The third and final theory used in this thesis to shed light on the potential, roots and possible evolvement of public diplomacy will be constructivism. The theory will be presented and developed primarily on the basis of Alexander Wendt’s version of constructivism as it was presented in his 1992 article Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics and further developed in his book from 1999 titled Social Theory of International Politics.
Alexander Wendt is professor of international security at the Ohio State University and specializes in social theory, theory of international relations and philosophy of social science. He has published several books and articles on theory of international relations during the 1990s and especially in the years after the turn of the century. His first published article is Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics. (Mershon Center for International Security Studies)
The point of departure for the chapter will be the three different cultures which according to Alexander Wendt’s constructivist approach can evolve in international relations – these include the Hobbesian, Lockean and Kantian cultures. After the presentation of these three main cultures states can exist in in international relations the chapter will move on to explaining how states are becoming socialized and through this establish or help maintaining a specific culture in international relations. It is this final mechanism which is at the core of the theory and why this theory is completely different from neorealism because it is open to change.
The first of the three different kinds of cultures the world of international relations can socialize itself into is the Hobbesian culture. This is named after the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived between 1588 and 1679 and who’s most famous work probably is the Leviathan published in 1651. It was written during the English Civil War as Hobbes was a royalist by heart; he was promoting a strong state which should toil the otherwise uncontrollable egoism of human nature. Without a strong government he thought a war of all against all would evolve. What especially stands out is the memorable front page resembling the sovereign (the embodiment of the state) containing the individuals of the population. (Martinich 2005: xiv-18)
The views of Hobbes on human nature and the devolvement of society during the lack of presence of a centralized power can crudely be boiled down to the following quote from Leviathan:
“… [I ]t is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man.” (Hobbes 1994: 76)
Hobbes goes on to explain how this war of all against all can be ended through creating a common power which can keep the peace:
“The only way to erect such a common power as may be able to defend them from invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another… is to confer all power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will” (Hobbes 1994: 109)
According to Hobbes this is done only when every man relinquishes his individual rights and freedom in exchange of protection from the sovereign as well as peace of mind through knowing all other men likewise have relinquished their rights and ambitions. When this is done Hobbes does not accept any form of reversing the oaths people has pledged to the sovereign – with the sole exception of when the sovereign does not prove able to provide safety and security from violence:
“…[T]hey that have already instituted a commonwealth, being thereby bound by covenant to own the actions and judgments of one cannot lawfully make a new covenant amongst themselves to be obedient to any other, in any thing whatsoever, without his permission. And therefore, they that are subjects to a monarch cannot without his leave cast off monarchy and return to the confusion of a disunited multitude, nor transfer their person from him that beareth it to another man, or other assembly of men…” (Hobbes 1994: 111)
When the ideas of Hobbes are taken from a domestic to an international level a quite depressing world emerges which follows the lines of kill or get killed strategy in international relations. This is the hardest case for constructivism to explain but has nonetheless existed at several points in history. The main term to explain the relationship between self and other would in this case be enemy. Alexander Wendt explains the term enemy as follows:
“Enemies are constituted by representations of the Other as an actor who (1) does not recognize the right of the Self to exist as an autonomous being, and therefore (2) will not willingly limit its violence towards Self… this is a narrower definition than one normally finds in IR, where “enemy” is often used to describe any violent antagonist” (Wendt 2007: 260)
The reason Wendt utilizes a narrower definition of enemy than the norm is that it is important not to confuse enemy with rival – which is the characteristic term of the relationship between self and other in a Lockean culture. As the Hobbesian enemy does not recognize their counterparts rights to exist and will therefore not limit itself. The only things which can limit the aggression will be the eventual lack of capabilities to destroy the other or the intervention of the Leviathan if there were a form of international government in the world. Rivals of the Lockean culture on the other hand recognize the right to exist of their counterparts but will at times seek to revise their behavior or gain possession of their property – e.g. land, natural resources etc. The main difference between the two is therefore the non-existence of self-restraint in the Hobbesian culture. (Wendt 2007: 259-261)
The Lockean culture
The second potential culture of international relations which Alexander Wendt describes is based on the thoughts of the English philosopher and contemporary of Thomas Hobbes - namely John Locke. Locke lived from 1632 to 1704 and was one of the major British empiricists and thus worked a lot with human understanding and experience for which he is most famous. He also delved into political philosophy with his Two Treatises of Civil Government from 1689. (Locke 1980: vii)
Locke was strongly influenced by Hobbes but there were several areas where he departed completely from the position of Hobbes. The two most striking examples are the view of human nature and the right to revolution against an illegitimate government.
The Lockean culture as used by Alexander Wendt in his constructivist approach is characterized by the live and let live approach instead of the Hobbesian kill or get killed. The view of the other is in this culture as a rival and not as an enemy. There is in general a mutual acknowledgement between states of their rights to exists. This can for example be seen since the Westphalian system came into being in 1648, since when the death rate of states has been very small compared to earlier times – this even goes for the tiniest states. Even if a mutual recognition of states’ rights to exist and sovereignty is in place, it doesn’t mean the use of violence has disappeared. There will still be disputes over for example territory and resources – even to the extent of leading to war. But as mentioned above, the wars will be limited wars mainly aimed at revising borders or gaining concessions from the losing part and not as a struggle of life and death between the states.
