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 - Sharing Informal Course Info from participants - Comparing Contending Theories in International Politics 2003

Attached please find my draft on
change in Wendt. As you noticed is long, and we do not have to write everything, but I wanted to cover everything and type Wendt exact definition so I do not need to do it again for my preparation of the first exam, Best, Letizia  23 May 2003

Present and explain Alexander Wendt's explanation of international systemic change.
How do the following authors explain the same phenomenon: Morghenthau, Waltz, Kaplan, Gilpin and Keohane?

In order to answer the question, I will first define what Wendt claims is an international system change, then, in order to explain it, I will first present Wendt's definition of the international structure and its relationship with the agents. I will, then describe Wendt evolutionary model of identity formation, and is causal theory of collective identity formation. (Then link with the other authors…….)

Change, in Wendt's opinion, involves change in the principle that regulates the system. It is a change in the "culture of anarchy" that dominates the system. The "culture of anarchy" is described as a Hobbesian culture, in which states view each other as enemies, Lockean culture, in which states view each other as rivals, and Kantian culture, in which states view each other as friends. Cultures are shared ideas which help shape states' identities and interests, and generate tendencies in the international system.

Wendt argues that "Once understood as a culture it is hard to sustain the argument that the deep structure of international politics has never changed. For much of international history states lived in a Hobbesian culture where the logic of anarchy was kill or be killed. But in the seventeenth century European states founded a Lockean culture where conflict was constrained by the mutual recognition of sovereignty. This culture eventually became global, albeit in part through a Hobbesian process of colonialism. In the late twentieth century I believe the international system is undergoing another structural change, to a Kantian culture of collective security…. With each change the international system has achieved a qualitatively higher capacity for collective action, despite its continuing anarchic structure. States periodically have made something new of anarchy." (preface)

Wendt definition of change is based on a three basic assumptions regarding the nature of the international system and its relation with the states (agents):

1. The structure of international politics is social rather than strictly material. Saying that is social rather than strictly material, it means that it has 3 components:
" Ideational (cultural). It implies an intersubjective understanding, shared knowledge. E.g. cooperative, security community, common interests, or conflictual, security dilemma, common aversion.
" Material resources (distribution of capabilities.). However what is important is the meaning given to the distribution of capabilities. It is a socialized view of material resources through shared knowledge that is compatible with.
" Practice that produces reactions since social structure exists in process not in theory.

2. The structure shapes actors' identities and interests rather than just their behavior, and generates tendencies in the international system. "Identity and interests are endogenous to interaction and thus a dependent variable in process." Interests and identities are constructed by historically contingent interaction, therefore are always in process during interaction.

3. States behave on the basis of shared knowledge and expectations. Things are done by practice and shaped by ideas.

Constructivist basic assumptions are based on structuration theory, which conceptualizes agents and structure as mutually instituted and codetermined. Wendt says that both the structure and the agents are equal explanatory variables.

In this perspective, anarchy (the absence of a centralized authority higher than the states) explains little by itself, since the meaning of anarchy is socially constructed through shared knowledge, ideas and practice. Anarchy is therefore "what states make of it." "An anarchy of friend is different than an anarchy of enemies." It is related with culture, on the conception of self and others.

Based on this notion of structure, Wendt claims that the most important vehicle for changing the system it occurs as a change of collective identity. "Structural change in international politics involves collective identity formation" (Wendt p. 317). Since the structure of an internalized culture is associated with collective identity, the change in the structure will involve a change of collective identity. The breakdown of an old identity and the emergence of a new one. When Wendt talks about structural change, he, therefore, means cultural change. "Structural change occurs when actors redefine who they are and what they want." (p.336)

Wendt claims that "Identities are constituted by both internal and external structures.
Two kinds of ideas can enter into identity, those held by the Self and those held by the Other" (Wendt p. 224).

Identity develops through:
" Repeated interactions and
" Intersubjective believes: world views ; principles believes, causal believe. These produce concept of constitutive rules that explain not only identities but also transformation of behavior.

He says that "there are several kinds of identities" - 4 to be precise - and that collective identities "takes the relationship between Self and Other to its logical conclusion, identification. "Collective identities means that actors make the welfare of the group an end in itself." (p. 337). Collective identities are relationship and issue specific.

