“Vision of Itself” in Foreign Policy Analysis: From the Role of Ideas to Identity and Recognition

Stefano Guzzini


For Henry Kissinger, a stable international order is not only based on a balance of power, but also on a balance of identities, of “visions of itself ”. How do our observational theories of international relations come to understand this practical maxim? This article shows that rationalist theories, methodological underpinnings fall short of satisfactorily addressing the issue, while constructivism’s and post-structuralism’s social ontology and relational understanding of identity provide a better starting point. And yet, when we return from the level of explanatory theory back to foreign policy practice, constructivist theorizing, precisely for its focus on identity, risks of being abused for the purpose of nationalist apologies of the very kind that makes a balance of identities impossible.

Słowa kluczowe: foreign policy analysis, constructivism, rationalism, ontological security theory, identity, methodology

Adler-Nissen, R. (2014). “Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society”. International Organization, 68(1), pp. 143–176.

Akchurina, V., Della Sala, V. (2018). “Russia, Europe and the Ontological Security Dilemma: Narrating the Emerging Eurasian Space”. Europe-Asia Studies, 70(10), pp. 1638–1655.

Allison, G.T. (1971). Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Boston: Little Brown.

Aron, R. (1962). Paix et guerre entre les nations. Paris: Calmann-Levy.

Astrov, A., Morozova, N. (2012). “Russia: Geopolitics from the Heartland”. In: S. Guzzini (ed.). The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 192–216.

Berenskoetter, F. (2007). “Friends, There Are No Friends? An Intimate Reframing of the International”. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 35(3), pp. 647–676.

Berenskoetter, F. (2014a). “Friendship, Security and Power”. In: S. Koschut, A. Oelsner (eds.). Friendship and International Relations. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 51–71.

Berenskoetter, F. (2014b). “Parameters of a National Biography”. European Journal of International Relations, 20(1), pp. 262–288.

Berenskotter, F. (2020). “Anxiety, Time, and Agency”. International Theory, 12(2), pp. 273–290.

Bilgin, P. (2012). “Turkey’s ‘Geopolitics Dogma’”. In: S. Guzzini (ed.). The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 151–173.

Browning, C.S., Joenniemi, P. (2017). “Ontological Security, Self-articulation and the Securitization of Identity”. Cooperation and Conflict, 52(1), pp. 31–47.

Bucher, B., Jasper, U. (2016). “Revisiting ‘Identity’in International Relations: From Identity as Substance to Identifications in Action”. European Journal of International Relations, 23(2), pp. 391–415.

Campbell, D. (1990). “Global Inscription: How Foreign Policy Constitutes the United States”. Alternatives, XV(3), pp. 263–286.

Campbell, D. (1992). Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Diez, T. (2004). “Europe’s Others and the Return of Geopolitics”. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 17(2), pp. 319–335.

Doty, R.L. (1993). “Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines”. International Studies Quarterly, 37(3), pp. 297–320.

Dowding, K. (1991). Rational Choice and Political Power. Hants: Edward Elgar.

Ejdus, F. (ed.) (2017). Memories of Empire and Entry into International Society: Views from the European Periphery. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ejdus, F. (2018). “Critical Situations, Fundamental Questions and Ontological Insecurity in World Politics”. Journal of International Relations and Development, 21(4), pp. 883–908.

Ejdus, F. (2020). Crisis and Ontological Insecurity: Serbia’s Anxiety over Kosovo’s Secession. London: Palgrave.

Focardi, F. (2013). Il cattivo tedesco e il bravo italiano. La rimozione delle colpe della seconda guerra mondiale. Roma–Bari: Editori Laterza.

Freire, M.R. (2020). “EU and Russia Competing Projects in the Neighbourhood: An Ontological Security Approach”. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 63(1), pp. e013.

Gaufman, E. (2017). Security Threats and Public Perception: Digital Russia and the Ukraine Crisis. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Goldberg, J. (2016). “World Chaos and World Order: Conversations With Henry Kissinger”. The Atlantic, November 10.