The effect of a Lockean culture is not limited to how and how often wars are waged. Since the sovereignty of other states are generally respected and wars become less frequent, states no longer have to focus solely on security and short term gains but can – or have to, in order to keep up with their rivals – focus on longer term goals in a wider range of areas. Furthermore the mutual recognition of sovereignty and the increased focus on longer term goals give way to a degree of trust between allies. (Wendt 2007: 279-282)
Since the Westphalian Peace in 1648 and partly since the Peace of Augsburg hundred years before that, the Lockean culture has been the one signifying the international relations at least at regional levels until the decolonization when the culture become more entrenched and all-embracing.
The question is then how this culture came in to being and how it became so entrenched that it persisted major ‘rule-breakers’ such as Napoleon or Hitler. The root of the culture has to be found in coercion – after the protracted Thirty Years War which brought nothing but misery and poverty in itself it became in the interest of the involved great powers and the German principalities to respect each other’s sovereignty. As this was a newly introduced norm it had to be effectuated by coercion in the beginning. An example could be England and the Netherlands’ intervention in the conflicts between Denmark-Norway and Sweden, where the latter was prevented in annexing the first. (Wendt 2007: 286)
After this first phase of coerced Lockean culture the culture becomes more entrenched as a norm. This means that the state-actors are beginning to get used to that it is expected they respect other states’ sovereignty – or at least seemingly respect. By recognizing other’s sovereignty can bring them benefits while not doing so can bring them harm. In other words the states will respect each others’ sovereignty as long as they believe it’s in their interest to do so.
The third and final step of an entrenched Lockean culture is when the recognition of others’ sovereignty becomes such a habit and value in itself that the states will automatically adhere to the norm even if it might not be in their direct interest to do so. (Wendt 2007: 287-289)
The Kantian culture
The last of the three cultures of international relations Alexander Wendt outlines is that of the Kantian culture which is based on the ideas of Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in his treatise Perpetual Peace. Where the Hobbesian culture was based on enmity and the Lockean culture based on rivalry – the Kantian culture operates with the concept of friendship.
Perpetual Peace is a short pamphlet which contains six preliminary and three definitive articles which would, if followed, transform international relations completely. It is one of the most essential works of cosmopolitanism in history although it is quite utopian. The six preliminary articles are:
“1: No Treaty of Peace Shall Be Held Valid in Which There Is Tacitly Reserved Matter for a Future War…
2: No Independent States, Large or Small, Shall Come under the Dominion of Another State by Inheritance, Exchange, Purchase, or Donation…
3: Standing Armies (miles perpetuus) Shall in Time Be Totally Abolished…
4: National Debts Shall Not Be Contracted with a View to the External Friction of States…
5: No State Shall by Force Interfere with the Constitution or Government of Another State…
6: No State Shall, during War, Permit Such Acts of Hostility Which Would Make Mutual Confidence in the Subsequent Peace Impossible: Such Are the Employment of Assassins (percussores), Poisoners (venefici), Breach of Capitulation, and Incitement to Treason (perduellio) in the Opposing State” (Kant 2007: 7-11)
And the three definitive articles are:
“1: The Civil Constitution of Every State Should Be Republican
2: The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States
3: The Law of World Citizenship Shall Be Limited to Conditions of Universal Hospitality” (Kant 2007: 13-21)
In Kant’s vision of a peaceful world a few things stand out. Most importantly from the theoretical point of view are the preliminary articles which try to prevent suspicion or animosity between states such as article 1 or 6. This view in itself entails that there is a possibility to change the way states interact and view each other – it doesn’t have to be an anarchical society for eternity. This particular point also explains why Wendt has found Kant’s thoughts intriguing enough to incorporate them into his theoretical framework. Two other curious points in Kant’s Perpetual Peace is that he goes to great lengths to explain the differences between a republican and a democratic form of government as he is quite skeptical of democracy but supports the division of power and meritocracy. Not surprisingly he strongly recommends that philosophers should be taken in on counsel in any government decision. In his view of a peaceful future he doesn’t envision a world government as he thinks it will be too lax and lose its legislative dynamics. On the other hand he advocates a loose federation of states which guarantees safety for all people traveling among them – as can be seen in the definitive articles 2 and 3.
