Constructivism: A Not So Constructive Way to Stop a Zombie Apocalypse

Midway through my World Politics course this semester, I decided to let the students take a bit of a mental break from all the heavy theories on war and conflict prevention and instead had the students think about how the different IR theories would suggest that state governments should respond to a zombie apocalypse.  They read Daniel W. Drezner’s Theories of International Politics and Zombies (I think a few might be following his blog now…), and we watched Shaun of the Dead so that everyone can gain some familiarity with the collective action dilemma a zombie attack creates.  

After our discussion, students were then invited to submit a paper critiquing one IR theory – basically, the one that they think is the least helpful in formulating policy when leaders are faced with a zombie apocalypse.  While students offered critiques of all the IR theories Drezner overviewed (Realism, Liberalism, Neo-Conservatism, and Constructivism), here is our winning paper – one  student’s critique of Constructivist policy recommendations.

I think she’s embraced her inner Realist in this post…


The basic gist of Constructivism is that it focuses on individuals. Now the term individual applies to states, groups, and then literal individual people, possibly zombies. Constructivists argue that identity and discourse matter; that you can have two individuals, but it is each individual’s unique identity that will affect how they react in situations. Generally, Constructivism employs the use of soft power more than hard power. So, in the result of a zombie apocalypse there would be two ‘individual’ groups of humans and zombies. Daniel Drezner’s Theories of International Politics and Zombies gives two options in dealing with this fairly catastrophic event. 1. “To destroy every copy of nearly every zombie film ever made.”

Apparently Hollywood has given people some kind of prejudice against zombies and how we are supposed to handle them. If civilization does not remember ever seeing panic as a response to the abrupt rising of the dead, then it won’t be as quick to disassemble. Similarly, if there are options open to dealing with zombies perhaps people won’t be so quick to behead the animated corpses of their neighbors. I think this fundamental, emphasis on the mental, approach wouldn’t really work. Because even if Normal Norm never saw or had preconceived notions of courtesies to extend towards zombies, I feel that having his long dead great aunt Myrtle trying to chomp on his ear would kind of freak him out to the point of dissembling into chaos and trying to stop his own death. It is just human nature and survival instinct to drop the needs of society and your attacker, and protect yourself how you see fit.

R and Julie movie poster.

2. “To socialize zombies into human culture.” 

Integrating zombies to the human life style or humans converting to the living dead. The easier of the two would probably the human to zombie jump instead of the other way around since humans would just have to get infected or slowly shuffle and moan our way into a new kind of being. Movies have showed the possibility of a zombie to human conversion. The movie Warm Bodies features a zombie named R who eventually regains his human nature and diet. The whole reversal process starts when R meets a girl and falls in love, it ends with the stirrings in his heart finally restarting its beats and upstarting his body functions again. True love conquers all (romantic sigh). It might too broad of a comparison, but look at communism. Theoretically it is the most equal form of government, but it was thwarted by human nature. On the flip side socializing zombies would be thwarted by zombie nature and their tendency to consume the innards of humans.

Shaun and Zombie Ed.

In every zombie movie I have ever seen, the humans try to pass as zombies at one point, and are also eventually revealed as the living creatures that they are. I suppose there are just things humans cannot mimic about the dead; just like humans would know what a zombie is, zombies inevitably know what a human is. Plus if anyone wants to convert to a zombie state, I think it may be a good precaution to monitor their lives because they are showing a predilection towards future cannibalism. So that leaves training zombies to show their humanity. Though Shaun from Shaun of the Dead does get to keep his best friend Ed, he has to keep Ed in a shed, in chains. Ed appears docile enough, but I’m sure at the smell of blood he might deteriorate in to his undead life style.

My doubt in Constructivism stems from realist cynicism or my natural pessimism. Constructivism just seems like too much of a risk, too much resting on the chance that without preconceived notions and adaptation zombies and humans can coexist. It does not make sense to get rid of any documentation that may help defeat zombies or to assimilate to a new environment instead of a mass wipeout. As a species we have killed thousands of humans without the pressure of an apocalypse, why not attack the common undead enemy. And defeating a zombie threat takes more than a mindset change and empathy. It would take a lot to overcome such an adversary, lots of organization, strategy, and machine and man power. No one would be safe until the zombies were taken care of. Quite frankly I’d feel a lot better about handling a zombie apocalypse if there was a solid plan that involved attack capabilities.

My personal solution to a zombie apocalypse (Oct. 23, 2013).
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