Debates on International Peace Interventions: Constructivists, Critical Theorists, Post-Structuralists, Feminists, and their Critics
International peace interventions have multiplied since the end of the Cold War, with United Nations operations, non-governmental agencies, diplomatic missions, and regional organizations becoming increasingly numerous and influential. Similarly, in international relations, the body of literature on international peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development, humanitarian aid, and democratization has also grown. This literature tackles several major questions: Why do so many international interventions fail to bring about peace? Why do others succeed? What are the most useful frameworks for analyzing international interventions?
In international relations literature, the dominant approach – which is both positivist and rationalist – overwhelmingly emphasizes that vested interests and material constraints determine peace intervention strategies and account for their successes and failures. In contrast, a relatively new international relations approach focuses on the influence of beliefs, cultures, discourse, frames, habitus, identity, ideology, norms, representations, symbols, and worldviews on international peace interventions. Although the authors who work with these concepts belong to a diverse set of theoretical schools, they all reject the dominant positivist epistemology and/or the dominant rational choice methodology.
This seminar uses the literature on recent peace interventions as a lens for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of constructivist, critical, post-structuralist, and feminist approaches to international relations. The course has two goals. First, to develop participants’ knowledge of the most salient international peace interventions in recent years and the reasons for their successes or failures. Second, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand, evaluate, analyze, and possibly employ non-positivist and non-rational choice approaches to international relations.
Throughout the course, participants will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates surrounding international interventions and non-positivist and non-rational choice approaches to international relations. The course will also introduce participants to new issues in the field, such as the practice turn in the social sciences and the micro-foundations of peace settlements. Readings for this course are drawn from a variety of disciplines (political science, anthropology, sociology, and others), and they include both theoretical works and case studies of recent interventions.
The course is open to all graduate students and has no pre-requisites. Familiarity with international relations theories (notably through the IR field survey course) is helpful but not required. The first part of the course will ensure that all participants have the bases necessary to perform well this semester.