Constructivist theory vs. Ubuntu

A Successful Government and Theories of National Governance

A successful government preserves standards such as peace, fairness, and, most importantly, democracy. Theories address the relationship between such factors and national governance. Two such theories are the Ubuntu/African theory and the Constructivism doctrine. They seek to characterize social structure and the relationship between that structure and a nation’s governance. President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his farewell speech, emphasizing various features articulated by these theories and how they relate to the advancement of democracy and the quality of governance in the United States.

The Ubuntu Theory: Community and Commonality of Purpose

Ubuntu is a moral ideology originating in Sub-Saharan Africa. The philosophy promotes community and commonality of purpose. It encourages people to view themselves as part of a collective whole despite diversities of individualism, race and religion among others. President Obama calls the citizens of the U.S. to a common purpose in his farewell speech regardless of whatever political affiliations or individual differences. He insists that this has been very important to the journey of the country from infancy until then. He ascribes the high standards of governance in the U.S. to the commonality of purpose that the founders of the nation shared despite their individual differences.

The Ubuntu Theory: Unity, Compromise, and Virtues

The theory subscribes to the notion that the unity of the community is paramount to any other factor and precedes every other thing. It encourages individuals to compromise for the sake of the solidarity of the community especially in situations that made consensus impossible. Barack, in his speech acknowledges the many compromises that have been made by leaders of the nation over time in order to keep the American people united. They understood that the nation needed to remain as one and rise or fall as one. This has indeed shaped the face of the United States politics into one that aims to not only guard her interests globally but also to keep her people united.

The Ubuntu theory also advocates for virtues such as empathy and compassion among community members in order to allow for equity in opportunity and resource. Generosity and hospitality have also been exalted by the theory as virtues that aid in the progress and strength of a nation. The former president in his speech encourages these virtues among Americans from different racial, social and economic background to embrace each other’s differences and work together. He acknowledges the unique struggles faced by various social groups and encourages empathy among them. He goes on further to highlight the strength that the nation acquired from all the immigrants in the country despite their numerous individual differences (Obama 17).

The Ubuntu Theory: Conflict Resolution and Communication

One of the most important aspects of the Ubuntu philosophy is conflict resolution. The philosophy calls that all conflict is resolved effectively and peacefully in order to enable progress of the community’s activities as well as uphold standards within the community. The theory further describes conflict as a result of individual selfishness, a vice that is condemned by the philosophy. President Obama in his farewell speech condemns acts of hatred and terrorism as substitute means of conflict resolution. He suggests that such acts are only meant to wreak havoc and are a result of selfish desire. Such acts are a result of fear of losing power among autocrats or intolerance by individuals to free thought. The former president describes such as the threats to true democracy presently in the global context. This is concurrent with Ubuntu’s description of war and violence as selfish acts.

The Ubuntu philosophy emphasizes on unity and solidarity that can only be accomplished with effective communication among community members. This communication allows dissemination of ideals and other related information concerning governance that in turn enlightens all to the fundamental constructs of leadership and democracy. In his speech, Obama encourages communication and dialogue among all citizens concerning governance and democracy. This dialogue contributes to openness in governance thus upholding the essential values of democracy. Separation of an individual from the collective whole denies the process of communication an important element. Lack of communication would present a threat to the democracy of a nation as it would provide a cover for the ulterior motives of selfish individuals (Obama 3).

The Call for Active Defense of Democracy and the Constructivism Theory

President Barack Obama also calls the people of the United States to actively defend the democracy enshrined in their law. Beyond law enforcement agencies of the government, the people are given a common purpose regardless of background or race and are tasked to jealously guard it. This eventually promotes unity and solidarity as well as the development and improvement of the quality of democracy in a nation. Further upon this, the interest of the nation and her people is preserved during all interactions between governments that the people are considered with every decision made by the nation’s leadership. The law does not serve to limit the people but to unite and enable them, and it is up to the people to ensure the ideal is upheld.

