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One of the common criticisms of Kenneth Waltz's Theory of International Politics is that its structural model is rather spare. This paper enriches neorealism by specifying the conditioning effects of competition and socialization operating on behalf of the international structure. Despite its neglected status in neorealist theory, I argue that socialization produces important effects on interstate interaction. I develop a model of the socialization process that uses role theory to demonstrate how interstate interaction is structured at the micro-level. Consistent with neorealism, the model assumes that socialization is heavily conditioned by material capabilities, and operates mainly on the adjustment of state behavior. I analyze several episodes of U.S. history to demonstrate that neorealism can explain how unit-level behavior is structured through socialization. The resulting elaboration of neorealism offers a more fully specified structural theory of international politics.
State Socialization and Structural Realism
August 2010
Forthcoming, Security Studies
Please do not cite without permission
Cameron G. Thies
Associate Professor
University of Iowa
Department of Political Science
341 Schaeffer Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
Telephone: 319-335-1923
Paper prepared for the 7th Pan-European Conference on IR in Stockholm, Sweden, September 9-
11, 2010.
State Socialization and Structural Realism
One of the common criticisms of Waltz’s Theory of International Politics is that its structural
model is rather spare. This paper enriches neorealism by specifying the conditioning effects of
competition and socialization operating on behalf of the international structure. Despite its
neglected status in neorealist theory, I argue that socialization produces important effects on
interstate interaction. I develop a model of the socialization process that uses role theory to
demonstrate how interstate interaction is structured at the micro-level. Consistent with
neorealism, the model assumes that socialization is heavily conditioned by material capabilities,
and operates mainly on the adjustment of state behavior. I analyze several episodes of U.S.
history to demonstrate that neorealism can explain how unit-level behavior is structured through
socialization. The resulting elaboration of neorealism offers a more fully specified structural
theory of international politics.
This paper reintroduces the structural principle of socialization into neorealism’s
theoretical framework. While most neorealists have preferred to ignore Waltz’s discussion of
socialization on the grounds that it was either a result of poor word choice or redundancy to
competition, I suggest that incorporating this mechanism into the theory allows neorealism to
strengthen its explanatory power relative to its theoretical competitors. In so doing, neorealism
meets the challenge posed by constructivism to explain the interplay of ideas and material
factors, which constructivists resolve in favor of the constitutive and causal power of ideas. On a
theoretical level, I argue that socialization transmits material constraints imposed by anarchy and
the distribution of capabilities to the level of unit interaction through a focus on the roles adopted
by states. Material factors constrain ideational factors as the types of roles selected by states are
conditioned by their capabilities. I use role theory to accomplish this task as its articulated views
on the socialization process are more thoroughly developed than those prevalent in the current
literature on state socialization. The empirical analysis demonstrates that the choice of roles and
socialization activity regarding roles is heavily conditioned by material capabilities.
The paper begins with a brief reexamination of the conventional wisdom about how
Waltz’s theory suggests structure conditions agent behavior by delineating the roles played by
competition and socialization. It then situates a neorealist approach to socialization within the
larger literature on state socialization. It continues by drawing upon roles as the ideational
content, and the associated body of role theory as the model, for a neorealist exploration of
socialization. The paper concludes with an illustration of the operation of socialization from a
neorealist perspective in several brief case studies of early U.S. history. The result is a
theoretically informed, and empirically illustrated, neorealist approach to state socialization.
Neorealism and the Concept of State Socialization
Neorealist scholars, much like their counterparts working within other theories of
international politics, must sort out the relationship between material and ideational factors in
their explanations of international events. Neorealists, and others working within the realist
tradition, have tended to favor explanations based on material capabilities over those based on
the power of ideas. Recent amendments to the realist paradigm that move in the direction of
incorporating ideas in one form or another have come under considerable scrutiny.1 In an
unusual, but understandable alliance, critics who suggest that neorealism should not incorporate
ideas in any form have been supported by constructivists who argue that it cannot logically
incorporate ideas as a purely materialist theory of international politics.2
Of these, Wendt’s elaboration of a structural idealist theory of international politics poses
the most significant challenge for Waltzian neorealism.
1 Jeffrey W. Legro and Andrew Moravcsik, “Is Anybody Still a Realist?” International Security 24
(1999): 5-55. John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research
Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American
Political Science Review 91 (1997): 899-912.
Wendt’s structural idealism, or what he
terms “a constructivist approach to the international system,” attempts to turn neorealism on its
head by incorporating the structural features of anarchy and systemic distributions of unit-level
2 Timothy Dunne, “The Social Construction of International Society,” European Journal of International
Relations 1 (1995): 367-389. Ronald L. Jepperson, Alexander Wendt, and Peter J. Katzenstein, “Norms,
Identity, and Culture in National Security,” in Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security:
Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). Alexander Wendt,
“The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41 (1987):
335-370. Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999).
3 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics. Wendt’s own work is highly indebted to work within
the English School tradition, including most directly Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of
Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977). Barry Buzan’s body of work also
continues the development of an approach to understanding international society while maintaining an
appreciation for the role of power and interest that is rooted in the realist tradition. Buzan offers an
approach that integrates neorealism and the English School that is compatible with many of the arguments
in this paper. Barry Buzan, “From International System to International Society: Structural Realism and
Regime Theory Meet the English School,” International Organization 47, no. 3 (1993): 327-352.
characteristics, while rendering the causal power that neorealists ascribe to materialism
subservient to the constitutive power of ideas.4
The main obstacle preventing neorealism from achieving this goal, as Ruggie and Buzan
et al. have explained, is that Waltz’s structuralism is rather thin.
The challenge posed by this form of
constructivism is to produce a fully specified structural theory of international politics capable of
demonstrating that material factors are the primary determinants of interstate relations that
severely limit or constrain any independent causal or constitutive effect of ideas.
5 Waltz views structure as a set
of constraining conditions imposed upon the units of the system.6
4 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, 33.
The structure acts as a selector
by rewarding some behaviors and punishing others. In this manner structure limits the kind and
quality of outcomes produced by agents in the system despite the varying goals and efforts of
those agents; however, structure does not directly produce effects in the system. Rather,
structure affects behavior indirectly through two means: competition and socialization. Both
competition and socialization are thought to produce “like units,” and the “sameness effect,” in
which the internal organization and external behavior of states are molded and shaped into an
acceptable range of activities. Waltz gives anecdotal evidence for the competition and
socialization propositions, yet few have attempted to examine or test hypotheses surrounding the
5 J. G. Ruggie, “Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Toward a Neorealist Synthesis,” In
Neorealism and Its Critics, edited by R. O. Keohane, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986: 131-
157). Barry Buzan, Charles Jones, and Richard Little, The Logic of Anarchy (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1993). See Buzan et al. for an attempt to expand neorealism to include process through
the incorporation of an interaction level of analysis and process formations located in the unit-level of
analysis. The interaction level of analysis describes the capacity of the system for interaction based on
technological and societal capabilities, while actual interstate interaction occurs within the unit level of
analysis under the rubric of process-formations.
6 Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1979: 73-74).
concepts.7 This lack of attention may be the result of a rather vague discussion of these concepts
in Waltz’s writing.8
Unfortunately, previous discussions of socialization provide little guidance for
incorporating this concept into neorealism either. Most accounts rely on some form of hierarchy
to establish the environment and principle agents of socialization. For example, Ikenberry and
Kupchan, Wang, and Atkinson discuss socialization within the confines of a hegemonic system.
Other studies focus on highly institutionalized environments, such as the EU or membership in
international organizations like NATO.10
7 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 127-128.
Such environments provide a thicker milieu of rules
and norms into which newcomers must be socialized than the normal world of international
relations characterized by anarchy and self-help. These environments also often provide an
easily identifiable socializer, such as a hegemon or international institution. Yet, even in such a
8 Timothy McKeown, “The Limits of ‘Structural’ Theories of Commercial Policy. International
Organization” 40 (1986): 43-64. Helen Milner, “The Assumption of Anarchy in International Relations
Theory: A Critique,” Review of International Studies 17 (1991):67-85. Cameron G. Thies, “A Social
Psychological Approach to Enduring Rivalries,” Political Psychology 22, no. 4 (2001): 693-725. Tanisha
M. Fazal, State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2007).
9G. John Ikenberry and Charles A. Kupchan, “Socialization and Hegemonic Power,” International
Organization 44 (1990): 283-315. Qingxin Ken Wang, “Hegemony and Socialisation of the Mass Public:
The Case of Postwar Japan’s Cooperation with the United States on China Policy,” Review of
International Studies 29 (2003): 99-119. Carol Atkinson, “Constructivist Implications of Material Power:
Military Engagement and the Socialization of States, 1972-2000,” International Studies Quarterly 50, no.
3 (2006): 509-537.
10 Frank Schimmelfennig, “International Socialization in the New Europe: Rational Action in an
Institutional Environment,” European Journal of International Relations 6 (2000): 109-39. Frank
Schimmelfennig, “Strategic Calculation and International Socialization: Membership Incentives, Party
Constellations, and Sustained Compliance in Central and Eastern Europe,” International Organization 59,
no. 4 (2005): 827-860. Trine Flockhart, “‘Masters and Novices’: Socialization and Social Learning
through the NATO Parliamentary Assembly,” International Relations 18, no. 3 (2004): 361-380.
