Building Regional Security in the Middle East: International, Regional and Domestic Influences

By Zeev Maoz; Emily B.Landau et al. | Go to book overview

9

Assessing Regional Security Dialogue Through the Agent/Structure Lens: Reflections on ACRS

EMILY B.LANDAU and TAMAR MALZ

Fundamental structural changes in global politics in the 1990s have raised important questions regarding the means for understanding international relations. Traditional theories-most significantly, neorealism-failed to forecast the end of the Cold War, and this triggered what is known as the 'third debate' in international relations: a reassessment of the essence of existing theoretical models. 1

A measure of disappointment with the ability of traditional theories of international relations to both predict and explain international developments has brought scholars to seriously reconsider the issue of agent-structure relations, including renewed attention to domestic and regional factors in explaining international behavior.

Agent-structure relations, and the question of the prior ontological existence of one or the other (i.e. whether interactions among agents create international structures, or whether it is structure that in large part determines the behavior of agents) has been part of an ongoing theoretical debate among international relations scholars. 2

Constructivist scholars, on the basis of structuration theory, 3 argue that there is no prior ontological existence to either agent or structure, rather they are co-determined. Moreover, one cannot separate between agent and structure-it is the interplay between them that creates the game of international politics and its rules.

For the purposes of this essay, what concerns us in particular as regards constructivist theory is less the development of the idea of co-determination of agent and structure, and more the basis for understanding agent-structure relations in this manner, namely, the constructivist focus on the social nature of both agent and structure.

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