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Social power in international politics by Peter Van Ham

By Peter Van Ham

Social strength outlined -- Geopolitics and hegemony -- tradition and constructivism -- associations and legislation -- Media and globalization -- Public international relations -- position branding

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Those who want to see the dots may connect them quickly and effortlessly; skeptics, on the other hand, may deny any causal relationship. This book therefore uses a social ontology to underpin qualitative research. I will analyze the nature and role of social power by asking constitutive rather than causal questions, and I will look at intersubjective variables via an interpretive approach rather than by searching for measurable correlations. It may well be possible to apply quantitative research methods to provide a formal evaluation of the workings of social power in international politics, but this would go beyond both my own capabilities and the scope of this book.

115 Constructivist scholars may deny the relevance of these problems out of hand, just as Realist scholars may deny the impact of social power altogether. But given that both hard and social power are relevant in international politics, some middle ground has to be found. Craig Parsons has formulated the challenge confronting ideational scholars as follows: “A growing literature points to actors’ subjective beliefs as important causes of political outcomes. ”117 Ideational scholars claim that it is ideas and identities that shape policy outcomes, against competing claims from political party theorists who posit that electoral or coalitional constraints are key, or bureaucratic theorists who trace interests to organizational rivalries, and Marxists who highlight that group interests derive from economic constraints.

Kagan’s depiction of Europe as a postmodern, Lite Power was not unjustified, but his conclusion that a more military capable Europe would close the transatlantic power-gap, and, hence, make US–European cooperation easier, remains controversial. ”38 Ultimately, the post-9/11 transatlantic debate centered around the key questions of how, when, and where to use hard and social power to cut short international terrorism—a debate whose end is still not in sight. ” What may at first glance sound like a silly, somewhat trivial debate, is actually a profound and fundamental question about the relationship between capabilities and policy options on the one hand, and identity on the other.

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