Where does this leave us? Precisely where we need to be, especially for world politics: that is, in an open-ended, contested yet mutually constructed space where realist/liberal IR not only recognizes but also engages with the Other - even one as seemingly alien as Daoism. World peace may not result but, at least, such engagement takes us further along this path than monolingual, unidirectional Realism/ Liberalism. With Constructivism, in short, the party begins!
To celebrate this Constructivist spirit, I present a brief play The scene takes place at a local hangout near Poncy University The academic year has just started and three young men, new to the doctoral program in IR, are getting acquainted.
Lights out, curtains up, music swells . . .
Playing with Constructivism
A Realist, a Constructivist, and a Daoist walk into a bar...
realist (pounds the counter): Barkeep: a whiskey on the rocks, please! (To his companions) Now that’s a real drink for a real man. constructivist (amiably): Sure it is, since you think it is. (The Realist looks puzzled.
The Constructivist turns to the bartender) I’ll have a Boilermaker, please. realist: Boilermaker? I didn’t take you to be such a hardy and, if you don’t mind, plebeian drinker.
constructivist: What’s so plebeian about a shot of whiskey in a pint of beer? realist: I thought you’d go for a fancy cocktail.
constructivist: No pseudo-sophistication for me, thank you. Give me an everyday, everyman’s brew like beer any day, fortified with a kick. Besides, I like the fact that I’m the agent making my own drink. (The Constructivist makes the gesture of dropping a shot of whiskey in his pint of beer; the Realist chuckles while shaking his head. The Constructivist turns to the Daoist.) And what will you have, my Daoist friend? daoist (raises a finger to the bartender): Water for me, thanks. realist (expostulates): Water! We’re in a bar, for Chrissakes. daoist (serenely): Nothing tops water, according to the Dao.
To quote Laozi:
The highest efficacy is like water
It is because water benefits everything [wanwu]
Yet views to dwell in places loathed by the crowd That it comes nearest to proper way-making.13
daoist: Have you never considered that water is yin to alcohol’s yang? One cannot be without the other for one exists within the other.
realist: So my drinking whiskey is like you drinking water, and you drinking water is like me drinking whiskey?
daoist: Not quite. I’m still drinking water and you, whiskey But my drinking water validates the fact that you’re drinking whiskey just as your drinking whiskey affirms I’m drinking water. Each derives meaning from the other. Furthermore, we know that water is needed to make alcohol and perhaps there’s an element of alcohol within water. It, too, can intoxicate, you know. realist: We don’t have our drinks yet and you’re already drunk! daoist: My point exactly
constructivist: What’s the big deal? After all, a drink is what one makes of it.14 realist: What kind of simplistic crap is that? constructivist: It is simplistic but catchy, no?
(The drinks arrive; the three young men raise their glasses.)
all three: Cheers! (They clink glasses and each takes a healthy gulp.) realist (looks at his drink appreciatively): I don’t care what you say: whiskey is definitely whiskey.
(Three good-looking women walk in. They sit at a table near the bar’s window, at a slight distance from the three men. The Realist immediately takes notice.)
Hey, check out the window!
(All three turn to the window and gaze at the three beautiful women.) constructivist: A nice view, indeed!
realist: I propose we send over drinks. Then, I’ll walk up and introduce myself. After chatting them up a bit, I’ll signal for you guys to come over. It’s less threatening this way They’ll feel flattered and not intimidated. daoist: Aren’t we assuming too much here? What makes you think they’ll accept our drinks in the first place?
realist: Why wouldn’t they? That’s what men and women do in a bar! They flirt and we chase - that is, until we bag ’em for the night! constructivist: Even if they accept our drinks, what makes you think they’ll talk to us, let alone let us “bag” them? realist: They’ll have to - we bought them drinks! constructivist: What’s your long-term intention here? realist: Long term?! What are you, looking for a relationship? constructivist: Whether you like it or not, the minute you open your mouth to talk to someone - and talk is always involved - you’re in a relationship. daoist: Moreover, I detect a disturbing binary in you. realist: What??
daoist: You’re treating these women like they’re prey and you’re the hunter. realist: Isn’t this how the game is played?
daoist: Not necessarily There are other games played in other ways. And these don’t involve alienating masculinity from femininity Both exist in us, you know. When you prey upon women, you’re really trapping and killing yourself.
realist (snidely): Getting in touch with our feminine side, are we? constructivist: And why not? It’s worth discussing. Let’s talk it over dinner. daoist: Good idea! I’m famished. (The Constructivist and the Daoist start moving toward the door, pulling the Realist along.)
realist (reluctantly, looking at the women by the window): OK, but next time, I’m going out on my own!
constructivist: Sure. (aside to Daoist) Good luck! Most likely, he’ll self-destruct and we’ll have to pick up the pieces! (Daoist nods knowingly.)
(The three young men exit the bar.)
beautiful woman #1: Glad those guys left. They were about to come over. beautiful woman #2: Every year, it’s the same.
beautiful woman #3 (laughing): It’s always a shock when they discover they’re our Research Assistants.
beautiful woman #2: Remember those days?
beautiful woman #1 (wistfully): Lots of struggle, lots of learning.
(The three women toast one another.)