Turning to Wendt’s version of Kant’s ideas and the Kantian culture again - an example which is difficult to explain within the logic of neither the Lockean nor the Hobbesian cultures is the close cooperation seen between the NATO countries. In a Hobbesian culture this would never have happened whereas in the Lockean culture it could have been explainable as long as the Warsaw Pact and the USSR still existed. After the fall of the USSR and the disappearance of a perceived common enemy of the NATO member states, rivalry between the member states should have reignited and the alliance slowly dissolved. Instead the alliance has persisted and there are still areas with close cooperation between member states which in instances goes beyond national egoism. (Wendt 2007: 297)
The term friendship which this culture involves is signified by two rules – namely that conflicts or disputes will be resolved without war or threat of war and they will both engage in a conflict if one of the two is attacked – i.e. work as a team. This can resemble an alliance but, in a friendship the notion of war between the friends are unthinkable in an alliance the notion of war is only unthinkable as long as the alliance exists – in other words a kind of friendship limited by time. Furthermore it is important to note that the term friendship in the Kantian culture is regarding security areas only – friends can still compete economically for example. Examples of friendships in international relations in our contemporary world could be the special relationship between USA and UK or between the Nordic states. The relations between these countries are characterized by it being inconceivable for a state of war to evolve. (Wendt 2007: 299)
Using the notion of friendship in international relations must also signify a degree of selflessness since state A might help its friend state B with a problem even if this doesn’t directly benefit state A. If a state is not necessarily egoistic and selfish and a degree of trust can evolve between states it is a possibility to escape the international anarchy characterizing Hobbesian and Lockean ideas – if not on a global level then on a regional level. Alexander Wendt gives the example of the Unites States and Canada. Even if these two neighboring countries have several disputes over for example fishing rights and the United States is much more powerful than its northern neighbor it would never consider using force to its own benefit towards Canada. The same situation could be seen within for example the European Union. A culture has developed here which has made military power obsolete within the sphere.
Furthermore it’s worth mentioning that the constructivism deviates from for example neorealism in the approach to the difference between anarchy and hierarchy. Where the neorealist sees anarchy as a result of the absence of a centralized authority – i.e. a Hobbesian leviathan or world government – the constructivist doesn’t necessarily see anarchy being the necessary product of the absence of a centralized authority. If the Kantian culture develops sufficiently amongst a community of states on a global or regional level, it is possible for anarchy to vanish in a decentralized arena. (Wendt 2007: 306-308)
An important aspect when looking at the contents of the Kantian culture in international relations is looking at how this culture can develop and eventually become entrenched. It is some conundrum how the former enemies of the Hobbesian world or rivals in the Lockean world can become friendly towards each other. This will certainly not happen from one day to the other but will be a long process which can be split up in three major phases. The first phase would be an extension of what can be seen in a Lockean culture – if the prevention from killing other states in time increases to become a norm of not attacking the foundation for the Kantian culture is in place – where coercion maintains the nonviolence. From here it can develop with the norms becoming more entrenched and cooperation increases. You will in this second phase see states cooperating and seemingly act selflessly – this will not be genuine though. The norms are here to act friendly, and as this is the expected way of communication the state is acting this way because it knows this is how it achieves its goals and avoids becoming the victim of sanctions. The idea behind the third and final phase is that the actions will eventually become more genuine and less fundamentally based on egoism. (Wendt 2007: 303-306)
After having explored the different cultures which can develop in international relations and how they can become entrenched, it is time to discover the most important aspect of the constructivist theory – the ability of states to learn and affect one another. The core of constructivism is that interests and identities are created and are continuously modified through interactions with others.
Wendt tries to explain this through his example of Alter and Ego meeting each other for the first time. Both are focused on survival and have material force to try to back up that interest – but apart from this they haven’t created any common interests or expectations. At this first meeting every single gesture and movement is important to signal peacefulness, animosity or outright threatening behavior. As soon as Alter decides to act one way, Ego will begin to interpret that action and respond to this behavior. Ego might misinterpret Alter’s intentions and act unaccordingly to this, causing Alter to change its stance. In any event, a common history is starting to write itself for the two and each of them will begin developing opinions of the other and also develop behavioral patterns in relation to other entities in general based on its recent experiences. The understandings and expectations of others will therefore be the major part of the formation of the actor’s interests and identities. (Wendt 1992: 404-407)
Below is a figure showing the formation of states identities and interests through interaction:
As seen in the figure the process of state socialization is seen in a limited arena of only two states – the formation of state identities and interests are here visually explained. A state encounters an issue and begins analyzing it from the perspective of its previous experience (i.e. it’s previously created identities and interests) and decides on what it deems to be an appropriate action. Other states will begin analyzing this action and will try to figure out what reaction it might require and acts upon it – and so it continues. These state actions all add up to the common history of the states and are the fundamental building blocks of the mutual expectations of each other’s actions and in turn formation of own identity and interest.
The constructivist theory is distinguished from the other theories presented and utilized in this thesis as more dynamic and somewhat more unpredictable than the others. Instead of explaining behavior in international relations as static – as in neorealism – or following more predictable rules – such as in neoliberalism – constructivism is more open-ended. What matters is the interaction between the actors and their shared history. A history of violence and a high death rate among states will result in a justified paranoia amongst them and a devolvement into a Hobbesian culture of kill or be killed, while a history of cooperation and mutual respect of sovereignty can lead to a Lockean or eventually even a Kantian culture. Wendt therefore see the anarchy of international relations as a product of the state socialization and therefore possible to change – or as his article is titled: “Anarchy is what states make of it” (Wendt 1993: 391)