Goldstein, J., Keohane, R.O. (1993). “Ideas and Foreign Policy: An Analytical Framework”. In: J. Goldstein, R.O. Keohane (eds.). Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, pp. 3–30.

Gustafsson, K., Krickel-Choi, N.C. (2020). “Returning to the Roots of Ontological Security: Insights from the Existentialist Anxiety Literature”. European Journal of International Relations, 26(3), pp. 875–895.

Guzzini, S. (1998). Realism in International Relations and International Political Economy: The Continuing Story of a Death Foretold. London–New York: Routledge.

Guzzini, S. (2012a). “Social Mechanisms as Micro-Dynamics in Constructivist Analysis”. In: S. Guzzini (ed.). The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 251–277.

Guzzini, S. (ed.) (2012b). The Return of Geopolitics in Europe? Social Mechanisms and Foreign Policy Identity Crises. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Guzzini, S. (2017). “Militarizing Politics, Essentializing Identities: Interpretivist Process Tracing and the Power of Geopolitics”. Cooperation and Conflict, 52(3), pp. 423–445.

Hagstrom, L. (2021). “Great Power Narcissism and Ontological (In)Security: The Narrative Mediation of Greatness and Weakness in International Politics”. International Studies Quarterly, 65(2), pp. 331–342.

Hansen, F.S. (2016). “Russia’s Relations with the West: Ontological Security through Conflict”. Contemporary Politics, 22(3), pp. 359–375.

Hansen, L. (2006). Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War. London–New York: Routledge.

Heath-Kelly, C. (2016). Death and Security: Memory and Mortality at the Bombsite. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hoffmann, S. (1978). Primacy or World Order: American Foreign Policy since the Cold War. New York: McGraw Hill.

Hopf, T. (2002). Social Construction of International Politics: Identities and Foreign Policies, Moscow, 1955 and 1999. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Hopf, T. (2012). Reconstructing the Cold War: The Early Years, 1945–1958. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ish-Shalom, P. (2006). “Theory as a Hermeneutical Mechanism: The Democratic Peace and the Politics of Democratization”. European Journal of International Relations, 12(4), pp. 565–598.

Ish-Shalom, P. (2013). Democratic Peace: A Political Biography. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Jackson, P.T. (2004). “Hegel’s House, or ‘People are states too’”. Review of International Studies, 30(2), pp. 281–287.

Jepperson, R.L., Wendt, A., Katzenstein, P.J. (1996). “Norms, Identity and Culture in National Security”. In: P.J. Katzenstein (ed.). The Culture of National Security. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 33–75.

Kazharski, A. (2019). “Civilizations as Ontological Security? Stories of the Russian Trauma”. Problems of Post-Communism, 67(1), pp. 24–36.

Kinnvall, C. (2004). “Globalization and Religious Nationalism: Self, Identity, and the Search for Ontological Security”. Political Psychology, 25(5), pp. 741–767.

Kinnvall, C. (2017). “Feeling Ontologically (In)secure: States, Traumas and the Governing of Gendered Space”. Cooperation and Conflict, 52(1), pp. 90–108.

Kinnvall, C., Mitzen, J. (2020). “Anxiety, Fear, and Ontological Security in World Politics: Thinking with and beyond Giddens”. International Theory, 12(2), pp. 240–256.

Kissinger, H.A. (1957). A World Restored. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Klotz, A. (1995). Norms in International Relations: The Struggle against Apartheid. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Kopper, A. (2012). “The Oppressive Totality of the Past”. Alternatives, 37(2), pp. 121–132.

Krasner, S.D. (1982a). “Regimes and the Limits of Realism: Regimes as Autonomous Variables”. International Organization, 36(2), pp. 497–510.

Krasner, S.D. (1982b). “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables”. International Organization, 36(2), pp. 185–205.

Krasnodębska, M. (2021). Politics of Stigmatization: Poland as a ‘Latecomer’ in the European Union. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kratochwil, F. (1978). International Order and Foreign Policy: A Theoretical Sketch of Post-War International Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Kratochwil, F., Ruggie, J.G. (1986). “International Organization: A State of the Art on an Art of the State”. International Organization, 40(4), pp. 753–775.

