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Collective Identity Formation and the International State

Alexander Wendt American Political Science Review (1994)

The Reseach Question

Alexander Wendt (1958-)
Father of IR Constructivism Anarchy Is What States Make of It (1992) Social Theory of International Politics (1999)

Why would states cooperate at all?

Prevalent Answers
Mancur Olsen (1932-1998)
Rational Economist The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Goods (1965)
International cooperation is the problem of getting exogenously-driven egotists to cooperate. However, groups with more resources will have to do the bulk of the work (thus less incentive), while weakers groups are likely to freeride.

So rationalists, realists and liberals alike, focused on changing prices or constraints outside of the system of interaction...

Wendts Hypothesis
It may be that neorealists and neoliberals may be right (most of the time).

But it could also happen because states are ENDOGENOUSLY driven by participation in international relations rather than exogenous reasons.
independent variable States participation at International level dependent variable Forms of identity and interest (continually expanding) observable outcome Collective Action

States domestic preferences World Structure / Distribution of Power

Absolute power gains

Collective Action
Balancing against hegemony

Why is identity so important?

Interests are determined by identity -- and there are two levels of identity at play!

Corporate Identity

Social Identity

How I see myself

Intrinsic self-organising qualities that constitute actor individuality. it generates four basic interests: physical security, ontological security, recognition by others, internal development

How I think others perceive me

Sets of meanings an actor attributes to itself while taking the perspective of others endogenous to the system. Social identities can be cooperative or conflictual. What matters is how deeply the social structures they instantiate penetrate conceptions of self.

Yes, thats symbolic interactionism! Took IR long enough to get it.

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)


Intersubjective systemic structure: shared understandings, expectations and social knowledge embedded in international institutions and threat complexes

Structural Context

Necessary condition: intersubjective conditions give enough slack for collective identities to develop EVIDENCE: USSR deployed SS-18s (1967). Material capabilities prevented emergence of positive identification

20Mt of TNT

Dynamic Density Common Other Demonstration effects, diffusion, lesson learning Spread of democratic institutions, welfarism, human rights

More Sensitive & vulnerable Less unilaterally able to cope with corporate needs

Transnational Convergence of values

lower egoistic tendencies, greater social identification with other

I guess our entire book is evidence enough.

Systemic Processes

Repeated acts of cooperation leads to: (1) actors form identities based on learning from interaction (2) the way actors project and sustain presentations of self
Strategic Practice

consciousness-raising, dialogue, persuasion, political argument, symbolic action

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY change ideas of who constitutes the self

EVIDENCE: John Ruggies Embedded Liberalism of the Postwar free-trade regime.

Alternative Answers Considered

Essential nature of states: mere perception of group generates ingroup favouritism Societies induce pressure to place their interests first Primordial nationalism can preclude international identities Waltzian anarchy:structuralism begets rational individualism Sovereignty works to protect corporate identity Doesnt entail permanent group egotism. (See Gaertner et al 1993)

Some societies depend more on international society Compare pre-WWII Germany and modern Germany now An anarchy of friends is different from an anarchy of enemies Sovereignty can also work to transnational favour

Questions for Discussion

States participate at International level Forms of identity and interest (continually expanding) Collective Action

Are the causal links persuasive? How would you measure a change in social identity (expanded)? Over-determinative of neorealist/neoliberal factors? Too narrow to happen?