(p. 317) " The constructivist model is saying that the boundaries of the self are at stake in and therefore may change  or be sustained by interaction." Collective identity  evolves through 2 kinds of selection: natural and cultural, however from the Lockean to the Kantian natural selection is relatively unimportant and Wendt focuses on cultural selection. "Cultural selection is an evolutionary mechanism involving the transmission of the determinants of behavior from individual to individual," (Wendt p. 324) and entails a mechanism based on two elements:
" Imitation
" Social learning
Imitation and social learning are believed to can go deeper than have only behavioral effects (Waltz) and possibly have "construction effects on identities and interests" (p. 327).
"To summarize: the basic idea is that identities and their corresponding interests are learned and then reinforced in response to how actors are treated by significant Others. If the Other treats the Self as though it was an enemy, then by the principle of reflected appraisal it will likely internalize a belief in its own role identity vis-ŕ-vis the Other." (p.327)

"Ego and Alter are not blank slates, and what they bring to their interaction will affect its evolution. They bring two kind of baggage, material in the form of bodies and associated needs, and representational in the form of some a priori ideas about who they are. (p.328)

Change is possible, because collective identity is structured and always in process. It is the process of the changing of identity that brings the change of the interests.

Wendt develop a general, evolutionary model of identity formation, showing how identities are produced and reproduced in the social process.
Identity and structural change, however, are not the same. There is a constitutive relation between the two because they are mutually constituted, however identity is a process at the micro level, while structural change happens ultimately at the Macro, but the latter supervenes the former (p.338).

To say that structure is socially constructed, is no guarantee that can be changed. It depends on changing a system of expectation. It does not imply that is easy, on the contrary, "culture has a natural homeostatic tendencies, and the more deeply it is internalized by actors the stronger those tendencies will be." (p. 315) Socially shared knowledge plays a key role in making interaction relatively predictable over time, generating homeostatic tendencies that stabilize social order. Culture, in short, tends to reproduce itself, and indeed must do so if it is to be culture at all." (p.187) Change therefore it is difficult because culture tends to maintain the structure constitutive normative. Each actors in fact confront the culture of the society as a given (homeostatic). This poses a significant explanatory question: "How can states make a new culture of anarchy when the structure of the existing one disposes them to reproduce it?"

Wendt claims that change is possible when actions undermine existing structure and generate new ones. When enough important actors change their behavior and a "tipping point is crossed" (p. 340) Collective representations are "frequency-dependency " in that they depend for their existence on a sufficient number of representations and/or behaviors at the micro-level. Cultural change requires "not only that identities change, but that the frequency and distribution cross a threshold at which the logic of the structure tips over a new logic.
Fundamental change occurs when actors throughout their practice change rules and constitutive norms. (constitutive norms are the ones that require a mutual understanding). International system change has, therefore, to be normative.
Wendt continues saying that "structural change is also path-dependent, since collective identity formation takes place not on a tabula rasa" (p. 340)

Wendt then, examines 4 causal mechanism or "master variables" that can explain a structural change from a culture to another, he calls it "causal theory of collective identity formation under anarchy". These 4 "master" variables are:
" Interdependence
" Common fate
" Homogenization
" Self-restraint

The significance of these variables is to undermine egoistic identities and help create collective one.

Wendt says that the "first 3 variables are active or efficient causes of collective identity, the last one is the enabling or permissive cause" (p. 343) "Self-restraint therefore plays a key role in the story" because enable states to overcome the fear of being "engulfed by the Other."" Creating this trust is the fundamental problem of collective identity formation and it is particular difficult in anarchy, where being engulfed can be fatal" (p.358)

The key to self-restrain is self-binding that "tries to allay Alter's anxiety about Ego's intentions through unilateral initiatives, with no expectation of specific reciprocity." (p. 362). E.g. unilateral decision to give up certain technologies (Ukraine did with nuclear weapons). To conclude "Self-restarian generates collective identity only in conjuction with the other factors in the model, but its role in the combination is essential." (p.363)

Wendt acknowledges that he has not offered a "complete theory of structural change" (p. 364). Wendt analysis leaves two unanswered questions:
1. How are the 4 masters variables instantiated?
2. How identity changes, that is at the MIRCO-LEVEL, changes the MACRO-LEVEL?

p. 264-265: " Macro-level structures only exist in virtue of instantiations at the micro-level, which means that whatever logics the former have depends on actors acting in certain ways. In most cases, however, micro-level role relationships are embedded in macro-level, collective representations. Collective representations have a life of their own that cannot be reduced to actors' perceptions or behavior. As more and more members of a system represent each other as enemies, eventually a "tipping point" is reached at which these representations take over the logic of the system.….It is in terms of positions within this structure that actors make attributions about Self and Other, rather than in terms of their actual qualities. The result is a logic of interaction based more on what actors know about their roles than on what they know about each other's "minds." This in turn generates emergent patterns of behavior at the macro-level.
Wendt says that " we should not treat structure and process as different levels of analysis…. There are two levels of analysis (micro and macro), yes but both are structured, and both instantiated by process… Social processes are always structured, and social structured are always in process." (p. 186)