My intellectual project has been to bring to light the extent to which international relations is not well understood when it is viewed as a struggle for power by sovereign states, but is better understood as an ethical argument broadly construed. I have attempted to do this by building a theory which I have dubbed ‘Constitutive Theory’ (Frost 1996; Frost 2002). The theory sets out to demonstrate to readers that they are all participants in international relations and that as such they participate in the two major global practices of our time: the society of sovereign states and global civil society. It then seeks to bring to light what is involved in participating in these practices. I seek to do this from the internal point of view – that is from the point of view of those who participate in the practices. Many of the key features are usually hidden or tacitly assumed. In particular I have been concerned to demonstrate the ethical dimensions implicit in these practices. I start by highlighting what I take to be common to all social practices. In order to understand human action in any realm, we need to understand how actors are constituted as actors of a certain kind within a specific social practice with its associated ‘rules of the game’. In all social practices (such as speaking English, playing football, bull fighting, participating in economic markets, family life, universities, the community of sovereign states and so on) the ‘rules of the game’, which may be tacit or explicit, specify what criteria need to be satisfied in order to become a participant, what menu of appropriate actions are open to participants, what actions are ruled out as mistakes or as inappropriate, and what misconduct would result in a participant being expelled from the practice. Social practices are underpinned by one or another ethical theory. ‘Ethical theory’ is here understood as that set of values that participants refer to in order to justify the practice as a whole, individual actions within it, and to which they refer when seeking to solve so-called ‘hard cases’. In many social practices the
underlying ethical theory is not completely settled and static, but portions of it are under ongoing discussion. These discussions are, one might say, the internal politics of the practice.