Le’ Notes #41: Foreign policy as a socialization act

This post covers some basic ideas of foreign policy as a socialization act under the framework of the socialization game.

In Note #40, the construction of a role is dependent on the level of contestation within its domestic setting. However, another body of literature on role theory suggests this may not be the case. State roles are defined by their interactions with the “alter” or environment. This interaction is a cognitive process, an active act of “learning” and then situating oneself within a specific social structure. This process is known as role location, or the act of locating a specific role.

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Le’ Notes #40: Role contestation in foreign policy

This post covers the idea of role contestation in foreign policy analysis.

In Note #39, I covered the basis of role theory as described by Holsti in his seminal work on national role conception. Since 1970, role theory has been refined many times over by IR scholars. However, the subject of this post is not a comprehensive review of the development of role theory. Instead, I’ll be explaining an influential dynamic in role theory: role contestation.

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Le Notes #39: Role theory in International Relations – Holsti’s national role conception

This post summarizes K. J. Holsti’s attempt to systematically construct role theory in International Relations.

In Note #38, I’ve discussed ontological security theory, which extends the argument that states do not only seek physical security, but also security of the “self”. However, an interesting question pops up: How do states create the “self”? In the previous post, I’ve presented two viewpoints. Mitzen puts an emphasis on how other states view the state in question, which means a state’s relations often defines its role. It’s like that popular piece of self-help wisdom, “You are who you hang out with.” On the other hand, Steele argues for a more self-driven approach: the self is defined by the state by reflecting on what it is. To draw an analogy to daily life, this is like what we hear among more liberal circles, “You are you and nobody can change that except you.”

Role theory, which has been developed in social psychology and anthropology, serves as a useful tool to understand how the “self” comes into being. To do this, I go back to the seminal text of the application of role theory in International Relations, K. J. Holsti’s National Role Conception in Foreign Policy [paywall].

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