Alexandra Gheciu, “Security Institutions as Agents of Socialization? NATO and the ‘New Europe,’”
International Organization 59, no. 4 (2005): 973-1012. Jeffrey T. Checkel, “International Institutions and
Socialization in Europe: Introduction and Framework,” International Organization 59, no. 4 (2005): 801-
826. Judith Kelley, “International Actors on the Domestic Scene: Membership and Socialization by
International Institutions,” International Organization 58 (2004): 425-457. David H. Bearce and Stacy
Bondanella, “Intergovernmental Organizations, Socialization, and Member-State Interest Convergence,”
International Organization 61 (2007): 703-733.
highly institutionalized environment as the EU, the evidence in favor of state socialization is
Resende-Santos’ previous attempt to incorporate socialization into a neorealist
explanation of the emulation of military systems obscures the concept of socialization even
Therefore, the analytical choices made by these scholars are not particularly helpful to
incorporating socialization into neorealism’s anarchic view of the international system.
12 Resende-Santos argues that “emulation is more directly a product of socialization,”
than it is of competition, even though he discusses both emulation and innovation as features of
competition.13 For example, Resende-Santos suggests that “the pressures of competition force
states to gravitate toward those institutions or technologies that proved most effective,” which
posits a clear link between competition and emulation.14 As with most neorealist accounts, the
impact of socialization and competition are conflated by Resende-Santos. I suggest that the
emulation of military systems would more properly be conditioned by competition, which
Resende-Santos’ later work on the subject seems to acknowledge.15 This also fits with Waltz’s
primary example of the conditioning effects of competition in Theory of International Politics.16
11 Alistair Iain Johnston, “Conclusions and Extensions: Toward Mid-Range Theorizing and Beyond
Europe,” International Organization 59, no.4 (2005): 1013-1044. Michael Zurn and Jeffrey T. Checkel,
“Getting Socialized to Build Bridges: Constructivism and Rationalism, Europe and the Nation-State,”
International Organization 59, no. 4 (2005): 1045-1079.
On the other hand, Waltz’s example of socialization refers to the Bolsheviks conforming to
common international practices and behavior despite a revolutionary ideology that suggested
12 Joao Resende-Santos, “Anarchy and the Emulation of Military Systems: Military Organization and
Technology in South America, 1870-1930,” Security Studies 5 (1996): 193-260.
13 Resende-Santos “Anarchy and the Emulation of Military Systems,” 208.
14 Resende-Santos “Anarchy and the Emulation of Military Systems,” 209.
15 Joao Resende-Santos, Neorealism, States, and the Modern Mass Army (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2007). Rather than attempt to grapple with the challenges or opportunities posed by the
incorporation of socialization into neorealism, Resende-Santos (pp. 83-85) relegates Waltz’s extensive
discussion of the concept to “poor word choice” and “confusing language.” Curiously, the same evidence
that supported socialization as the process that was responsible for military emulation in South America
in his 1996 article is found to support emulation as a result of competition in his 2007 book.
16 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 127.
flouting the conventions of diplomacy.17 Waltz’s sociological use of socialization clearly
troubles Resende-Santos, but I demonstrate how we can draw on sociological concepts
associated with role theory to demonstrate how socialization can be more fully incorporated into
neorealism without undermining its theoretical core.18
A Role Theoretic Approach to State Socialization
Dessler reminds us of Waltz’s example of socialization when he asks the question “what
are the units socialized to, if not (at a minimum) understandings of conventions?”19 Dessler
further argues that “if Waltz’s theory did not presume the existence of a set of rules constitutive
of ‘the system’ to which nations are socialized, it could not explain how state behavior is
constrained by structure.”20 While rules figure prominently in Dessler’s approach, they are not
the only conceivable contents of socialization activities. Norms, principles, and beliefs are also
good candidates for the contents of socialization though this paper focuses on roles and an
associated body of role theory developed in sociology and social psychology.21 Socialization
should be viewed most clearly in the context of role relationships between states in the system.
Within these role relationships socialization is defined as “the activity that confronts and lends
structure to the entry of nonmembers into an already existing world or a sector of that world.”22
17 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 127-128.
18 Resende-Santos “Anarchy and the Emulation of Military Systems,” 208. Resende-Santos, Neorealism,
States, and the Modern Mass Army, 83-85.
19 David Dessler, “What’s At Stake in the Agent-Structure Debate?” International Organization 43
(1989): 460.
20 Dessler, “What’s At Stake in the Agent-Structure Debate?”, 460.
21 Role theory refers to a wide array of concepts and propositions (rather than a single theory) developed
in the interdisciplinary field of social psychology around the central notion that individuals occupy roles
in a larger social structure.
22 W. M. Wentworth, Context and Understanding: An Inquiry into Socialization Theory (New York:
Elsevier, 1980: 85). Stryker and Statham similarly define socialization as “the process by which the
newcomerthe infant, rookie, or trainee, for examplebecomes incorporated into organized patterns of
interaction.” Sheldon Stryker and Anne Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role Theory,” in Gardner
Lindzey and Elliot Aronson, eds., Handbook of Social Psychology, 3d ed., (New York: Random House,
1985: 325). Berger and Luckmann define the concept as “the comprehensive and consistent induction of
Roles and the associated body of role theory are quite compatible with neorealism for several
Previous work on roles and role theory in foreign policy and international relations has
always been attuned to the realist tradition.23 While Holsti’s seminal study criticized traditional
international relations theorists for assuming that states perform only a single role in the
international system, he also identified national role conceptions such as “aggressor,”
“defender,” and “balancer” that have been used by realists in balance of power theory.24 Walker
explicitly uses Waltz’s Theory of International Politics to produce an exchange theory of politics
that spans both domestic and international politics.25 Walker even refers to work by scholars in
the Comparative Research on the Events of Nations (CREON) tradition as “realist role theory.”26
an individual into the objective world of a society or sector of it.” P. L. Berger and T. Luckmann, The
Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Anchor Books,
1966: 130). Armstrong defines it as the process “whereby an increasing entanglement within an existing
structure of relationships brings about an increasing degree of adaptation to the normal behaviour patterns
of that structure.” David Armstrong, Revolution and World Order: The Revolutionary State in
International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993: 7-8).
Further, the recent revisions of realism and neorealism, known as “neoclassical” or
“postclassicalrealism have also made use of roles in much the same way as their classical
23 Cameron G. Thies, “Sense and Sensibility in the Study of State Socialization: A Reply to Kai
Alderson,” Review of International Studies 29, no. 4 (2003): 543-550. Cameron G. Thies, “Role Theory
and Foreign Policy,” in Robert A. Denemark, ed., The International Studies Encyclopedia, Vol. X, (West
Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010: 6335-6356).
24 Holsti’s own list of roles observed between 1965 and 1967 includes: bastion of revolution-liberator,
regional leader, regional protector, active independent, liberation supporter, anti-imperialist agent,
defender of the faith, mediator-integrator, regional-subsystem collaborator, developer, bridge, faithful
ally, independent, example, internal development, isolate, and protectee. K. J. Holsti, “National Role
Conceptions in the Study of Foreign Policy,” International Studies Quarterly 14 (1970): 260-270.
25 Stephen G. Walker, Ed., Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis (Durham: Duke University Press,
1987: 66-79). Charles F. Hermann, “Superpower Involvement with Others: Alternative Role
Relationships.” In Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis, Stephen G. Walker, ed., (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1987: 219-240). Charles F. Hermann, M. East, M. Hermann, B. Salmore, and S.
Salmore, CREON: A Foreign Events Data Set (IBeverly Hills: Sage, 1973).
26 Walker, Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis, 256-259.
predecessors (e.g., Morgenthau).27 These include roles such as “rogue” states, “revisionist” or
“status quo” states, or even “wolves, foxes, ostriches, and jackals.”28 The neoclassical realist use
of roles is actually quite similar to Wendt’s constructivist use of the roles of “enemies,” “rivals,”
and “friends.”29 Even Waltz has used the language of roles to suggest that in the post-Cold War
era “the old and the new great powers will have to learn new roles and figure out how to enact
them on a shifting stage. New roles are hard to learn, and actors easily trip when playing on
unfamiliar sets.”30
The theatrical metaphor that guides role theory is illustrated quite nicely by the
aforementioned quotation from Waltz. This metaphor has been applied in different ways to
This language at least implies that roles are consistent with Waltz’s general
outlook on international politics.
27 Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics 51 (1998): 144-
72. Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York, NY:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1948).
28 Randall L. Schweller, Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler’s Strategy of World Conquest (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1998).
