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"the ability to manipulate one's own image and the image of one's rivals in the minds of other Arab elites," and the breakdown of Pan-Arabism after the Arab defeat during the 1967 war suggests that a narrow neoliberal understanding of Arab state actions cannot be supported with existing historical evidence (Barnett 1995:489). The great value, Barnett says, in using a constructivist approach is its emphasis on relationality, versus a 'black box' concept. 'Pan-Arab' institutions that facilitate cooperation arise not out of a perfectly rational calculation of mutual state interests, but a complicated negotiation of customs and identities. Such institutions themselves create identities such as the notion of 'the Arab world' itself. Institutions provide stability not because they prevent conflict through force, but because they create "relatively stable expectations and shared norms among actors that occupy set roles" (Barnett 1995:491).

However, the League of Arab States, established after World War II, did not provide such stability because there was a constant conflict between ideas of Arab sovereignty and nationalism. On one hand, Arab states were desperate to defend their legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world community. Part of their claim to nationhood rested on the idea of being uniquely 'Arab,' unlike the colonial powers that formerly occupied the region. But responsibilities owed to other Arab state actors were unclear and were frequently in conflict (Barnett 1995:497). However, despite such factionalism and friction, attempts at achieving unity, for economic, political, and ideological reasons continue to be negotiated, even today

Constructivism is essential to make sense of the Gulf region. Frequently, outsiders complain that an Arab state's refusal to acknowledge Israel or grand democratic liberties to its citizens seems irrational in the extreme: understanding the profound importance of resisting what are seen as the colonial forces of the West is highlighted in a constructivist narrative and helps to illuminate such a position. Constructivism highlights the nuances of different states' positions. Today, despite the united front they may against Israel, many Arab leaders may be quietly far more anxious about the dangers posed by rival Muslim states, such as Shiite-dominated Iran. Within states, Shiite-Sunni rivalry, and longstanding historical hostilities between factions can also hold sway, and fight for dominance over…[continue]

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"Constructivism" (2011, January 24) Retrieved July 2, 2015, from

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