Social Construction and Integration

This paper discusses the pertinence of social constructivism to the study of integration. One observation is that while constructivism offers key insights, its assumptions and methodology should not be taken as fully tailored to meet integration students' needs. Rather, constructivism is apt to further theoretical development.

ARENA Working Paper 14/1998 (html)

Jeffrey Checkel

Social construction, which has made key contributions to contemporary international relations (IR) and institutional theorizing, has yet to make significant in-roads among scholars of integration. This is unfortunate, for it has privileged methodological individualism in the study of European institutions -- either in its strict (rational-choice institutionalism) or more loose (historical institutionalist) versions. As a result, too much debate has focused on which institutions matter in the integration process, and not on how they have effects. This paper examines the latter, arguing that a sociological and social constructivist understanding of institutions as constitutive can significantly broaden the methodological tools we bring to the study of integration; it will also help us explore how, or, indeed, whether, integration is affecting fundamental actor identities, and not simply constraining strategy or behaviour. However, Europeanists should not be content simply "to pull off the shelf" constructivist insights; rather, they should address key lacunae in contemporary social constructivism, by way of middle-range theory development.

The article has later been published in World Politics, 2, 1998. It is also available as ARENA Reprint 99/15.

Tags: identity, supranationalism, integration theory, methodological issues
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM - Last modified Apr. 26, 2011 2:37 PM