29 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics. Much of the work in foreign policy analysis that uses
role theory does not adopt a particular paradigmatic approach, such as Breuning, Chafetz et al., and
LePrestre. Marijke Breuning, “Words and Deeds: Foreign Assistance Rhetoric and Policy Behavior in the
Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom,” International Studies Quarterly 39, no. 2 (1995): 235-
254. Glenn Chafetz, Hillel Abramson, and Suzette Grillot, “Role Theory and Foreign Policy: Belarussian
and Ukrainian Compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime,” Political Psychology 17, no. 4,
(1996): 727-757. Philippe G. Le Prestre, ed., Role Quests in the Post-Cold War Era: Foreign Policies in
Transition (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). Kaarbo has noted that it
has become increasingly common for constructivists to use the language of roles to describe identities
without acknowledging their debt to foreign policy role theory, including Wendt, Social Theory of
International Politics (p. 227), who only briefly acknowledges Holsti’s work. Juliet Kaarbo, “Foreign
Policy Analysis in the Twenty-First Century: Back to Comparison, Forward to Identity and Ideas,”
International Studies Review 5 (2003): 156-163. Checkel’s discussion of role playing as a mechanism of
socialization similarly ignores previous foreign policy role theory contributions. Checkel, “International
Institutions and Socialization in Europe,” 810-812. Yet, a number of constructivists have begun to use
foreign policy role theory in a more self-conscious manner. See the following: Ben Tonra and Thomas
Christiansen, eds., Rethinking European Union Foreign Policy (Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 2004). Ole Elgstrom and Michael Smith, eds., The European Union’s Roles in International
Politics: Concepts and Analysis (London: Routledge, 2006). Amy L. Catalinac, “Identity Theory and
Foreign Policy: Explaining Japan’s Responses to the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. War in Iraq,”
Politics & Policy 35, no. 1 (2007): 58-100.
30 Kenneth Waltz, “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” in Relations in a Multipolar World.
U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 101st Congress, 2nd Session (1990: 222).
create different theoretical traditions within role theory.31 For the purposes of the study of the
international system, this paper defines roles both as positions within a group and as any socially
recognized category of actors.32 This definition blends structural and interactional versions of
roles, and seems appropriate given that roles enacted within the context of role relationships also
blend structure and agent interaction. The range of potential roles adopted by states, as indicated
above, is quite large as implied by another popular definition of roles as “repertoires of behavior,
inferred from others’ expectations and one’s own conceptions, selected at least partly in response
to cues and demands.”33
Role theory, like neorealism, presents a highly structured view of reality.
Theatrically, we might think of actors interpreting their words and
deeds from a script that defines their roles in relation to the roles played by other actors on the
stage. Roles might be self-selected, or actors might be cast into roles, but either way actors must
figure out the best way to enact their roles given others’ expectations. These expectations, as we
would expect in a neorealist account, are highly contingent upon the material capabilities of the
actors. States can largely select and enact any role that they have the material capabilities to
back up—when they do not have commensurate capabilities, they will be subject to socialization
efforts to remove them from a role. As we would also expect, great powers are the dominant
socializers in the international system, though regional powers will intervene in their subsystems,
and relevant peer states will also engage in socialization efforts to maintain order and security in
their environment.
31 B. J. Biddle, “Recent Developments in Role Theory,” American Review of Sociology 12 (1986): 68-76.
Role theory
posits that established roles and the role location process (see below) reduce the variety of
32 Biddle, “Recent Developments in Role Theory.” Stryker and Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role
Theory.” Peter L. Callero, “Toward a Meadian Conceptualization of Role,” The Sociological Quarterly
27 (1986): 343-358.
33 Walker, Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis, 23.
34 Stryker and Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role Theory,” 311.
possible behaviors and outcomes in society in a manner compatible with Waltz’s socialization
proposition.35 Role theory’s articulated views on the socialization process stand in stark contrast
to the underdeveloped models of socialization associated with norms.36
In particular, socialization can be conceived of as a role location process occurring
between actors in a role relationship.
35 Theodore R. Sarbin and Vernon L. Allen, “Role Theory,” in Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson, eds.,
The Handbook of Social Psychology, 2nd Ed. (Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1968: 501-503).
Any role that an actor attempts to adopt automatically
implies a counterrole to form a relationship. For example, the role of regional protector is
meaningless without another actor in the role of regional protectee. Both parties must determine
the appropriateness of the selection and enactment of a role/counterrole during role bargaining.
If the role selection is determined to be inappropriate, then we should expect socialization
activities to prevent the state from enacting the role. If the role is enacted inappropriately, then
we should see socialization activities to bring behavior in line with expectations. Socialization
activities could include the full spectrum of behavior from diplomacy to war; yet in a neorealist
world coercion is expected to underpin all socialization efforts. Deviance from expectations is
permissible in the short-run as actors engage in “aligning actions” to bring their behavior in line
with standards, but over the long-run such behavior would be punished in accordance with
36 See, for examples: Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and
Political Change,” International Organization 52 (1998):887-917. Thomas Risse-Kappen, Steve C. Ropp,
and Kathryn Sikkink, The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Wendt’s, Social Theory of International Politics, use of
roles in his discussion of socialization is not particularly helpful either. Wendt examines three
hypothetical roles: enemy, rival and friend. Socialization occurs when State A meets State B and attempts
to enact one of these roles. If State A treats State B as an enemy, and State B responds by treating State A
as an enemy, then an enemy role relationship is formed. If a tipping point is reached, whereby all states
treat each other as enemies, then a Hobbesian culture of anarchy is formed. The Lockean culture based
on the rival role and the Kantian culture based on the friend role are both formed in the same way. This is
a highly stylized account of the socialization process that involves symmetrical role relationships that
serve the purpose of illustrating the theory, rather than replicating the types of roles and role relationships
formed in the real world.
neorealism’s logic of selection.38 The only exception to this rule is that social deviance could
persist in a situation of structural failure.39 In the case of the state system, structural failure
would characterize certain regions where interaction capacity is low, such that it is difficult to
even think of a system whose members could constrain agent behavior, or when the great powers
fail for whatever reason to perform their socializing role.40
Role theory is sometimes mistakenly viewed as solely appropriate for the study of
individuals, such as the leaders of states.
41 However, role theory developed in the
interdisciplinary field of social psychology and can be appropriately applied to both individuals
and corporate entities.42 Wendt concurs that the absence of roles from structural theorizing is the
result of confusion about the appropriate level of analysis, with structural realist accounts of
international politics assigning roles to unit-level theorizing, when theoretically roles are
attributes of structures, not agents.43
37 Sarbin and Allen, “Role Theory,” 506-510. Stryker and Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role
Theory,” 351-352. According to Thies, role location refers to “the interactional process whereby an
individual locates himself within the social structure.” Thies, “Role Theory and Foreign Policy,” 6339.
38 R. Stokes and J. P. Hewitt, “Aligning Actions,” American Sociological Review 41 (1976): 838-49.
As suggested by McKeown (1986: 53), both the behavior and the actor are subject to selection in
neorealism. In the state system, we would expect action to alter or eliminate a state’s behavior through
coercive diplomacy prior to attempts to eliminate the state itself. As the U.S. case will show, Britain and
France attempted to socialize the U.S. out of the neutral role and its related behaviors prior to Britain’s
attempt to eliminate the U.S. as an actor in the War of 1812.
39 Stryker and Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role Theory,” 365.
40 Buzan, Jones, and Little, The Logic of Anarchy.
41 Paul Kowert and Jeffrey Legro, “Norms, Identity, and their Limits,” In The Culture of National
Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, edited by Peter J. Katzenstein, (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1996: 477).
42 Stephen G. Walker, “National Role Conceptions and Systemic Outcomes,” In Psychological Models in
International Politics, L. Falkowski, ed., (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979: 173). Stryker and
Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role Theory,” 330. Michael Barnett, “Institutions, Roles, and
Disorder: The case of the Arab States System,” International Studies Quarterly 37 (1993): 274.
43 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, 251-257. Wendt’s primary example is Buzan, Jones, and
Little, The Logic of Anarchy, 46.
For the purposes of this paper, we may think of roles as a kind of structural modifier
originally introduced by Snyder into neorealist theory.44 Structural modifiers are “system-wide
influences that are structural in their inherent nature but not potent enough internationally to
warrant that designation. They modify the effects of the more basic structural elements on the
interaction process, but they are not interaction itself.”45 Examples of structural modifiers given
by Snyder include norms, institutions, and military technology. Structural modifiers are clearly
systemic variables, and not unit attributes. The concept of structural modifiers helps to rescue
many aspects of the international system that have been relegated to the unit-level by Waltz and
even Buzan et al. in their attempt to build a more structural version of realism.46
Snyder also distinguishes between relationships and interaction, which are often
conflated as process.
47 Interaction is behavior that is comprised of communication between
states or some physical action like war. Relationships, on the other hand, “are not behavior
itself, but the situational context of the behavior.”48
44 Glenn H. Snyder, “Process Variables in Neorealist Theory,” Security Studies 5 (1996): 167-92.
Relationships act as a conduit through which
structure affects behavior during episodes of interaction. Relationships also channel the effects
of internal attributes of states to interaction episodes. Further, in addition to providing a conduit
for both structural and unit-level effects, relationships are posited to exert independent effects on
behavior. Relationships provide more specific constraints on behavior within the already broad
constraints posed by anarchy and the distribution of capabilities. The principle components of
relationships are alignments and alliances, common and conflicting interests, capabilities, and
45 Snyder, “Process Variables in Neorealist Theory,” 169.
46 Waltz, Theory of International Politics. Buzan, Little and Jones, The Logic of Anarchy.
47 Snyder, “Process Variables in Neorealist Theory,” 171.
48 Snyder, “Process Variables in Neorealist Theory,” 172.
interdependence.49 Relationships thus provide the context for interaction between states, and are
more structural than process in their orientation.50 These concepts allow the researcher to
examine more fully the effects of structure, as channeled through structural modifiers and
relationships, upon the units and their interactions. Only by incorporating these micro-level
aspects of structure can we begin to predict or explain the foreign policy behavior of particular
Through the use of Snyder’s structural modifiers and relationships, neorealism can begin
to fully incorporate socialization into its explanations of structurally-constrained state behavior.