Lafer, C. (2000). “Brazilian International Identity and Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future”. Dadalus, 129(2), pp. 207–238.

Lafer, C. (2004). A Identitade internacional do Brasil e a política externa brasileira: passado, presente e futuro. 2nd ed. Sao Paulo: Perspectiva.

Laffey, M., Weldes, J. (1997). “Beyond Belief: From Ideas to Symbolic Technologies in the Study of International Relations”. European Journal of International Relations, 3(2), pp. 193–237.

Lerner, A.B. (2019). “The Uses and Abuses of Victimhood Nationalism in International Politics”. European Journal of International Relations, 26(1), pp. 62–87.

Lerner, A.B. (2021). “What’s It Like to Be a State? An Argument for State Consciousness”. International Theory, 13(2), pp. 260–286.

Lupovici, A. (2012). “Ontological Dissonance, Clashing Identities, and Israel’s Unilateral Steps Towards the Palestinians”. Review of International Studies, 38(4), pp. 809–833.

Lupovici, A. (2016). The Power of Deterrence: Emotions, Identity and American and Israeli Wars of Resolve. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Malksoo, M. (2009). “The Memory Politics of Becoming European: The East European Subalterns and the Collective Memory of Europe”. European Journal of International Relations, 15(4), pp. 653–680.

Malksoo, M. (2015). “‘Memory Must Be Defended’: Beyond the Politics of Mnemonical Security”. Security Dialogue, 46(3), pp. 221–237.

Mitzen, J. (2006). “Ontological Security in World Politics: State Identity and the Security Dilemma”. European Journal of International Relations, 12(3), pp. 341–370.

Moravcsik, A. (1997). “Taking P Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics”. International Organization, 51(4), pp. 513–555.

Morozov, V. (2015). Russia’s Postcolonial Identity: A Subaltern Empire in a Eurocentric World. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Narozhna, T. (2020). “State–Society Complexes in Ontological Security-Seeking in IR”. Journal of International Relations and Development, 23(3), pp. 559–583.

Narozhna, T. (2022). “Misrecognition, Ontological Security and State Foreign Policy: The Case of Post-Soviet Russia”. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 76(1), pp. 76–97.

Neumann, I.B. (1996). “Self and Other in International Relations”. European Journal of International Relations, 2(2), pp. 139–174.

Neumann, I.B. (1999). Uses of the Other: The ‘East’ in European Identity Formation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Neumann, I.B. (2004). “Beware of Organicism: The Narrative Self of the State”. Review of International Studies, 30(2), pp. 259–267.

O Tuathail, G., Dalby, S. (eds.) (1998). Rethinking Geopolitics. London–New York: Routledge.

Pizzorno, A. (1986). “Some Other Kinds of Otherness: A Critique of ‘Rational Choice’ Theories”. In: A. Foxley, M.S. McPherson, G. O’Donnell (eds). Development, Democracy and the Art of Trespassing: Essays in Honor of Albert O. Hirschman. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, pp. 355–373.

Pizzorno, A. (2007). Il velo della diversita. Studi su razionalita e riconoscimento. Milano: Feltrinelli.

Pratt, S.F. (2017). “A Relational View of Ontological Security in International Relations”. International Studies Quarterly, 61(1), pp. 78–85.

Prozorov, S. (2010). “The Other as Past and Present: Beyond the Logic of ‘Temporal Othering’in IR Theory”. Review of International Studies, 37(3), pp. 1273–1293.

Ringmar, E. (1996). Identity, Interest and Action: A Cultural Explanation of Sweden’s Intervention in the Thirty Years War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roshchin, E. (2006). “The Concept of Friendship: From Princes to States”. European Journal of International Relations, 12(4), pp. 599–624.

Ruggie, J.G. (1998). “What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-Utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge”. International Organization, 42(4), pp. 855–886.

