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By Marco Verweij (auth.)

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Additional info for Transboundary Environmental Problems and Cultural Theory: The Protection of the Rhine and the Great Lakes

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2 It signifies the belief that valid generalizations about social life across time and space are wellnigh impossible to make. This belief rests on the assumption that language is recursive. People cannot express themselves but through language. Therefore, according to poststructuralists, words uttered or thought by people do not so much refer to objects, but to other words, which in turn refer to yet other words, and so on and so forth. 3 This means that every attempt at formulating an objective hypothesis that may be valid across time and space is doomed from the beginning, and can only ‘re-present’ a picture of the world that is coloured by highly specific personal and cultural assumptions.

I will present these four requirements below. In the rest of the chapter I will attempt to argue that gridgroup theory satisfies these four demands, and can therefore be seen as a constructivist approach. First, IR theories should describe the collectively shared norms, values and perceptions of actors. These predispositions compose the social structures that confront people. 5 As mentioned above, actors sustain the social structures in which they live by acting out their norms, values and beliefs.

4 However, as Friedrich Kratochwil and John Gerard Ruggie have pointed out, in actual case studies of international regimes the focus has most often been on how ‘material’ or ‘structural’ factors (such as power capabilities of actors, monitoring activities, and the economic benefits and costs of cooperation) have influenced international regimes. In contrast, cognitive factors such as intersubjective understanding, information processing and communication have been neglected.

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