Panacea: What it Can (and Cannot) Tell Us About IR (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Samuel Barkin (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 117325
Gainesville, FL 32611-7325
United States

Laura Sjoberg

University of Florida ( email )

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

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