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Home arrow History arrow The Art of World-Making: Nicholas Greenwood Onuf and his Critics


This chapter has been long on criticism - of second-generation Constructivism especially - and big on meta-theoretical reflection. In concluding, it is worth stressing that neither critique nor meta-theorizing was Onuf’s primary concern (nor Kratochwil’s). In our defense, we hope to have used the notion of the generations positively to understand the dynamics of intellectual change, here the shift from first to the second and post-second generations of Constructivism. We also hope to have done so in a way that illustrates what we have also asserted about what Constructivism is, or more accurately what it does (i.e., bring in insights from sociology and social theory). In the second, we hope to have shown that for Onuf, theorizing and philosophizing was not an end in itself but a means of understanding the world of international politics better. The critique sometimes aired, especially from second- generation Constructivists and opponents of Constructivism, that no guidance was given on doing empirical work missed the point of WOOM entirely. Too-rigid imposition of guidelines, as Onuf showed, can become not only rules but also part of rule, the control of modes of thought and action he hoped to highlight in WOOM, yet which sadly dropped out of second-generation Constructivism. Nevertheless, thinking generationally means that no one generation has a corner on the truth. In this way, Barder and Levine’s invocation of Ranke’s quote - “is not every generation equally distant from God?” - is right on the mark. This chapter is but an addendum to that assertion, pushing forward the point that not every generation of those working in the social space of Constructivism are equally distant from Nicholas Onuf.

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