Sociology 2:
Class 16: Complex
Interdependence &
Constructivism
Copyright © 2010 by Evan Schofer
Do not copy or distribute without
permission
Announcements
• Class Schedule:
• Wrap up theories today
• Introduce topic for next week: Globalization, Culture,
Conflict.
Theories
• General perspectives on the economy
• Adam Smith
• Marx
• Keynesianism
• Sociological theories
• Modernization theory
• World Systems Theory (WST) / dependency theory
• World polity theory (WPT) / institutional theory
• Political Science
• Realism
• Complex Interdependence
– Brawley refers to it as “Institutionalism”
• Constructivism.
Review: Realism
• Basic assumptions of realism:
• Keohane and Nye, p. 20-1
• 1. States as coherent units are the dominant
actors in world politics
• States are dominant – they are the most important
entities in the international system
• Multi-nationals, IGOs, and INGOs are unimportant
– Without an army or nuclear weapons, you’re nothing!
• Also, states are unitary actors (on international
issues).
Review: Realism
• 2. Military force (or threat of force) is the
most effective means of wielding power
• The “strong” survive and prosper
• 3. The politics of “security” is what matters
– “Security” = policies, plans, and preparations regarding war &
national defense
• States use other policies, like economic sanctions or
trade to get their way… but that is secondary
• Note: This disagrees with World-System Theory
– WST claims that economic power = most important.
Complex Interdependence
• Keohane & Nye: Complex Interdependence
• A critical response to realism
• Called “Institutionalism” in the Brawley reading
• Major claims:
• 1. Societies are interconnected in many ways
• Not just leaders and militaries, as realism suggests
• 2. States interact over many kinds of issues
• War and security isn’t the only issue
• Economics, environmental issues, etc., are also
addressed.
Complex Interdependence
• 3. Military force is not central to inter-state
relations
• Question: If military force doesn’t matter,
what does?
– Answer #1: International organizations
• They are the playing field of global politics
– Answer #2: “Soft Power”: “Getting others to
want the outcomes you want” (Nye p. 5)
• “Soft power rests on the ability to shape the
preferences of others
Complex Interdependence
• 4. International organizations are the center
of global politics
• They set agendas (e.g., trade, environmental issues)
• Within international organizations, states form
coalitions and push for their interests
– All states have an equal vote in most IGOs… so they barter
and haggle.
• Result: world politics is a lot like national politics.
Complex Interdependence
• Claim: To study global politics, you have to
study what goes on in international
organizations
• Example: WTO policy
• A World-system theorist would predict that the WTO
would always support interests of capitalists
• A Realist would ignore the WTO as irrelevant
• A Complex Interdependence scholar would examine
coalitions, alliances, and votes to see what is going
on.
Complex Interdependence
• Claim: “International organizations are
frequently congenial institutions for weak
states”… Keohane and Nye, p. 31
– Nations have equal voting power in most IGOs
• This allows small/weak nations to form powerful
coalitions
• Ex: poor nations can sometimes block or influence
WTO rules
– Many IGOs support norms of equity
• Example: the UN uses money from wealthy countries
to aid those in poverty.
Complex Interdependence
• Both realism and WST predict that weak
nations will be mercilessly exploited &
dominated
• Complex interdependence predicts otherwise
• Weak countries will be able to use international
organizations to improve their situation
• Ex: Poor countries have negotiated for special
treatment in many environmental treaties.
Complex Interdependence
• Realism and WST argue that all nations will
look out for themselves (or capitalist classes)
• Ex: They will cheat on environmental treaties; They
will build weapons of mass destruction
• Treaties and IGOs are inherently fragile… Powerful
nations will ignore or abolish them when the are no
longer useful
• Complex Interdependence: Through IGOs,
countries can work for the collective good
• Complex Interdependence predicts that nations can
improve the environment, eradicate WMD
• Ex: Non-proliferation treaty; Environmental treaties.
Complex Interdependence
• Criticisms of Complex Interdependence
• Summarized in article by Waltz
– 1. “The world is less interdependent than is
usually supposed”
• Levels of trade aren’t much higher than in 1914, just
before WWI; most MNCs are still rooted in one
country.
– 2. Political/military power still matters
• US power holds up global institutions (IMF, World
Bank)
• Ultimately, economics is subordinate to politics.
Constructivism
• Sikkink, Kathryn. 1998. “Transnational
Politics, International Relations Theory, and
Human Rights.”
• A criticism of realism; related to complex
interdependence
• Calls attention to global norms like “human rights”
• Argument: “Non-state actors” (e.g., INGOs) establish
norms, which states feel pressure to abide by
• Similar to “World Polity Theory”…
Constructivism
• Sikkink, p. 520:
– “While states continue to be the primary actors in
this system, their actions need to be understood
not as self-help behavior in anarchy, but as the
actions of members of an international society of
states and non-state actors.”
– “…states may make changes in their behavior
not only because of the economic costs of
sanctions, but because leaders of countries care
about what leaders of other countries think about
them.”
