As a form of reflectivist critique of the scientific approach to the study of social sciences, constructivism was initially developed as a mostly interpretive metatheory. Its substantial and wide-ranging influence perhaps derives from the fact that what it says seems to be just common sense. Its insights apply to our individual experiences in life; as individuals our identities change over time and so do our interests.
Constructivism appears to have taken a place in the literature on international relations (IR) theory in direct opposition to realism. Constructivists who claim their methodology is incompatible with realism focus on the association between realism & both materialism & rationalism. Realists who claim their paradigm is incompatible with constructivism focus for the most part on a perceived tendency for constructivists to be idealists or utopians. Neither argument, however, holds up. This essay examines constructivist epistemology & classical realist theory, contending that they are, in fact, compatible; not that constructivism is necessarily realist, but that constructivist research is as compatible with a realist worldview as with any other. Having a realist constructivism could prove useful in IR theory beyond clarifying methodological debates, including helping to specify the relationship between the study of power in international politics & the study of international relations as a social construction. 104 References. Adapted from the source document.
Pragmatic constructivism is characterized in a particular epistemology based on the quest for parametric objectivity. In Peter Knoepfel's public policy analysis, this theoretical perspective relates to the study of the construction of marks of objectivity (that is, the measures contained in or inferred by a policy: problems, criteria, procedures, mechanisms, norms) which, according to him, make up the substance of policies. The place granted to the concepts of ‘actors', ‘resources' and ‘institutional rules' in the proposed analytical framework is a clear illustration of this (Knoepfel, Larrue & Varone, 2006). However, this quest is unlikely to be successful if there is no empirical endeavour to explain the interactions between the three concepts. This is why Peter Knoepfel has constantly formulated the equation between actors, resources and rules, in operationalizable terms – in both his research work carried out in close proximity to public action (through various mandates) and in his teaching in Switzerland and abroad. The policy analysis defended by him is constantly shaped by a pragmatic perspective. The aim is to gain insight into concrete (observable) practices, through which actors produce a shared normative signification, particularly in terms of an hypothesis on problem causation (who or what is ‘guilty' or ‘objectively responsible' for the collective problem to be resolved?) and an hypothesis on state intervention (how can the collective problem be alleviated or resolved?). This pragmatism is located in a constant effort at methodological operationalization, which is systematically aimed at exploring the explanation for this trilogy (actors, resources, rules) and its interactions as a pragmatic concept. Peter Knoepfel always expects the explanation of a policy to cite factors that are important. For him the idea of importance (as for the pragmatists, Hilary Putnam (1990) in particular) is always dependent on the reason for asking the question why? In this instance, why such-and-such an actor, rule or resource?