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Constructivism and human rights locating values in a divided approach

Hayman, Paul Alexander (2008) Constructivism and human rights locating values in a divided approach. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Constructivism is sociological, constitutive and manages to incorporate both positivist and post-positivist methods of analysing the international system, although how well it combines the two is much disputed. It has produced a large amount of theoretical and empirical work detailing the constitutive and procedural norms of this system, and it has (largely) done so by placing a premium on the lives, characteristics and contributions of humans within it. As such it is often regarded as the most fertile ground within International Relations (IR) theory for bringing together theory and practice into a coherent whole. But how normative should it be? Critical scholars, mindful perhaps of the Third Debate origins of constructivism, strongly suggest that it should be more normative in its outlook, and thus able to direct the flow of international theory and practice rather than simply report on it. It is adept at cataloguing and interpreting the institutions and standards which constitute the international system, and the procedures and behaviours that govern it, but not the values which many see as underpinning it. This thesis will test this claim. It will do so by using the currently most visible and even tangible expression of values in the international system - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - to anchor an otherwise metaphysical concept. The capacity of constructivism to engage more consistently with human rights will be assessed by critically analysing three key expressions of the approach namely those of Alexander Wendt, Nicholas Onuf and Andrew Linklater. This triangulation opens up a new intellectual space which enables an exploration of the broad range of constructivist positions, in order to appraise how they cohere and diverge on this subject. This in turn allows for the conclusions that constructivism does engage with values, but that it is not suited to furthering a purposive, moral agenda. Any attempt to push its boundaries towards a more critical formulation divest it of any meaning as a category of international theory.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:57

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