This school of international relations incorporates the need to transcend pure rationalism that developed in the 1990’s. Constructivism thought is rooted in sociology, as liberalism is based in microeconomic theory. Constructivists see institutions are only a part of the equation. They see institutions as embodying principles and shared understandings of desirable and accepted forms of social behaviour. Among those states who belong to institutions, those norms evolve through members’ interactions with each other. In successful institutions, the basis for co-operation lies in the expectations of the participants and they ways they shape their understanding of each other. Interests and understandings are a kind of social learning: ideas that can connect people (as they do in liberalism).
Interaction is vital since it is the basis for the formation of relationships. The interests of states, in turn, derive partly from these relationships. States both produce the norms, expectations, and requirements that make up the international climate and respond to that climate. This circular, re-enforcing dynamic is the basis of constructivism. Norms emerge both from rational self-interest and from important values held by states. As states co-operate and entrench shared values in treaties, common understandings will emerge.