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Does social constructivism really add anything new to debates about security?

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  1. Introduction
  2. A new framework for analysis
    1. A critical methodology to grasp security in another way
    2. A contestation of the traditional conceptualisations to enrich security studies' research agenda
  3. A positive balance sheet
    1. Some scientific limits
    2. Major theoretical advances
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

During the late 1980s, when debates between neorealists and neoliberals seemed to exhaust themselves, so-called ?constructivist' researches made their appearance. By asserting themselves as an alternative to realism, they reinterpret its main concepts (power, national interest, sovereignty?). Moreover, it introduced issues then regarded as marginal in International Relations analysis: identity, culture?
Major features of international system were no longer seen as natural, inherent in or given by its structure, but as by-products of social context and the effect of actors' subjectivity. A deconstruction work began in the discipline. In the particular area of security studies, constructivism will want to question the ?unquestionable idol Security'.
By putting a little bit aside the realist military state-centred empirical focus on security to privilege security's ontological and epistemological dimensions, constructivist scholars have tried to renew security studies.
Consequently, it is interesting to wonder if, by so doing, constructivism really adds anything new to debates about security.
After a presentation of constructivism applied to security studies (I), it will be easier to evaluate its ?real' contributions to theoretical debates (II)

[...] Katzenstein The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996) p. E. Adler, ?Imagined (Security) Communities: Cognitive Regions in international Relations', Millenium pp. 240-265. A. Blom, F. Charillon, Théories et concepts des relations internationales (Paris: Hachette Livre, 2001), p See notably the critique of O. F. Knudsen, ?Post-Copenhagen Security Studies: Desecuritizing Securitization', Security Dialogue 32, No September 2001, p Here again, I refer mainly to the influence of Foucaldian and Nietzscheian philosophies. J. [...]

[...] Some scientific limits One blames constructivist approach for being sometimes too caricatured in its efforts to deconstruct security.[14] It is accused to develop a sort of ?sociology of suspicion', by accusing systematically security to be the instrument of an established order, a lobby (especially the military one), an order or a State power.[15] In that perspective, it is maybe possible to say that to a certain extent, constructivism sometimes pays the consequences of its origins.[16] For constructivists, the choice only lies in just reminding the constructed character of security or stopping talking about it. [...]

[...] Secondly, contrary to neorealists' claims, as determinants of security, ideas and norms are more important than material capabilities.[7] They modify and shape differently the international system's identity through the time. But constructivism does not content itself to deconstruct classical theory of security; it presents alternative conceptualisations that open new research tracks. B. A contestation of the traditional conceptualisations to enrich security studies' research agenda As Barry Buzan has put it, security is an ?essentially contested concept'.[8] Security cannot be consensual. It has several meanings, which manifest ideological and political conceptions. Nevertheless, even though Buzan stayed reserved concerning the concept of security, he adopted a clear definition of security. [...]

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