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Social Theory of International Politics
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Book description

Drawing upon philosophy and social theory, Social Theory of International Politics develops a theory of the international system as a social construction. Alexander Wendt clarifies the central claims of the constructivist approach, presenting a structural and idealist worldview which contrasts with the individualism and materialism which underpins much mainstream international relations theory. He builds a cultural theory of international politics, which takes whether states view each other as enemies, rivals or friends as a fundamental determinant. Wendt characterises these roles as 'cultures of anarchy', described as Hobbesian, Lockean and Kantian respectively. These cultures are shared ideas which help shape state interests and capabilities, and generate tendencies in the international system. The book describes four factors which can drive structural change from one culture to another - interdependence, common fate, homogenization, and self-restraint - and examines the effects of capitalism and democracy in the emergence of a Kantian culture in the West.

Reviews

‘… a dense and sophisticated work of International Relations theory, concerned with the biggest of big questions, ‘what kind of ‘stuff’ the international system is made of’ … Social Theory of International Politics is destined to become perhaps the most discussed book in International Relations theory in a generation.’

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

‘Alexander Wendt has drawn on an exceptional range of theoretical literature in his effort to reconceptualize the nature of the international system. His discussion of scientific realism ought to be required reading for any student of international relations, or political science.’

Stephen D. Krasner Source: Review of International Studies

‘Alex Wendt’s Social Theory of International Politics … admirably attempts to do in an explicit manner what most scholars in the discipline do only implicity and often accidentally: suggest a social theory to serve as the foundation for theorizing about international relations … Social Theory tells an excellent story and will surely gain an important place in the annuals of international relations theory.’

Roxanne Lynn Doty Source: Review of International Studies

‘Alexander Wendt’s Social Theory of International Politics is so impressive an achievement that it has a good chance to become a standard text of the mainline, American-oriented, professional International Relations literature.’

Hayward R. Alker Source: Review of International Studies

‘Alexander Wendt’s book is virtually certain to become a classic work on international relations theory, standard on graduate reading lists. Wendt’s distinctive combination of scientific realism, holism, and what he calls ‘idealism’, will certainly spark much conversation and, it is to be hoped, a great deal of thought.

Robert O. Keohane Source: Review of International Studies

‘… this book demonstrates that Wendt is among the top IR thinkers. This is a well-thought-out and philosophically inclined book, packed with ideas … Social Theory of International Politics is an excellent, comprehensive and illuminating book on international relations theory. Wendt’s arguments are varied and fascinating. I recommend this book highly to IR scholars and postgraduate students who take theory seriously.’

Source: International Affairs

‘This is the most academic of these books … it has caused a stir in its field and may be the most important … Many previous theorists have ignored social factors and rejected the idea of international society, preferring to see the world as an ‘anarchy’ of states operating without moral or social restraint. But even anarchy, argues Mr Wendt, is a social construct - and anything which is the product of our ideas can be changed, if we want to change it strongly enough.’

Source: Economist

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