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The Constructivist Approach to International Relations Theory

             This paper looks at the constructivist approach to the study of international relations. The constructivist approach is defined in terms of the philosophical underpinnings of the approach and the scientific/social scientific premises that highlight this social theory of international relations. The approach is critiqued based upon the postmodern approach to understanding and knowing. Also important to the critique of the approach is the understanding of scientific/social scientific criticisms of the constructivist approach. Social constructivism is analyzed for its offerings in the study of anarchy, regimes, world polity, and as systemic level theory of international relations. Among the interesting findings is the problematic nature of this approach to understanding anarchy, the difficulty of defining constructivism as positivist social science, and the optimistic outlook for the future of international relations studies offered by the constructivist approach.
             It is often asked why any theory of international relations should be taken seriously. On the surface this appears to be a valid question. Theory is academically based and not part of the real world. Practitioners of foreign policy must live in the "real" world and actually take care of the business of government. However, we need look no further than the Clinton administration in the US to see that theory can be highly influential on practitioners of foreign policy. One strand of liberal international relations theory is called "democratic peace theory". This strand of liberalism holds that democracy will rarely engage in conflictual behavior with one another. The Clinton administration's policy of "engagement" was designed to spread democracy, this in hopes that future conflicts might be avoided because democracies do not engage in conflict with each other. .
             More recently the Bush administration has made a decision on the type of arms to sell to Taiwan.

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