Constructivism and Rationalism

Essay Question:  Constructivists argue that agents and structures have a mutually constitutive effect on each other, while rationalists argue that we should focus on the rational behaviour of agents. Which (if either) is correct?

Word Count: 3000w

References: 15 – 20

Due Date: As soon as possible.

Notes: The Word Document titled ‘Constructivism and Rationalism.docx’  has been added to give basic background and direction to the current task. The references found within this document should be used in conjunction with the articles I have linked, as well as your further research. 


With growing globalization and internationalization, the field of International Relations is seeking philosophical grounds to explain and offer solutions to some of the modern challenges facing the international scene. Rationalism and constructivism are two dominant methodological theories that have been featured in political and international debates (Carlsnaes, Risse-Kappen, Risse, & Simmon, 2002). The two approaches share some structural underpinnings, as well as differ greatly on some of the assumptions that they are based upon. Having been applied in similar scenarios, Constructivism and Rationalism have produced rather different results, with either one of them proving to be inferior. Roy (2016) indicates that the relationship between the United States and North Korea presents an international challenge, characterized by security complexities and involvement of agents and structures. The United States- North Korean tussle is far from being solved. Hence, an absolute mapping of the approach that can effectively resolve the problem cannot be undertaken. However, an analysis of the past and ongoing efforts can aid in determining which of the two approaches in its core nature can be used to resolve the conflict, with the best outcome possible as postulated in Whang, et al. (2017). The aim of this research is to determine how pragmatic ontological approaches impact decision making in international relationships. Thus, Constructivism and Realism will be presented in differing and common grounds, and a conclusion developed on which is the single correct application to the case of North Korea and the United States of America’s strained relationship.

Literature Review


Rationalism, when compared to constructivism and other methodological approaches, holds a central role in International Relations. Rationalism is better described as a method that tends to explain how strategic actions come into being, especially when there are several actors, as it is the typical case with most issues in the international scene (Carlsnaes, Risse-Kappen, Risse, & Simmon, 2002). Thus, the first element in rationalism is an action. A relevant example in this discussion is the move by the North Korean government to build on nuclear power capacities. The next element is the set of underlying factors that influence the nature of a particular action. The underlying factors may also determine if the parties involved pose as individuals or rather the actors (Peacocke, 2002). For instance, international policies may require international community like the United Nations to assume the position of actors as opposed to individuals. Thirdly, a rationalist model is characterized by structural interaction. The latter represents a set of actions by players that are factored by exogenous and endogenous factors. Endogenous factors are explained within the model, as they relate directly to the actors, while exogenous factors relate to issues that are less likely to be featured in the central argument of the rationalist model. Another element is the game theory. Rationalism uses game theory to describe how a universe of outcomes will emerge from the preferences of actors in the conflict or argument (Peacocke, 2002). Lastly, the Rationalist model explains the particular conditions or factors that may trigger given the outcomes of the possibilities.

The Rationalist Model In almost all instances of conflict, decision and actions are made by people, states Mearsheimer (2009)…

Order a Similar or Custom Paper from our Writers