Socialization allows neorealism to incorporate ideational factors into its model of the
international system without compromising its materialist foundations. Figure 1 illustrates the
causal effects of the various components of the more fully specified structural version of
neorealism that this paper advocates. Anarchy and the distribution of capabilities work through
competition to maintain similarity in form and function of the units in the system, consequently
reinforcing anarchy and maintaining relative stability in the distribution of capabilities. Anarchy
49 Snyder prefers to use the term capability to refer to “what a state can accomplish with its military forces
against particular other states,” or the “potential outcome of a military action.” Snyder believes it is better
to label Waltz’s use of capabilities as “power resources,” denoting an inventory of forces and resources.
Snyder, “Process Variables in Neorealist Theory,” 180.
50 Wendt’s notion of micro-structure is quite similar to Snyder’s use of relationships. Wendt divides
structure into macro and micro levels based on their vantage point in the system. The macro-structures of
the system are anarchy and the distribution of capabilities, because they depict the world from the
standpoint of the system. Micro-structures refer to the “relationships between a system’s parts,” and
depict the world from the viewpoint of the agent. Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, 148.
Micro-structures, like relationships, do not refer to the internal characteristics of units. Rather, they
structure the interaction between units based on the configuration of desires, beliefs, strategies, and
capabilities across the actors in a relationship.
51 See Elman and Waltz’s reply for an evaluation of neorealism’s potential to produce theories of foreign
policy. Waltz continues to argue that international politics and foreign policy are separate domains of
inquiry. Colin Elman, “Horses for Courses: Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?” Security
Studies 6 (1996):7-53. Fearon reviews this claim and concurs with Elman that there is no logical barrier to
the use of theories of international politics to inform foreign policy analysis. James D. Fearon, “Domestic
Politics, Foreign Policy, and Theories of International Relations,” Annual Review of Political Science 1
(1998): 289-313.
and the distribution of capabilities also work through socialization, as various structural
modifiers (roles in this case) condition the kinds of relationships (role relationships in this case)
within which states find themselves.52
[Figure 1 about here]
Those relationships are affected by alignments and
alliances, common and conflicting interests, capabilities, and interdependence. Relationships
thus constrain the interaction between the units. The end result is that units and their behaviors
are constrained by anarchy and the distribution of capabilities through the effects of both
competition and socialization. The conformity of unit attributes and behavior produced by
competition and socialization results in a feedback loop to maintain the continuity of the
structure of the system.
Stryker and Statham list several activities found to be responsible for socialization in the
literature: direct instruction, imitation or modeling, and altercasting.53 In most sociological
accounts these activities would normally be described in terms of the internalization of
normative expectations on the part of the individual actor being socialized with a consequent
change in preferences.54
52 Structural modifiers and relationships thus form the distribution of knowledge or ideas that Wendt
(1999) makes central to his version of constructivism. However, in this formulation the distribution of
ideas is conditioned by the distribution of material capabilities.
However, for the purposes of incorporating socialization into
53 Stryker and Statham, “Symbolic Interaction and Role Theory,” 334.
54 Wendt suggests three different degrees to which states may internalize norms as a result of
socialization: coercion, self-interest and legitimacy. See Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics,
250. Wendt’s degrees of internalization do not quite match Finnemore and Sikkink’s expectations for
socialization outcomes based on conformity, legitimation, and self-esteem, but they are roughly similar.
See Finnemore and Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change.” A neorealist model
would expect that attempts to induce conformity based on coercion and self-interest is the key to state
socialization. This would qualify as Checkel’s Type I socialization, in which the actor’s behavior may
change while the underlying interests remain the same (also described as strategic calculation or role
playing, as opposed to Type II when the actor’s interests and even identity change). See Checkel,
“International Institutions and Socialization in Europe,” 804. This type of outcome is likely a product of
what Johnston calls the micro-process of social influence, which describes how socialization works
through rewards and punishments. Alistair Iain Johnston, “Treating International Institutions as Social
Environments,” International Studies Quarterly 45 (2001):487-515. As opposed to the micro-process of
neorealism with states serving as the key actors these activities will be described in terms of the
adjustment of behavior rather than preferences,55 or what Levy labels structural adjustment, and
Tetlock calls adaptation.56 Socialization should thus occur indirectly through the imitation or
modeling of behavior associated with roles and directly through instruction and altercasting of
expected behavior.57
Although socialization is argued by Waltz to be one of the two ways that structure affects
unit behavior in the system, we know that competition is usually the most prominent explanation
given by subsequent neorealists for the outcomes that are observed in the system. Perhaps this is
good enough. Why should we bother to develop socialization within neorealist theory if
competition seems to do the job on its own? The paper suggests four reasons why socialization
should be articulated as its own structural principle within neorealist theory. First, by
incorporating socialization neorealism can begin to think about process. According to Sterling-
Folker, “process is actually central to realist theory since it is process that determines how actors
persuasion, social influence simply results in behavioral change and does not effect a deeper change in
preferences. Although Johnston (p. 502) calls social influence a “secondary socialization process,” it is
still socialization nonetheless. Therefore, a neorealist model adopts a social influence approach to
socialization that focuses mainly on changes in state behavior in reaction to material sanctions, as
opposed to a constructivist approach focused on persuasion leading to the internalization of norms.
55James D. Morrow, “Social Choice and System Structure in World Politics,” World Politics 56 (1988):
56 Jack S. Levy, “Learning and Foreign Policy: Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield,” International
Organization 48 (1994): 279-312. Philip Tetlock, “Learning in U.S. and Soviet Foreign Policy: In Search
of an Elusive Concept,” In Learning in U.S. and Soviet Foreign Policy, edited by George Breslauer and
Philip Tetlock (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991). Schimmelfenig describes socialization as rational action
in the context of an institutionalized environment. It is not clear whether states are rational actors in a
neorealist system, or whether they are adapting according to an evolutionary mechanism. The concept of
socialization is compatible with either. See Schimmelfennig, “International Socialization in the New
57 Altercasting involves the selection of a role by ego for alter followed by attempts to elicit enactment of
the role through cues and demands. Essentially, a state is cast in a role by the other state in a role
relationship, or by the audience of states, and then expected to enact it properly.
react to external events and pressures in the realist argument.”58 Socialization is such a process
according to all sociological and psychological accounts, and previous usage in international
relations. It is a process that works on behalf of structure to bring agent behavior into
conformity. As such, socialization bridges the gap between agents and structure in the study of
international relations and moves neorealism back in the direction of structural or holist
theorizing as opposed to individualism.59
Second, following Sterling-Folker's line of reasoning, the socialization process allows
neorealism an avenue to incorporate domestic factors in the analysis of foreign policy choices.
In her analysis, “the systemic and the domestic can act as simultaneous independent variables in
the realist argument. The anarchic environment remains primarily but indirectly causal, while
process remains secondarily but directly causal.”
60 Foreign policy choices are the result of state
actors following their own domestic policy processes to respond to external events and pressures,
as would be expected in an analysis incorporating socialization. Thus, neorealism as a theory of
international politics also provides the theoretical tools to analyze foreign policy choices due to
its ability to link agents and structures through socialization. Without this connection to
domestic politics and foreign policy choices, neorealism remains a highly abstract theory with
little connection to the real world of events. This is clearly unsatisfying even to Waltz and other
neorealists as evidenced by the fact that they often make foreign policy predictions even while
decrying neorealism’s use as a theory of foreign policy.61
Third, neorealism can begin to explore change by incorporating socialization.
Socialization activities that occur in interstate relationships may not always perfectly constrain
58 Jennifer Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,”
International Studies Quarterly 41 (1997): 16.
59 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, 29-33.
60 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 22.
behavior according to structural dictates. In some situations, the emulation that is key to
reproducing structure may give way to innovation in behavior.62
Fourth, socialization also offers a way for neorealism to subsume ideational factors
within a materialist framework in a manner similar to Wendt’s constructivist incorporation of
material factors into an idealist framework. Socialization is at heart an ideational concept.
Individuals or corporate actors are socialized to certain norms, roles, rules, or beliefs that
dominate their respective systems. However, these ideational factors have behavioral
manifestations, and neorealism is clearly interested in state behavior. The focus on behavior
clearly separates neorealism from a constructivist interest in the constitutive impact of norms,
roles, and other ideational factors on state identity.
Consistent with a materialist
conception of international politics, this paper will argue that innovation in behavior is possible
due to the greater capabilities of one of the parties to a relationship, in the case of structural
failure where interaction capacity is low, or in instances when the great powers fail to perform
their socializing duties.
63 However, there is no theoretical reason that
prevents neorealism from acknowledging the way that the international system constitutes state
identity, as well as its subsequent effects on state behavior. Neorealism, as a materialist theory
of international politics, should not eschew ideational factors. Instead, neorealism should show
how the constitutive and causal effects of ideas are tightly constrained by, or even a product of,
material factors. This paper suggests, in contradiction to Vasquez and Legro and Moravcsik, that
the incorporation of ideas into neorealism need not be degenerating, nor is it contradictory to its
theoretical core.64
61 Elman, “Horses for Courses,” 10.
Neorealism is already prepared to deal with ideational factors through Waltz’s
62 Resende-Santos “Anarchy and the Emulation of Military Systems,” 203-204.
63 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, 101.
