David McCourt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


While constructivism has become a popular approach since its emergence, its power has weakened recently, becoming a vague catchall term for research on norms, culture and identities in world politics. I refer to this as the 'contemporary crisis of constructivism', and argue that it stems, at least in part, from insufficient reflexivity towards the act of knowledge construction and the role of the scholar in the process. In the light of this 'challenge of reflexivity', I argue that all constructivists - whatever their stripe - must develop a reflex to include in their analyses of world politics a simultaneous analysis of the social construction of that knowledge. Second, constructivism cannot have a single response to the challenge of reflexivity as there are quite different ways of doing reflexivity that accord with distinct responses to the question that lies at the base of the challenge of reflexivity: what is the role of the intellectual in society? Constructivism has no single answer - and can have no unique approach to reflexivity - because it is not a singular approach. There are thus multiple ways of being a reflexive constructivist. To illustrate, I join a lively debate about the incorporation of reflexive sociology of Pierre Bourdieu into IR, using it as a foil to assess a range of possible reflexive approaches: from a narrow focus on the scholar using auto-ethnographic methods or the sociology of knowledge aimed primarily at reducing scholarly bias, to a broader ethical practice of reflexivity for anyone engaging in acts of world-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-51
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Review of International Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Bourdieu
  • constructivism
  • IR theory
  • reflexivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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