Constructivism is one of the more modern international theory that takes issue with the realist and liberal theory of anarchy in the international system. It focuses on the ideas of norms, the development of structures relationship as well as how identity influences the way state and actors cooperate. Like realists and liberals, they too believe that international system exists in a state of anarchy, however unlike realists they believe that the anarchy does not lead to war or competition.
Alexander Wendt a scholar at the fore front of constructivism claims that the “self-help and power in politics do not follow either logically or causally from anarchy and that if today we find our-self in a self-help world this is due to process not structure. There is no “logic” of anarchy apart from the practices it creates and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another; structure has no existence or causal powers apart from process.”
This quote clearly states the constructivist view that in an anarchical system the actors play a major role in how the system is interpreted, they can choose to cooperate or engage in war. Unlike liberals and Realists constructivists allow for the making of conditions, rather than responding to the given conditions they are able to create or construct them. In the classic international relations example used to explain game theory called the stag hunt.
Classical-Realists argue that the incentive to for actors to cooperate does not exist and so should each go after small game to enhance their chance of survival even at the expense of foregoing the benefit of the big game through cooperation. This is because one can-not trusts the actions of other actors in the “self-help” system. Constructivists on the other hand believe that this “self-help” is not an underlying feature of the anarchic structure of the international system, the way we state the world is based on how they interpret others actions and interactions. Constructivists also believe in the development of international norms in both domestic and international arenas. They look at how norms emerge and how they affect state and non-state actors in different conditions.
Constructivists tend to point out the case of the fall of the Soviet Union, former theories argue the change in relationship between the global powers of the US and the USSR was the reason for the fall of the USSR. However, constructivists would argue that the role of (Mikhail Gorbachev) the individual was critical. Him shifting the Soviet Unions’ policy from the original one from concern about security to cooperation with the goal of achieving a new norm can be related to the theory of constructivism.