Rumelili, B. (2004). “Constructing Identity and Relating to Difference: Understanding EU’s Mode of Differentiation”. Review of International Studies, 30(1), pp. 27–47.

Rumelili, B. (2015a). “Identity and Desecuritisation: The Pitfalls of Conflating Ontological and Physical Security”. Journal of International Relations and Development, 18(1), pp. 52–74.

Rumelili, B. (2015b). “Ontological (In)security and Peace Anxieties: A Framework for Conflict Resolution”. In: B. Rumelili (ed.). Conflict Resolution and Ontological Security: Peace Anxieties. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 10–29.

Rumelili, B. (2020). “Integrating Anxiety into International Relations Theory: Hobbes, Existentialism, and Ontological Security”. International Theory, 12(2), pp. 257–272.

Somers, M.R. (1994). “The Narrative Constitution of Identity: A Relational and Network Approach”. Theory and Society, 23(5), pp. 605–649.

Steinbruner, J.D., Jr. (1974). The Cybernetic Theory of Decision: New Dimensions of Political Analysis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Subotić, J. (2016). “Narrative, Ontological Security, and Foreign Policy Change”. Foreign Policy Analysis, 12(4), pp. 610–627.

Subotić, J. (2020a). “Foreign Policy and Physical Sites of Memory: Competing Foreign Policies at the Jasenovac Memorial Site”. International Politics, 57(6), pp. 1012–1029.

Subotić, J. (2020b). Yellow Star, Red Star: Holocaust Remembrance after Communism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Subotić, J., Zarakol, A. (2013). “Cultural Intimacy in International Relations”. European Journal of International Relations, 19(4), pp. 915–938.

Vennesson, P. (2008). “Case Studies and Process Tracing: Theories and Practices”. In: D. della Porta, M. Keating (eds.). Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences: A Pluralist Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 223–239.

Vieira, M.A. (2017). “(Re-)imagining the ‘Self ’of Ontological Security: The Case of Brazil’s Ambivalent Postcolonial Subjectivity”. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 46(2), pp. 142–164.

Waver, O. (1993). “Societal Security: The Concept”. In: O. Waever, B. Buzan, M. Kelstrup, P. Lemaitre (eds.). Identity, Migration and the New Security Agenda in Europe. London: Pinter, pp. 17–40.

Waver, O. (1995). “Power, Principles and Perspectivism: Understanding Peaceful Change

in Post-Cold War Europe”. In: H. Patomaki (ed.). Peaceful Changes in World Politics. Tampere: Tampere Peace Research Institute, pp. 208–282.

Waver, O. (1996). “The Rise and Fall of the Inter-Paradigm Debate”. In: S. Smith, K. Booth, M. Zalewski (eds.). International Theory: Positivism and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 149–184.

Waver, O. (1998). “Insecurity, Security and Asecurity in the Western European Non-War Community”. In: E. Adler, M. Barnett (eds.). Security Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 69–118.

Weldes, J. (1996). “The Cultural Production of Crises: U.S. Identity and Missiles in Cuba”. In: J. Weldes, H. Gusterson, R. Duvall (eds.). Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 35–62.

Weldes, J. (1999). Constructing National Interests: The United States and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wendt, A. (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wendt, A. (2004). “The State as Person in International Theory”. Review of International Studies, 30(2), pp. 289–316.

Wight, C. (2004). “State Agency: Social Action without Human Activity?”. Review of International Studies, 30(2), pp. 269–280.

Wolfers, A. (1962). Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics. Baltimore–London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Zarakol, A. (2010). “Ontological (In)security and State Denial of Historical Crimes: Turkey and Japan”. International Relations, 24(1), pp. 3–23.

Zarakol, A. (2011). After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zarakol, A. (2017). “States and Ontological Security: A Historical Rethinking”. Cooperation and Conflict, 52(1), pp. 48–68.

Zehfuss, M. (2001). “Constructivism and Identity: A Dangerous Liaison”. European Journal of International Relations, 7(3), pp. 315–348.