Whither constructivism?

by on 2012-11-04 in Duck- 2 Comments

The first posting of some of the audio from this weekend’s ISA-Northeast conference is up over on my syndication site. This one is from a panel called “Whither Constructivism?” featuring Nick Onuf, Mike Barnett, and me, chaired by Sammy Barkin. I’ll get the audio from the methodology workshop up in the next couple of days, and Dan has the audio from our “science fiction and IR pedagogy” panel because my recorder crapped out and didn’t record it properly.

The comments I make here are going to form the foundation of something I hope to write and post shortly, defending my position that sharp conceptual distinctions are better for the field than fuzzy labels referring to diffuse aggregates are. Consider this a rough draft.

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  • eavanr

    PTJ, I’m assuming that’s Nick Onuf at the beginning. I saw his talk at ISA in April and I’m still not sure I understand the ‘moderately sized dry goods’ thing. Can you explain a little?

  • http://twitter.com/profptj PTJ

    Yes, the order of presenting there is Nick, Mike, then me. The “moderate-sized dry goods” thing is borrowed from J. L. Austin, and is — I think — intended to illustrate the extent to which constructivism was concerned with relatively ordinary objects of experience, but tried to defamiliarize them instead of just describing them. The “world of our making” that Nick is interested in is, after all, the ordinary-everyday world, not a world of senseless abstractions (which is how Nick thinks of notions like “structure” or “the state”). So the call of constructivism is to look at how our engaged practices construct ordinary objects, and make them available for our human use.

    Among other things, this is why I am skeptical of “constructivism” as an intellectually meaningful category for IR. A lot was lost in translation, and we ended up with ideational independent variables and experience-near hermeneutic techniques of data-collection, neither of which get anywhere near the broader philosophical questions Nick wanted us to ask.