International Institutions and Socialization

This paper discusses the potential of social constructivism to gain a better understanding of international institutions; socialization is conceived of as a key concept for such understanding to be reached.

ARENA Working Paper 05/2004 (html)

Jeffrey T. Checkel

Recent constructivist work on socialization by international institutions and norms marks a considerable advance. This research has moved well beyond both neorealism’s Darwinian and empirically inaccurate view of it and neoliberalism’s contractual and methodologically individualist understanding, where socialization, at most, affects agent strategies. Instead, constructivism argues and empirically documents that the effects of socialization reach deeper, to underlying identities and interests. Yet, this constructivist socialization dynamic requires further specification. In particular, it appears premised on a view of politics as social protest, where national elites are portrayed purely as reactive, calculating agents. This view is not so much wrong as incomplete: Politics is also a process of social learning, where puzzling, uncertain agents learn new interests. Untangling these two socialization mechanisms is a central challenge for constructivists; however, the pay off for doing so will be high. It will promote an empirically grounded dialogue between social constructivists, on the one hand, and rational choice theorists and students of cognitive/social psychology, on the other.

Tags: international regimes, socialization, methodological issues, institutionalisation
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM