Constructivism and securitization studies

Authored by: Thierry Balzacq

The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies

Print publication date:  November  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415463614
eBook ISBN: 9780203866764
Adobe ISBN: 9781135239077


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The study of security is a hard case for theories of International Relations. In recent academic scholarship, ‘constructivist thinking’ of the subject has risen to the challenge; it has, in effect, become one of the dominant approaches for examining security practices (cf. Ruggie 1996; Wendt 1999; Guzzini 2000; Zehfuss 2002; Farrell 2002). Some observers, however, regard the boundaries of constructivism as so permeable that any alternative view – realism, postmodernism or liberalism – can easily be subsumed under its fundamental precepts. Judged by these standards, constructivism is hardly a theory in itself (Wendt 1999: 7; Wendt and Fearon 2002). In contrast, Adler (1997) claims that because constructivism sits precisely between rationalism and reflectivism, it is a distinctive theory of International Relations, though one that is still emerging. There is no need to subscribe to either of these positions, as each embodies a particular theoretical commitment, and thus advocates its own future trajectory of constructivism. In the abstract, moreover, such discussions might be justified, but they are often distracting at the empirical level.

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