Theory: Remarks
• The explosion of global governance,
apparent influence of “norms” was a surprise
to existing theories
– Esp., Realism & World-system theory
• Now scholars are trying to make sense of things
• Keohane&Nye and Sikkink are political
sciences responses…
• Point out the way that “social actors” are
interconnected; influenced by norms
• States are actors… but less “unitary”, more
constrained than realism suggests.
Theory: Remarks
• World Polity Theory is a more radical view
than even constructivism
• Argues for the primacy of culture…
• “Social actors” are not the starting point of the
analysis… culture is
– Social actors are fundamentally constructed by culture
• Or, as John Meyer points out… they are more like
“actors” like those on the stage or in movies
– States play the part of “being a state”…
Theory: Remarks
• What I want you to know:
– 1. Be able to briefly summarize theories
– 2. Know (or be able to think up) examples that
support or contradict particular theories
• What does the theory predict?
• What information or evidence would convince you that
WST was absolutely right? Or totally wrong?
– 3. Hopefully start to be able to apply these
theories to new topics
• How would a WST scholar think about international
organizations?
• What does a Realist think about culture?
Cultural Globalization
• A chance to apply theories to a new topic…
• First: “Culture” refers to many things:
– 1. Popular culture: movies, music, clothing
– 2. World Polity Theory: Culture = common
norms, cognitive models, scripts.
– 3. Group culture/identity: Shared beliefs,
traditions, world-views, way of life
• Example: An indigenous that shares a particular
religion, language, cuisine, etc.
• Example: National groups (e.g., the French)
Cultural Globalization
• Question: Is there such a Orange County
culture?
• If so, what are some of its distinctive features?
• Food? Language? Accent? Worldview?
Globalization and Culture
• One obvious trend:
– Western (often American) culture is increasingly
dominant
• Ex: English is becoming the global language
• And, many local languages are dying out
• Ex: Western music, clothing are popular everywhere
– Other examples from readings? Personal
experiences?
Perspectives: Globalization & Culture
• 1. Modernization theory
– Dominant view in 1950s and 1960s, now criticized
• Observation: People in colonies & non-Western
countries were adopting “modern”/Western views
• Prediction: Traditional “cultures” would die out, as
everyone became “modern” and “rational”
– People thought this was a good thing
• “Primitive” cultures were replaced by “advanced” ones
• Local identities were replaced by modern social &
political identities
• “Superstition” replaced by rationality, science,
“enlightenment”.
Perspectives: Globalization & Culture
• 2. Marxism / World-System Theory
• Argues that power & culture are intertwined
• Marx: Ideas of a society are the ideas of the ruling class
• Western economic domination is accompanied
by cultural domination
• Often called “Cultural Imperialism”
• Westerners can effectively spread their culture via
colonialism (and later via media, advertising)
– Some argue that this helps maintain economic dominance
• Non-Western people may reject their own culture, prefer
to wear Western clothes, listen to Brittany Spears, and
eat at McDonalds.
Perspectives: Globalization & Culture
• 3. World Polity Theory
• Argues that a key facet of globalization is the
emergence of a “world culture
– Embodied, in part, in international associations
• Global culture provides norms, scripts, and models
that shape the behavior of governments
• Consequence: Governments, laws, societies are
becoming increasingly “isomorphic”
– Contrast w/ WST: World culture may relate to
historical dominance of West….
• But, culture is not principally a mechanism of
furthering the dominance of the West
– Rather, it now evolves somewhat independently of the
interests of powerful countries
» Ex: Environmentalism, human rights…
Perspectives: Globalization & Culture
• 4. Hybridization: A view from anthropology
• Reading: Hannerz: Scenarios for Peripheral Cultures
• Contrasts two views on culture
– A. Homogenization (also called “saturation”)
• Similar to predictions of Modernization Theory
• The idea: that globalization erodes local cultures,
makes the whole world homogeneous
• “As transnational cultural influences unendingly pound
on the sensibilities of people of the periphery,
peripheral culture will step by step assimilate more
and more of the imported meanings and forms,
becoming gradually indistinguishable from the center.”
Perspectives: Globalization & Culture
• Hannerz: Scenarios for Peripheral Cultures.
– B. Hybridization (also: creolization, maturation)
• Claim: Much local culture is embedded in daily life
• Locals are influenced by global culture, but also reinterpret it and adapt it to their lives
• “Local cultural entrepreneurs have gradually mastered
the alien forms which reach them through the
transnational commodity flows and in other ways,
taking them apart, tampering and tinkering with them
in such a way that the resulting new forms are more
responsive to, and at the same time in part outgrowths
of, local everyday life…
• Can anyone think of examples?
Readings
• Readings for week 9 also address the “Clash
of civilizations”
• Are there large cultural groups – “civilizations” – that
will inevitably come into conflict?
• Huntington reading argues YES
• Bowen reading argues NO
– Also, optional reading by Hironaka.
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