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Onuf on Constructuvism, Social Theory & International Relations

Review of Nicholas Onuf's World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations and "Constructivism: A User's Manual," in International Relations in a Constructed World

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Review of Nicholas Onuf's World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations and "Constructivism: A User's Manual," in International Relations in a Constructed World

World of Our Making is a dense and demanding work: in endeavouring to "reconstruct a self-consciously organized field of study, or discipline, called International Relations," Onuf surveys and interrogates a wide range of other disciplines, including (but not limited to) political philosophy, critical theory, linguistics and child development studies. In the course of this endeavour, he also critically examines the work of such thinkers as Wittgenstein, Giddens, Derrida, Searle, Piaget, Habermas, Hobbes, Locke and Machiavelli. He uses these examinations to construct (I use this term, as he does, deliberately) a constructivist social theory of rules, which he in turn applies to his project of 're-constructing' the discipline of International Relations.

As noted, this makes for a dense and demanding work. Readers unfamiliar with at least some of the works/thinkers that he surveys would likely find this a difficult (though not prohibitive) read - Onuf not only delves into some of the canonical works of the disciplines he surveys; he also closely and critically considers works that emerge in response to the respective canonical texts. (Onuf himself acknowledges in the Introduction that this work is "relentlessly abstract.") Accordingly, his "Constructivism: A User's Manual" - a condensed and greatly simplified version of World of Our Making - is a useful companion piece to World.

"Constructivism" distils the central points of World, and omits the extensive examination of the disciplines/works from which Onuf's social theory derives. (Indeed, it more or less omits Onuf's social theory - that is, his project of constructing a social theory of rules that would be directly applicable to IR - completely, limiting discussion of this project to a superficial overview.) Accordingly, it presents a sort of step-by-step guide to applying the results of his theoretical project (Part I of World) to international relations.

It begins (as does World) with the above-noted overview of constructivism according to Onuf. The fundamental proposition of ...

Solution Summary

The solution is an extensive review of Nicholas Onuf's work on social theory & international relations as well as that on Constructivism, dubbed as the manual on the theory as it relates & explains International Relations in a constructed world. The solution is in the form of an essay-discussion.

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