Authored by: Jennifer Sterling-Folker , Dina Badie

Routledge Handbook of American Foreign Policy

Print publication date:  August  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415800884
eBook ISBN: 9780203878637
Adobe ISBN: 9781135967352


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Constructivism gained prominence as a theoretical perspective in the study of international relations (IR) in the early 1990s, at a time when IR theorizing was in considerable flux. As older theoretical approaches grappled with how to explain the Cold War’s unexpected end, constructivism provided a new and alternative way to understand dramatic changes in the international system. Drawn from work in sociology, linguistics, and cognitive psychology, as well as from English School and liberal theoretical perspectives already within the discipline, constructivism sought to explain how our reality is socially constructed and what this meant for understanding IR. While a number of scholars were influential in developing this perspective, including Nicholas Onuf (1989), Friedrich Kratochwil (1989), and John Gerard Ruggie (1998), it was the work of Alexander Wendt (1987, 1992, 1994, 1999) which served as a catalyst for much of the subsequent debate among IR theorists over constructivism, as well as for shaping how scholars chose to apply to constructivism to foreign policy analysis (FPA). 1

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