64 Legro and Moravcsik, “Is Anybody Still a Realist?” Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm.”
inclusion of socialization as one of the two methods by which structure shapes and constrains the
units of the system, yet as the paper demonstrates, they are incorporated in a manner which
retains the overall emphasis on material factors through the use of role theory.
Socializing the United States of America, 1783-1814
The following brief case studies are drawn from several episodes of socialization in early U.S.
history. These cases were chosen for a number of analytical reasons. First, neorealism is often
used as a foil for institutionalist (e.g., Elman), liberal (e.g., Owen), and other approaches
emphasizing domestic-level determinants of U.S. foreign policy during this time period (e.g.,
Silverstone).65 By incorporating the socialization mechanism, this paper suggests that the central
insights of these approaches can often be subsumed within a neorealist framework. As Sterling-
Folker has argued, domestic-level approaches like these are often compatible with neorealism.66
Second, Bukovansky has analyzed early U.S. history from a constructivist standpoint employing
roles to demonstrate the importance of identity formation on state behavior.67
65 Miriam F. Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States: Challenging Neorealism in Its Own
Backyard,” British Journal of Political Science 25 (1995): 171-217. John M. Owen, Liberal Peace,
Liberal War: American Politics and International Security (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).
Scott A. Silverstone, Divided Union: The Politics of War in the Early American Republic (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2004).
The analysis in
this paper will demonstrate that the choice of roles and socialization activity regarding roles is
heavily conditioned by material capabilities. Any identity conferred on a state through its
adoption of a role is thus constrained and shaped by material forces. By incorporating ideational
factors through the socialization mechanism, this analysis explains many of Bukovansky’s
constructivist interpretations of U.S. behavior. Thus, a more fully specified neorealism is able to
account for the impact of both material and ideational factors on state behavior.
66 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables.”
67 Mlada Bukovansky, “American Identity and Neutral Rights from Independence to the War of 1812,”
International Organization 51 (1997): 209-43.
Third, according to most neorealists, structure should most constrain the behavior of
small states like the U.S. during this time period.68
This approach does not predict which roles a state will choose, because that kind of
explanation is primarily the domain of foreign policy analysis. The domestic political process
and the international environment act as simultaneous independent variables to determine the
choice of a role.
Foreign policy in small states should reflect
an overriding concern with the external environment and potential threats to its survival. Thus, if
socialization is operating on behalf of structure, we should see its constraining effects most
clearly in small states. The U.S. might be seen as an easy case for an explanation based on
socialization in this regard. Fourth, despite the fact that it was a small state during this time
period, the U.S. could also be a hard case through which to demonstrate socialization. The U.S.
emerges as a sovereign state on the fringes of the European-centered international system, and
prior to the formation of its own regional state subsystem. Thus, interaction capacity is fairly
low because of its geographical separation from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean, and the lack of
other sovereign states in its immediate vicinity. Finally, these cases illustrate the pervasive
nature of the operation of socialization in the international system. The history of these cases
will be familiar to most, yet the analysis demonstrates that it is often socialization rather than
competition that plays a determining role in state behavior. However, it is important to recall
that both competition and socialization are crucial to neorealist analysis. Therefore, the two
mechanisms should not be considered theoretical "competitors" despite the fact that for
illustrative purposes the analysis will often highlight the effects of socialization.
68 Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States,” 175-179.
States, and their leaders, can choose from a variety of roles available in the
system. As Waltz notes,
69 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 22.
chiliastic rulers occasionally come to power. In power, most of them quickly
change their ways. They can refuse to do so, and yet hope to survive, only if
they rule countries little affected by the competition of states. The socialization
of nonconformist states proceeds at a pace that is set by the extent of their
involvement in the system.70
However, this approach does suggest which roles will be accepted and which will be rejected
through the socialization process working on behalf of structure. States that adopt roles
inappropriate to their material capabilities should expect socialization efforts to remove them
from such roles unless they exist in areas where interaction capacity is very low, or where the
great powers are not fulfilling their socializing duties. This is consistent with Sterling-Folker’s
argument that “the anarchic environment sets a particular context or ‘a set of constraining
conditions’ for process.”71 As Sterling-Folker emphasizes from Waltz, no state acts with
“perfect knowledge or wisdom” in their foreign policy choices, and may blunder or succeed,
despite or as the result of skill or dumb luck.72
Seeking the Neutral RoleAct I
The first brief case study analyzes the socialization activities surrounding the adoption of the
neutral role by the United States during the period 1783 to 1803. The U.S. had just recently
adopted the role of the sovereign state through its war of independence.73
70 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 128.
The U.S.
accomplished the role of the sovereign state by forming an allied role relationship with France in
1778 to counter the overwhelming military capabilities of Britain. The resulting War of the
American Revolution in Europe (1778-1783) between France and Britain had a side-effect of
71 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 18.
72 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 19. Waltz,
Theory of International Politics, 92.
73 See Barnett for a constructivist account of the role of the sovereign state. Barnett, “Institutions, Roles,
and Disorder.” Goddard and Nexon point out that many theorists have noted the importance of the
sovereign state role in Waltz’s neorealism. Stacie E. Goddard and Daniel H. Nexon, “Paradigm Lost:
allowing the neutral role to gain a foothold in the weakly developed international normative
order as a potential structural modifier. Russia took the lead in organizing the Baltic countries
into the Armed Neutrality of 1780 as a way of asserting its great power status and balancing
against Britain.74
Reassessing Theory of International Politics,” European Journal of International Relations 11, no. 1
(2005): 40.
The Armed Neutrality also included Denmark-Norway, Sweden, the Holy
Roman Empire (1781), Prussia (1782), Portugal (1782), and the Two Sicilies (1783). These
small, neutral trading states took advantage of Britain’s weakened position to advance certain
principles of interstate behavior. They argued against “paper blockades”—meaning that for a
blockade to be binding it must be enforced. They also argued for less confiscation of neutral
goods regarded as war materials by belligerents. Finally, they proclaimed the principle of “free
ships, free goods,”—the immunity of non-contraband enemy goods carried on neutral vessels.
Many of these principles were also contained in the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and
Commerce that forged the original alliance between France and the U.S. in 1778. The action of
these states reconfirmed the neutral role as a socially recognized category of actor in the
international system. In addition to establishing expectations for neutral states, they also
established behavioral expectations for belligerents in neutral-belligerent role relationships. It is
important to remember that the content and behavioral expectations of the neutral role emerged
while Britain, the most powerful state in the system, was preoccupied fighting a war with France
and the American colonists. It thus had diminished capacity to enact its role as the chief
socializer of the international system to prevent the neutral role from gaining currency. Russia
used the neutral role as a tool to advance its own interests again Britain, thus the neutral role
itself was a product of material interests and balancing behavior during this time.
74 See Chapter 6 in Bemis for an extensive discussion of the Armed Neutrality. S. F. Bemis, American
Foreign Policy and the Blessings of Liberty (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962).
Once the U.S. had emerged as a sovereign state, it began to seek a role for itself as a
novice in relation to other established members of the international system. This process is at the
heart of foreign policy making, and is not generally the subject of neorealist inquiry. However,
in defining the relationship that sets the context for socialization during interstate interaction we
must account for unit-level attributes that give rise to the creation of a role for the state. A
number of recent accounts of this time period by international relations scholars tend to
emphasize these unit-level attributes.75 Domestic politics in post-independence U.S. began to
revolve around those that favored closer relations with Britain and those that favored closer
relations with France.76 Thus, the U.S. as a novice state sought to imitate one of the two most
powerful established members of the system, as we might expect of a novice in any type of
system. Even the political party system evolved out of this bifurcation of elite opinion during
President Washington’s first administration.77
75 Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States,” Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War, Silverstone,
Divided Union.
Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party,
which favored closer cultural and political ties to Britain. Thomas Jefferson formed the
Democratic-Republicans, which favored closer relations with France. After the execution of
Louis XVI in 1793, France declared war on Britain, and the rancor between the Federalists and
Democratic-Republicans grew so strong that business, religious and social life was divided along
party lines. The Federalists began to call for intervention in the war on the side of Britain, while
76 General historical material for the time period 1783-1815 is found in the following sources. T. A.
Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980).
R. Bartlett, Policy and Power: Two Centuries of American Foreign Relations (New York: Hill & Wang,
1963). A. DeConde, A History of American Foreign Policy (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978).
R. H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy: A History (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1975). J. W.
Pratt, V. P. De Santos, and J. M. Siracusa, A History of United States Foreign Policy, 4th ed. (Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980).
77 See B. Perkins, The Creation of a Republican Empire, 1776-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1993: Ch. 4 and 5). A. DeConde, Entangling Alliance: Politics and Diplomacy under George
Washington (Durham: Duke University Press, 1956: 31-65). P. A. Varg, Foreign Policies of the
Founding Fathers (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1963: 73-80).
the Democratic-Republicans called for intervention on the side of France.78 President
Washington, intent on maintaining the integrity of the newly-formed state, instead sought a
neutral role for the U.S. with his Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793.79
Britain responded to the neutral-belligerent role relationship that the U.S. was attempting
to form by directly challenging the U.S. neutral role with two decrees.
