Some 30 years have passed since signal constructivist insights entered the international relations canon. In those three decades, scholarship informed by constructivism has shed light on fundamental questions of global politics—from the foundational principles defining international order, to the rise and fall of international norms such as human rights, to the sources and productive effects of the legalization of global politics. In response to early critiques that constructivist scholarship focused on ‘low’ politics and ‘good’ norms, constructivists have shown how the politics of meaning—manifest in ideas, discourse, legitimation, rhetoric, narrative, and the like—have shaped, among other topics, international intervention, territorial conflict, alliance politics, and the making of national security policy.
In 1993, the Czechoslovakian poet-and-playwright-turned-president Václav Havel declared that “the fate of the so-called West is today being decided in the so-called East.” Havel warned that “if the West does not find the key to us…or to those somewhere far away who have extricated themselves from communist domination, it will ultimately lose the key to itself. If, for instance, it looks on passively at “Eastern” or Balkan nationalism, it will give the green light to its own potentially destructive nationalisms, which it was able to deal with so magnanimously in the era of the communist threat.”