Leading Constructivist Scholar Martha Finnemore at MGIMO

Leading Constructivist Scholar Martha Finnemore at MGIMO

20 September 2019

September 16th to 20th, MGIMO welcomed one of the most prominent modern international researchers, the Professor at George Washington University Martha Finnemore. The guest conducted a series of lectures at the University.

Martha Finnemore is one of the most famous constructivist scholars, who made a significant contribution to the study of how the diffusion of international norms impacts states’ foreign policy.

Her most famous works are National Interests in International Society, The Purpose of Intervention, Rules for the World (co-authored by Michael Barnett), and Back to Basics (executive editor and author), all of which contributed to making constructivism one of the main paradigms in international relations. She was awarded prestigious international awards for her publications. In the 1990’s, Martha Finnemore together with Harvard University Professor K. Sikkink created the «life cycle» of norms model, which has become widely used among scholars. In 2009, an authoritative global survey of international researchers placed Martha Finnemore among the top ten researchers who had the greatest impact on the development of the discipline during the last 20 years, and among the five whose work was considered as most interesting by their peers. Invited by MGIMO’s Vice-Rector for Graduate and International Programs, Andrey Baykov, the guest was for the first time at MGIMO and in Russia.

During her time at the University, Martha Finnemore delivered three lectures on the main topics she devoted her career to. September 16th, she gave a talk on the origins and evolution of constructivism, which has become over time a leading international relations paradigm, with 60% of researchers around the world identifying themselves as constructivists. The new theory shows the limits of rationalism and materialism in international relations.

In her second lecture, which unfolded on September 18th, Marta Finnemore outlined her main findings regarding how and why states carry out armed interventions abroad. She highlighted the evolution in the use of military means and the end of interventions for debt collection after the Second World War. Foreign wars still take place but interventions are justified with other motives, she noted.

September 18th, there was a round table on the visiting scholar’s most famous articles: «International Norm Dynamics and Political Change» (co-authored with Katherine Sikkink). The event was moderated by Tatiana Alekseeva, Head of the Department of Political Theory at MGIMO. During the round table, Martha Finnemore explained how her perspective on norms evolved during the 20 years following the publication of the article and other speakers shared their views on the topic.

Professor Finnemore’s third lecture (September 19th) was devoted to the evolution of rules and norms on the world stage. The guests discussed with the audience the topic she is currently concentrating her efforts on: norm creation and implementation in cyberspace. The speed of technological change makes some areas hard to regulate through traditional international treaties and more flexible instruments are needed to successfully regulate them.

On her last day, Martha Finnemore organized a master class for PhD students and employees of the University, during which she explained how to prepare articles to be published in highly rated international journals. She is one of the editors of the journal «International Organization», one of the most influential journals in this field.

Martha Finnemore’s lectures were greatly appreciated by students and faculty members alike, as reflected by the many questions put to her during and after her talks. The visit of such a prominent scholar enriches academic discussions and encourages publication activities in the University. The visit took place in the framework of a program, which has been running for several years and has for goal to invite authoritative international scholars to MGIMO.

— See the MGIMO web-site for russian version