This was the
first stage in a role location process whereby the U.S. to sought to occupy the recently
reinvigorated neutral role.
78 Bukovansky and Sofka argue that both Hamilton and Jefferson supported a neutral role, though their
reasons and strategies aligned with their different preferences for war. Bukovansky, “American Identity
and Neutral Rights,” 225. James Sofka, “American Neutral Rights Reappraised: Identity or Interest in the
Foreign Policy of the Early Republic?” Review of International Studies 26 (2000): 607-608.
The Order in Council of
June 8, 1793 authorized the seizure of all neutral (American) cargoes of food bound for France,
or ports under French control. The Order in Council of November 6, 1793, provided for the
detention of ships carrying the produce of a French colony or supplies for a French colony.
These orders directly contradicted the principle of “free ships, free goods” that the U.S. had set
out in the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and that had been declared by
members of the Armed Neutrality a decade before as part of the behavioral expectations of a
neutral-belligerent role relationship. It marks the beginning of the British attempt to socialize the
U.S. out of the neutral role.
79 The neutral role is similar to Holsti’s “active independent” role. This role conception is a statement of
an independent foreign policy that is free of military commitments to any of the great powers. This role
generally eschews permanent military or ideological commitments and emphasizes activity to extend
diplomatic and commercial relations to many states. Holsti, “National Role Conceptions,” 262-263.
Bukovansky treats this role largely in terms of its commercial implications, but it clearly has a strong
security dimension as well. Bukovansky, “American Identity and Neutral Rights.” See Bemis, Chapter
10 for an extensive discussion of the independent foreign policy enunciated in Washington’s Farewell
Address. S. F. Bemis, American Foreign Policy and the Blessings of Liberty (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1962).
80 In addition to the source material previously cited, see Ellis, Chapter 6 for an overview of neutrality
during this time period. L. E. Ellis, A Short History of American Diplomacy (New York: Harper and
Brothers, 1951).
The British immediately began seizing American vessels in the West Indies and jailing or
impressing their crews into the British navy. The U.S. Congress responded with a thirty-day
embargo on all shipping in U.S. harbors bound for foreign ports on March 26, 1794. This was an
enormous financial drain on the U.S., as much of its trade was with Britain. A permanent halt to
U.S.-British trade would bankrupt the U.S. as it was heavily dependent on customs duties for
revenue. The role relationship between the U.S. and Britain was thus very significant for the
U.S., indicating vulnerability in its interdependence. British capabilities were certainly greater
than those of the fledgling U.S., despite its attempt to augment its meager military capabilities
with its economic capabilities. Both countries interests were in direct conflict at this point, and
the U.S. had no allied role relationships to draw upon as it had adopted a neutral role. All of the
factors present in this role relationship suggested that the U.S. should adjust its behavior to
abandon the role of a neutral.
The U.S. and Britain were on the verge of war at this point. The U.S. sent John Jay to
Britain in April of 1794 to negotiate a variety of factors in dispute between the two countries.
Ultimately Jay’s Treaty yielded greatly on the principle of “free ships, free goods.” Jay agreed
that in some circumstances French property and food bound for French ports could be seized if
paid for by the British. Jay’s Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate in secret because the outcry
was enormous once the terms were made public. Bukovansky stresses this outcry in her account,
since it is suggestive of the importance of the neutral identity for Americans.81
81 Bukovansky, “American Identity and Neutral Rights,” 229.
Washington could have killed the treaty, but the choice seemed to be between the treaty and war.
Washington’s choice in pushing for ratification was wise in the judgment of many historians
because it postponed war with Britain for another 18 years, while allowing the U.S. to increase
its material capabilities and establish its footing in world affairs.82 Thus material capabilities
trumped identity, or perhaps stated more charitably, the U.S. significantly altered its behavioral
expectations of the neutral role in order to conform to the British expectations of this evolving
role relationship.83
It is important to note that France also rejected the neutral-belligerent role relationship
that Washington sought for the U.S. in its relationship with that state. France retaliated against
the British Orders in Council by seizing U.S. ships bound for Britain. In fact, there was not
much difference in the numbers of American vessels seized by the French and British. In May
and July of 1798 Congress authorized the capture of French armed ships, and in June of 1798 it
suspended trade with France. On July 7, 1798, Congress declared the two treaties of 1778 with
France void. The undeclared Quasi-War with France lasted approximately two and a half years
and was largely confined to the sea.
84 This marked the tacit adoption of a belligerent role for the
U.S. vis-à-vis France.85
82 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People. Bemis, American Foreign Policy and the
Blessings of Liberty. Bemis, Jay’s Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy. Varg, Foreign Policies
of the Founding Fathers. J. Combs, The Jay Treaty: Political Battleground of the Founding Fathers.
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970).
The fact that situation did not escalate into a full-scale war is often
attributed to British naval power, which significantly reduced the activities of French
83 Owen suggests that despite disagreement between the Federalists who saw Britain as a fellow liberal
state and Republicans who saw Britain as a despot, President Washington ultimately, though slowly,
accepted Jay’s Treaty. This suggests that an alternative form of identityliberal democracy, might have
trumped both material capabilities and Bukovansky’s neutral role identity in determining U. S. foreign
policy. However, Owen’s own analysis suggests that Britain was at best semi-liberal during this time
frame, and that the British government did not even view the U.S. through the prism of liberal democracy.
Britain instead viewed the U.S. as a tool to be used. Mutual perception of liberal democracy can’t
credibly be viewed as a constraint on war during this period. Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War, 81.
84 See DeConde and Stinchcombe for more information on the Quasi-War. A. DeConde, The Quasi-War:
The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1979-1801 (New York: Scribner’s,
1966). W. Stinchcombe, The XYZ Affair (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980).
85 Owen acknowledges that there were no liberals in power in France during this time period. While the
U.S. Republicans were sympathetic to France, the Federalists were quite suspicious. Owen argued that
Republican opposition prevented a full-scale war with France, though liberal perceptions actually appear
to play no role at all. Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War, 88.
Altogether, this episode in U.S. history is suggestive of two things. First, roles that are
relatively new, or recently reinvigorated features of the international system may garner little
respect from states with the material capabilities to ignore them unless the roles serve their
interests. Second, relatively new states will often have a difficult time trying to achieve roles as
they enter the international system. In the case of the U.S., it was faced with both of these
situations. As a result, neither Britain nor France accepted the U.S. conception of the neutral
role. This role was the second role the U.S. attempted to enact (in addition to the sovereign state
role), and its performance was unconvincing to the audience of states.
A cessation of hostilities was finally secured by the Convention of 1800, which
voided the treaties of 1778 and gave responsibility to the U.S. of compensating its own citizens
for losses due to French seizures on the high seas. Thus, France also engaged in socializing
activity to move the U.S. out of the neutral role that it had attempted to achieve.
A neorealist interpretation of this episode of U.S. history that solely focused on the
supposed effects of competition would have a hard time explaining U.S. behavior. The U.S. did
not engage in balancing against power or threat, nor did it bandwagon in order to preserve its
security and survival.87 In fact, it is somewhat of a stretch of the imagination to argue that the
U.S. was a competitor with either Britain or France because of the enormous capability
imbalance. Instead, through its domestic policy process the U.S. chose to focus on the neutral
86 Reynolds goes so far to say that the U.S. and Britain fought a mutual war with France between 1798
and 1800, despite their own conflict-ridden relationship. Clark G. Reynolds, History and the Sea
(Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989: 113).
This choice certainly lacked the appearance of “knowledge or wisdom,” and the
87 Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States.”
88 See Elman for an institutionalist account that emphasizes the domestic sources of U.S. foreign policy
during the Quasi-War with France. In particular, Elman emphasizes the powers contained in the
relatively new U.S. Constitution that allowed the Federal Government to enter into treaties that bound its
individual states, allowed it raise tax revenue, and maintain an army and a navy. The focus of her account
behaviors associated with the role were “selected out” through the socialization process with
Britain and France. However, the U.S. did not abandon the role altogether, instead choosing to
modify its interpretation of the role in the face of overwhelming capabilities.
Seeking the Neutral RoleAct II
Despite these setbacks, the United States became the most important carrier from 1803, when
Napoleon reopened hostilities with Britain, to 1812 with the outbreak of its own war with
Britain. Regardless of the earlier rejection of the neutral role by France and Britain, neither state
interfered with renewed U.S. enactment of this role for the first two years of renewed hostilities.
American shippers began to reap abnormally high returns and venture into markets previously
closed to them. France and Spain were forced to open their normally restricted West Indian
ports to U.S. traders during the war because of the dominance of the British navy. British
shippers were enraged by the growing wealth of the American merchant marine. Succumbing to
domestic pressure, Britain soon invoked the Rule of 1756—that trade not open in time of peace
is not specifically the adoption or enactment of a neutral role, but the domestic political processes she
emphasizes are compatible with the more top-down neorealist approach that incorporates socialization.
Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States,” 199-202. Much of Elman’s article is dedicated to
demonstrating how external threats shaped the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the
Constitution. This is quite consistent with a neorealist emphasis on competition producing adaptation and
adjustment of the internal features of states. Deudney’s work on the compound republic formed by the
U.S. during the establishment of the union (1781-1789) and the subsequent Philadelphian System also
acknowledges the role of external threats in expanding Federal Government power while continuing to
maintain the internal checks and balances that would prevent the central government from threatening the
individual states and the sovereign people. Deudney argues that the Philadelphian System was able to
peacefully accommodate Westward expansion through the incorporation of independent states (Vermont,
Utah, California and Texas) while preventing the emergence of a balance of power system on the
continent. From this perspective, this system certainly assisted the U.S. with maintaining a neutral role in
European affairs by neutralizing European influence in North America, while simultaneously augmenting
U.S. material capabilities. Daniel H. Deudney, “The Philadelphian System: Sovereignty, Arms Control,
and Balance of Power in the American States-Union, Circa 1787-1861,” International Organization 49,
no. 2 (1995): 191-228. Daniel H. Deudney, Bounding Power: Republic Security Theory from the Polis to
the Global Village (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007). See Mearsheimer on the growth of U.S.
power and a different interpretation of balance of power politics. Mearsheimer argues that balance of
power politics were firmly entrenched in the Western Hemisphere by the founding of the republic as a
could not be open in time of war. The British again began seizing cargo and sailors. The British
navy also took up positions off of U.S. ports to establish a virtual blockade and exercise their
right as a belligerent to search neutral ships. The British also continued their practice of
impressing sailors. Approximately 8,000-10,000 U.S. citizens were impressed during this
President Jefferson sent envoys to Britain in 1806 in the attempt to negotiate an end to
impressment and seek remuneration for seized cargo. This attempt failed to secure these
concessions. Meanwhile, Britain and France had begun to declare a series of paper and actual
naval blockades. By the middle of 1806, American ships were once again at risk of being seized
by both the British and French if they attempted to carry trade to either belligerent or their
colonies. Public outrage in the U.S. over impressment and seizure of cargoes was at an all time
high. After the attack upon the U.S. frigate Chesapeake by a British frigate looking for escaped
impressed sailors, public opinion was strongly in favor of war with Britain. President Jefferson
chose instead to impose an embargo on all trade with Europe in another attempt to augment the
U.S.’s limited military capabilities with economic capabilities.
Once again, Britain began to socialize the U.S. out of the neutral role.
90 The Embargo Act was passed
by Congress in December of 1807. Jefferson expected that both France and Britain would be
forced to reconsider their heavy-handed practices with American vessels and allow enactment of
the U.S. neutral role.91
result of Britain and France’s conflicts with each other in North America. John J. Mearsheimer, The
Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001: 238-252).
89 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, 116-120.
90 Silverstone argues that the constraints on the use of military force imposed by Federal Union through
the Constitution explains why the U.S. did not go to war with Britain in 1807 or 1809 and why it did in
1812. Silverstone, Divided Union, 77-84. This argument is quite similar in many respects to Elman’s
institutionalist account. Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small States.”
91 R. W. Tucker and D. C. Hendrickson, Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1990: 204-209).
The embargo did cause distress to the parts of the British Empire dependent upon imports
of American foodstuffs and cotton for textile manufacturing, though the impact on France was
not nearly as troubling. The state that actually suffered the most from the U.S. embargo was the
U.S. itself as its economy went into a tailspin. Ironically, unemployed sailors were even forced
to join the British navy. The embargo grew increasingly unpopular at home and even President
Jefferson declared that it was three times more costly than a war. Congress repealed the
Embargo Act on March 1, 1809 and substituted the Nonintercourse Act, which legalized U.S.
trade with all ports, except those under British and French control until the neutral role was
respected. Napoleon’s response was to issue the Rambouillet Decree of March 23, 1810, which
confiscated all U.S. ships in French ports. With the Nonintercourse Act set to expire, Congress
replaced it with Macon’s Bill on May 1, 1810.
Macon’s Bill permitted commerce with both England and France. However, it provided
that if France repealed her offensive measures, the U.S. would renew nonimportation against
Britain. And, if Britain repealed the Orders in Council, the U.S. would renew nonimportation
against France. In both cases, the U.S. could export to, but not import from the nonrepealing
state. The U.S. was thus seeking to establish a role relationship with at least one of these states
in which the neutral role would be respected, and perhaps engage in economic balancing.
Napoleon sent communication to President Madison announcing the repeal of the offending
decrees, but with enough added conditions to make implementation nearly impossible.
Nonetheless, Madison informed the British, and Congress passed legislation implementing
nonimportation only against Britain on March 2, 1811.92
92 For additional information on the embargo and nonimportation, see Perkins and Stagg. B. Perkins,
Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805-1812 (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1963: 239-253). J. C. A. Stagg, Mr. Madison’s War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early
American Republic, 1783-1830 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983: 54-57).
U.S. public opinion continued to fester in anger over the treatment of the U.S. by Britain.
On June 1, 1812, President Madison sent a war message to Congress, again adopting a
belligerent role relationship with Britain.93 Madison cited the impressment of sailors, British
naval ventures into U.S. waters to conduct seizures, the notorious Orders in Council that injured
U.S. exports, and the encouragement of the renewal of Indian warfare by the British as reasons
for war with Britain. However, the U.S. was completely unprepared for war with Britain. The
army and navy were inadequate, and there was not widespread support for the war. Federalist,
pro-British, New England, whose members in Congress had voted against the war, withheld
militia from service and sold provisions to the British invaders. The Canadians, many of whom
were descendents of the Loyalists expelled from the U.S., threw back U.S. invasion forces in
1812 and 1813. By 1814, the U.S. was desperately trying to defend its own territory. At the
close of fighting, the British held a large portion of U.S. territory in the Great Lakes area and
along the northern frontier. Battles at sea had reduced the U.S. navy from 16 men-of-war to 3,
while the British still had over 800 ships.94
Negotiations to end the war started one week after the declaration of war on June 26,
1812. The issue of impressment was the main obstacle in the negotiations, as the British had
already suspended the Orders in Council on June 16, 1812. Czar Alexander I of Russia offered
to mediate, which was quickly accepted by Madison, but rejected by the British. Yet, in order to
mollify its ally Russia, the British agreed to enter into direct negotiations for peace in November
of 1813. Negotiations did not actually commence until August 8, 1814 in Ghent. The U.S. State
Department had instructed its envoys to insist on the abandonment of impressment, the cessation
93 Owen suggests that U.S. Federalists and Republican still held largely the same perceptions of Britain as
they had in the 1790s, though the Federalists were not able to constrain Madison from declaring war. He
finds some evidence of increased British liberal perception of the U.S., though it was also unable to
prevent war. Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War, 97.
of illegal blockades, and satisfaction of other expectations of the neutral-belligerent role
relationship in dispute. British demands included a forfeiture of U.S. rights to fortifications or
ships on the Great Lakes by transfers of land in and around the Great Lakes to Canada, and the
creation of an enormous Indian buffer state south of the Great Lakes. This last condition was an
indispensable condition of peace for the British.
These British demands were met with indignation in the U.S. and by the envoys who
rejected them outright. Considerable changes occurred in the demands of both sides as the war
progressed and one side appeared to gain the upper hand, only to be replaced by the other. In the
end, both sides relinquished their indispensable conditions for peace. The U.S. gave up on
impressment, and the British gave up on their territorial demands. The final treaty said
absolutely nothing about neutral rights, which is why the U.S. originally went to war. Both sides
just agreed to stop fighting and return to the status quo.
What does this episode tell us about the second act of the U.S. neutral role location
process? Britain and France were again disposed against the U.S. neutral role. The U.S.
attempted to enact the neutral role by continuing trade with Britain and France. The neutral role
was rejected by both France and Britain as they resumed seizing cargoes and sailors. The U.S.
attempted to enact the neutral role anyway by declaring an embargo on trade with Europe. The
attempt at using trade to augment its capabilities in forcing the neutral role on its role
relationship partners failed miserably, even to the extent of reducing U.S. economic capabilities.
Successive iterations of the embargo led to war with Britain in the attempt to force acceptance of
the role. The war ends with a resumption of the status quo. Finally, the neutral role is not
acknowledged in the Treaty of Ghent, reflecting U.S. inability to enact the role.
94 Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People, 146-147.
Bukovansky argues that during the years prior to the War of 1812 the neutral role became
a central feature of U.S. identity that caused it to act in ways inconsistent with neorealism (based
strictly on material competition).95 However, it should be clear from the analysis that the neutral
role was never accepted by any of the U.S.’s role relationship partners. Both France and Britain
treated the U.S. as an undeclared belligerent for most of its early history, rather than a neutral,
and attempted to socialize it out of that role. The fact that the U.S. failed to completely
relinquish the neutral role was due to the fact that it was a novice state attempting to adjust its
behavior to the dictates of the system. It was obviously a slow learner. To the extent that the
neutral role became part of the U.S. identity, it did act as an “opaque filter through which
assessments, choices, and judgments” were made in regard to the international environment.96
As Sterling-Folker argues, apparently “inefficient” choices made by states are often the result of
domestic actors operating under the dual pressure of the anarchic environment and their own
domestic political system.97 The neutral role probably seemed like a good solution to domestic
turmoil that threatened to tear apart the newly-formed state, and to the problem of knowing how
to interact with other states when it was uncertain of its own capabilities and status in the system.
