Global Governance Centre
23 November 2020

Constructivism and Peaceful Change

In their new publication, Erna Burai and Stephanie C. Hofmann examine how the constructivist paradigm in International Relations can help us understand why and how peaceful change occurs.

Constructivism rose to prominence with the end of the Cold War. Initially, this led scholars working within this paradigm to exhibit a bias toward analyzing peaceful relations and change.

However, the foundations of constructivism make it equally well equipped to analyze violent transformations.

In their new publication “Constructivism and Peaceful Change”, Erna Burai and Stephanie C. Hofmann point to an important gap in constructivist theorizing: a lack of exploring the conditions under which transformations are peaceful or violent.

Overviewing the constructivist tradition, they argue that a more solid research program on peaceful change could address the scope of different theories, and they contribute to such a program by identifying the actors, factors and mechanisms of peaceful change.

“[Constructivism] exhibits a certain theoretical openness and flexibility. However, while scholars have identified various actors, factors, and mechanisms, they have paid less attention to how these interact with one another. We reconstruct the constructivist contributions in these three thematic groups and ask under what conditions they contribute to peaceful change rather than change per se.”

Published in November 2020, the chapter appears in The Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Change in International Relations, edited by T.V. Paul, Deborah Welch Larson, Harold A. Trinkunas, Anders Wivel, and Ralf Emmers.

Stephanie Hofmann [@stephofmann] is Head of the Graduate Institute’s International Relations/Political Science Department. She is also Principal Investigator for the SNSF-funded research projectTo Save and Defend: Global Normative Ambiguity and Regional Order” on which Erna Burai [@BuraiErna] is Postdoctoral Researcher.