Constructivism Theory: Learning from Experiences and Frameworks

This theory suggests that people learn from their experiences as these form frameworks of response to particular situations. These frameworks grow with the introduction of new experiences. The theory describes human nature as malleable and can be altered to fit a situation. Unlike Ubuntu that encourages community and ascribes the strength of a group to its solidarity, constructivism argues that responsive frameworks emanate from individual experiences and the strength of these responsive frameworks is determined by new experiences that cause ossification of such frameworks to rigid social norms.

Individual Experiences and National Growth

In his farewell speech, the former president of the United States ascribes the immense growth of the nation from its infancy to the capacity of her people to change. This capacity for change is a constructivist notion that has allowed the nation to adapt to various situations. He goes on to allude that this capacity to endure circumstances by adapting to them should assure them of a bright future for the country.

In the speech, Barack also highlights some of the experiences of the founding fathers of the United States of America. He recognizes that these struggles and experiences have shaped the face of the United States and carved a platform for the nation above the rest. These frameworks as established by the founding fathers have undergone immense growth and improvement over two centuries and are credited with the achievements and the current position of the nation globally. He encourages the people to continue upholding these standards to secure the nation for future generations.

Interactions, Social Norms, and Change

Barack describes various changes to social and political norms and how they have affected the state of democracy especially during the beginning of this century. This is in concurrence with the notion as described by the constructivism theory that paradigm changes occur when new experiences cannot be explained by the existing frameworks. However, deterministic patterns as devised by the founding fathers of the United States continue to aid subsequent governments with insight on good and bad frameworks as they become evident. The former president describes this as the reason as to why the fight against morally wrong ideals such as slavery and terrorism has been successful and will continue in similar fashion.

The Constructivist theory suggests that interactions between individuals influence the development of individual interpretive frameworks towards a common ground that is defined as social norms. These social norms are then passed on to subsequent generations as lifestyles and guidelines. The former president of the United States describes the nation as a convergence point not only for various people but also many different ideals and socio-cultural norms. This led to the development of a singular rigid framework of values and virtues that the people ascribe to. The president describes this as the strength America acquired from the immigrants upon accepting her creed.

Accepting New Information and Good Governance

President Obama encourages leaders of the country and citizens in general to accept new information and be willing to compromise in their ways to favor good governance. This statement concurs with the notion that growth in a constructivist context is due to introduction to new information. It also concurs with the principles of Ubuntu that call for compromise for the greater good of uniting the people. The former president also encourages people to accept and tolerate the principles of free thought as the rights and freedoms of a single individual are as important as those of the collective whole.

According to the Constructivist theory, there are both good and bad frameworks regardless of the content. The nature of such frameworks is evident in the decision making process and the outcome of such decisions. To this, the former president implores the American people to keep vigil and scrutinize leaders to ensure good governance and retain the standards of democracy.

Obama then goes ahead to ascribe the strength of the American nation and her people to their assertiveness and rigidity to upholding the statutes and laws as laid out in their constitution. He further adds that erosion of the rule of law increases the likelihood of war and conflict. Constructivism suggests that upon interaction, different frameworks converge to become social norms and some are recorded in government as law. These ideals and frameworks thus work to unite the people and enable effective conflict resolution.


Effective governance is highly dependent on the unity and solidarity of the community. The two theories describing social structure have several similarities and differences. Both theories ascribe the success of any social structure to the unity of the members of that unit and attempt to help reconcile the differences in individualism. The theories also help develop patterns on how to resolve conflicts arising among members of a community which in turn allows the people to focus on individual and socio-economic development.


Obama, Barack H. “Farewell speech.”McCormick Place convention center, Chicago, Illinois. 10 January 2017. Speech.

Schieber, Rita, and Laura Tomm-Bonde. “Ubuntu and constructivist grounded theory: an African methodology package.”Journal of Research in Nursing, 20(8), 655-664.

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