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Differences Beyond Theory: Structural, Strategic, and Sentimental Approaches to Normative Change

Wesley W. Widmaier, Susan Park
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-3585.2012.00459.x 123-134 First published online: 1 May 2012


Over the past two decades, one of the main themes in IR theory debates has been a concern for the interplay of agents, structures, and change. In this article, we engage with these debates as they pertain to “the state of the art” by highlighting in broad fashion three “constructivist turns” and their implications for efforts to explain the rise and demise of norms. More specifically, we offer a stylized history of a debate marked by shifting emphases on structural constraints, strategic practices, and sentimental forces. In the context of this symposium, while we accept many of our colleagues’ critiques of extant scholarship, we draw on the work of Richard Rorty to argue that the most important differences pertain to matters “beyond theory,” regarding the effects of norms in enabling the establishment of either an open community or disciplinary society.

  • constructivism
  • norms
  • global governance
  • crisis
  • pragmatism
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