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


The method has been applied (in whole or in part) in several other analyses, including (a) US-Soviet negotiations leading to the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement (Duffy, Frederking, and Tucker 1998; Frederking 2000; 2003); (b) constitutional debates in Canada and Belgium (Carter 2000); Kissinger’s 1973 conversations with Mao Zedong and Zhou En-Lai (Duffy and Goh 2008); and internal policy deliberations at the IMF and NATO (Graff 2007). Each of these works build models of deliberation in which actors wrestle with structural constraints and endeavor, some successfully, to engage in world-making.

While developing the method and its first application, we (Brian Frederking and I) were simultaneously wrestling with Nick’s World of Our Making. We recognized the affinity of the two, as both were based in speech act theory We reasoned that, if Nick’s rule-oriented conception of world politics held water, we should be able to apply our methods for presenting speech acts as a descriptive foundation for analyzing political regimes and proto-regimes. Starting from Nick’s conception of a “mutual insecurity system” and drawing upon the stream of historical events after World War II, we successfully developed a system of rules, supported by sub-rules, that capture the structure of international security during the Cold War. These include the mutual security rule, the spheres of influence rule, and two extended deterrence rules, representing NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

On examination of this rule system, we were able to identify the supporting subrules that had been undermined by superpower actions (including speech actions) in the years leading up to the end of the Cold War. These undermined rules in turn undermined, or made infelicitous, the main rules they had earlier supported, leading eventually to the collapse of the rule system and the Cold War itself. We found two clusters of rules, each corresponding to contemporary completing explanations of the end of the Cold War (Duffy and Frederking 2009).

By itself, our success does not demonstrate the validity of rule-oriented Constructivism. But it does lend it credence. It shows that research based on rule-oriented Constructivism can prove fruitful empirically.

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