Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States

Bucher B (2011)
Bamberg: Difo Druck.

Dissertation | English

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Supervisor
Davis, James ; Biersteker, Thomas
Abstract
Wherever we look we can see acting persons. At the same time persons always act in specific contexts which (enable and) constrain what they can do. This, seemingly simple, starting point of social inquiry has led to decades of debate among philosophers and social scientists. While individualists stress the primacy of persons, structuralists point to the primacy of impersonal factors. Because neither of these approaches has been able to adequately grasp social developments, social constructivists have dismissed them as problematic. Rather than opting for either the primacy of individual agents or impersonal social forces, social constructivists have attempted to give equal weight to both agents and structure. But in practice, social constructivist research has eclipsed agency. This has led to a structuralism that sits uneasily with the ontological and epistemological assumptions underlying the social constructivist project. Furthermore, a theoretical discussion of the agency-structure debate reveals that the agency-structure dichotomy itself makes it impossible to formulate a social ontology that does not privilege either agency or structure. I consequently suggest that social constructivists should not take the agency-structure dichotomy as a starting point for thinking about social reality. Rather, I argue for the utility of taking a processual-relational approach which replaces the above mentioned dichotomy with the concept of figurations. From a figurational perspective, social reality is understood in terms of constitutively interdependent persons. After explicating a theoretical framework, I develop the methodological tools with which to empirically study figurational dynamics. In a first case, I then study the rogueization of liberal states after the Napoleonic Wars. In a second case study, I focus on the rogueization of illiberal states after the end of the Cold War. These empirical investigations add to the growing body of empirical social constructivist research, by making actions of persons visible in the ongoing (re)production of social reality, and by underscoring the relational aspects of articulating principles, norms, and values. The first chapter of this study outlines the practical and theoretical problems which underlie the finding that social constructivism has eclipsed agency. Chapter two analyzes the diversity and basic theoretical assumptions of social constructivism, and the agency-structure debate. The latter part of this chapter explicates why the agency-structure dichotomy prevents the formulation of a theoretical framework that is able to account for acting persons in a non-essentialist fashion. Chapter three introduces processual-relational thinking and the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias. Processual-relational thinking views the social world in terms of processes rather than things, and underlies the concept of figuration. Figurations, as dynamical networks of constitutively interdependent persons, form the basis of understanding dynamics in international relations. They in turn replace the agency-structure dichotomy as a starting point of theorizing social reality. Chapter four develops a number of theoretical tools with which to put processual-relational thinking and figurational sociology to empirical use. It also establishes the centrality of the concept of intersubjectivity and underscores the importance of language. Additionally, I outline the underlying logic of case selection at the end of this chapter. Chapter five studies the rogueization of liberal states after the Napoleonic Wars and the simultaneous construction of the Holy Allies. In doing so, I trace how (agential) practices of meaning making and figurational developments are two sides of the same coin. The finding that liberal states became to be understood as ipso facto threatening, leads to the second case study. Chapter six examines the processes in which new foreign policy strategies were formulated after the Cold War, and how these served as the basis for the emergence of the rogue state concept after the Cold War. Here it was possible to identify a strong link between the articulation of liberal-democratic 'group values' and the plausibility of illiberal rogue states. Together these cases underscore the centrality of acting persons in the (re)production of social reality and the relational character of articulating principles, norms, and values. The final chapter self-critically summarizes the study.
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Bucher B. Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States. Bamberg: Difo Druck; 2011.
Bucher, B. (2011). Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States. Bamberg: Difo Druck.
Bucher, B. (2011). Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States. Bamberg: Difo Druck.
Bucher, B., 2011. Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States, Bamberg: Difo Druck.
B. Bucher, Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States, Bamberg: Difo Druck, 2011.
Bucher, B.: Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States. Difo Druck, Bamberg (2011).
Bucher, Bernd. Processual-Relational Thinking and Figurational Sociology in Social Constructivism - The Rogueization of Liberal and Illiberal States. Bamberg: Difo Druck, 2011.
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