The neutral role might mistakenly be seen as an attempt to “hide,” rather than balance or
bandwagon in its relationships with Britain and France.98 According to Rothstein, small states
that attempt to hide “rely on the hope that they can be protected by their own insignificance.99
95 Bukovansky, “American Identity and Neutral Rights.”
96 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 19.
97 Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Variables,” 20.
98 According to Schweller, hiding is one example of a broader phenomenon of underbalancing behavior
that includes buckpassing, distancing, waiting, appeasement, and bandwagoning. Randall L. Schweller,
Unanswered Threats: A Neoclassical Realist Theory of Underbalancing,” International Security 29, no.
2 (2004): 166. It seems unlikely that the U.S. was engaged in a conscious strategy of hiding, especially
given claims like Mearsheimer’s that the U.S. was enmeshed in balance of power politics from the
founding of the republic. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.
99 R. L. Rothstein, Alliances and Small Powers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968: 26).
they can appear detached enough, and disinterested enough, and if they can convincingly
indicate that they are too powerless to affect the issue, they hope the storm will pass them by.”
Unfortunately for the U.S., if this was the strategy then it failed, and after engaging in aligning
actions to bring its behavior in line with others’ expectations during the first few decades of its
existence, it abandoned the neutral role altogether. The U.S. simply became too involved in the
international system through the carrier trade to hope to go unnoticed and avoid entanglements in
A neorealist explanation of this period of U.S. history relying exclusively on material
competition would expect to see the survival of the U.S. at stake. The U.S. had clearly not
adjusted to abandon the behaviors associated with the neutral role after its first round of
interaction with Britain and France. The U.S. also appeared to engage in economic balancing
against Britain, but in a rather naïve fashion which ended up exposing itself to British hostility
without French support. The slow adaptation of behavior on the part of the U.S. nearly cost the
survival of the state, but as “dumb luck” would have it, only the behaviors associated with the
neutral role were finally “selected out” at the close of the War of 1812, and not the state itself.100
This paper has provided one way to flesh out Waltz’s rather spare structural model of
international politics. By clarifying the roles of competition and socialization in translating
structural imperatives onto state behavior we now have a more fully specified structural model.
100 As Elman explains, “From a balance of military forces, the U.S. decision to wage war against Britain
cannot be considered a rational response to external exigencies.” Yet, she suggests that war might be
considered a rational decision from a balance of threat perspective, since the economic circumstances of
the status quo could be considered worse than war. Regardless, she suggests that a focus on domestic
institutions better explains the decision to go to war for a variety of reasons, including the potential
conquest of Canada, sectional bargaining between the American West and South, but most importantly
the effect of the Constitution in shaping policy over these issues. Elman, “The Foreign Policies of Small
States,” 203.
The analysis suggests that socialization actually has just as direct an effect on interstate
interaction as competition. Socialization, operating through structural modifiers like role
relationships, determines the context of state interaction. Socialization thus offers a way to
extend the effects of structure from a macro to a micro-level. Neorealism can therefore examine
how the process of interstate interaction is structured by socialization operating on behalf of
anarchy and the distribution of capabilities. The result is a more fully specified structural theory
of international politics.
Despite the fact that socialization is normally considered a sociological concept
consisting of the internalization of ideational factors such as values and norms, I offer a way to
think about socialization from a neorealist perspective. The most important impact of
socialization for neorealists is on the adjustment of state behavior, or what Johnston calls the
exercise of social influence, rather than persuasion that leads to changes in state preferences or
identity.101 State behavior is really the only concern of neorealism, even though adjustments in
preferences and identity may also be occurring as neoliberals and constructivists have argued.
And, consistent with neorealism’s materialist core, socialization is heavily conditioned by
material capabilities. The episodes of socialization taken from U.S. history clearly demonstrate
the impact of material forces. The U.S.’s attempt to adopt a neutral role in the international
system failed as it became heavily involved in the carrying trade to Europe. Both Britain and
France acted to socialize the U.S. out of the neutral role. The U.S. was slow to adjust its
behavior, but that may be expected given its initial position on the fringe of the international
system in an area of low interstate interaction capacity, and the newness of its domestic political
process. As it became more involved in the system, and the capabilities of other states were
brought to bear to socialize it out of the role, it abandoned its self-conceived behavioral
expectations of the neutral-belligerent role relationship. Arguments such as Bukovansky’s that
these roles might constitute identities that would cause the U.S. to act in ways inconsistent with
neorealism are true only if the focus is maintained on competition to the exclusion of
socialization, yet both factors are essential to understanding how structure constrains and shapes
the behavior of states.
This paper also emphasizes the utility of roles to realist and neorealist analyses. It is not
surprising that neoclassical realists have turned implicitly to the concept of roles in their work.
Roles allow the analyst to consider the motivation and varying interests of states in addition to
their basic interest in survival. Roles also allow an examination of the linkage between agents
and structure in the international system. This connection is made clear through the use of
Snyder’s structural modifiers and relationships, which can both be understood in terms of roles.
As such, roles offer an innovative way to think about the conditioning effects of structure on unit
behavior in neorealism. Roles thus provide a bridge between foreign policy formation and
international politics. Finally, despite the fact that roles are clearly ideational factors, this paper
demonstrates how they might be incorporated into neorealism. The cases show that roles
enacted within the context of role relationships are clearly conditioned by material capabilities.
The result of this effort is a more fully specified, structural theory of international politics that
incorporates both material capabilities and ideas, albeit in a subsidiary fashion, to improve its
explanatory capacity.
This paper should not be read as an attempt to “save” neorealism from theoretical
irrelevancy, since despite its many detractors, it remains as vibrant in the aftermath of the Cold
War as ever.102
101 Johnston, “Treating International Institutions as Social Environments.”
It is an attempt to revitalize a part of the theory that has generally been neglected
102 Kenneth Waltz,Structural Realism after the Cold War,” International Security 25 (2000): 5-41.
in order to achieve even greater explanatory capacity. The argument and evidence presented
here does not “prove” that socialization is a necessary feature of neorealism, since applications
of the theory have done quite well without the concept thus far. However, it does demonstrate
one way in which the concept might fit within neorealist theory, and how it might be employed
in the study of interstate politics. Thus, by exploring the concept of state socialization we open
up the possibility that it may become a more central feature in explaining interstate politics from
a neorealist perspective. As Alderson has argued, “exploring the process of state socialization
opens up a promising avenue for development within the realist tradition.”103
Neorealists may eventually employ socialization to offer convincing explanations for
phenomena such as European integration, the democratic peace thesis, the continued relevance
and expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Maull’s conception of the civilian
power role for Germany, as well as Tewes’ analysis of role conflict between Germany as a driver
of deeper integration within existing EU membership vs. widening to include Eastern and
Central European members, are places for realists to begin to understand the shifting nature of
power and the use of institutional structures for the purpose of constraining and shaping the
behavior of states in the immediate security environment.
104 Atkinson’s analysis of the role of
U.S. military engagement through educational exchanges, allied role relationships, troop
presence, military assistance, and weaponry sales, finds that U.S. military contact has a pro-
democracy and pro-liberalizing effect on countries.105
103 Kai Alderson, “Making Sense of State Socialization,” Review of International Studies 27 (2001): 415-
Gheciu finds similar support for NATO’s
104 Hans W. Maull, Germany and Japan: The New Civilian Powers,” Foreign Affairs 69, no. 5 (1990):
91-106. Henning Tewes, “Between Deepening and Widening: Role Conflict in Germany’s Enlargement
Policy,” West European Politics 21, no. 2 (1998): 117-133.
105 Atkinson, “Constructivist Implications of Material Power.”
role in Eastern and Central European countries.106
The phenomenon of “rogue” states would also benefit from careful consideration of
socialization. Rogues, such as the early Soviet Union or People’s Republic of China, or more
contemporary examples like North Korea and Iran, must be analyzed through the lens of
socialization. The rogue role requires that a state refuse to conform to the normative conventions
of the international system, and that a counterrole is formed with a great power that wishes to
bring the rogue into conformity. The fact that rogues do not automatically succumb to pressure
from states with greater material capabilities is an interesting puzzle. Including socialization in a
neorealist framework could offer one way to think about the persistence of rogues in certain time
periods, as well as those cases where states are successfully socialized into roles considered more
appropriate by great powers. As these brief examples demonstrate, reincorporating socialization
as one of the two main mechanisms that transmit structural constraints to units offers many
promising avenues in the expansion of neorealism’s explanatory domain.
Material capabilities and ideas work hand-in-
hand in these approaches to socialization, which with additional work could allow seeming
anomalies to be brought back under neorealist explanation.
106 Gheciu, “Security Institutions as Agents of Socialization?”
Functional Differentiation of Units
Distribution of Capabilities
FIGURE 1. A Fully Specified Structural Version of Neorealism.
Attributes &
... Socialisation in the international system has been conceptualised in two general ways: norm internalisation (Ikenberry and Kupchan 1990;Finnemore and Sikkink 1998;Risse and Sikkink 1999;Checkel 2005;Pu 2012) and role location (Thies 2010b, a;Beasley and Kaarbo 2018). The former defines socialisation as inducting international actors into the norms and rules of a given international community (Checkel 2005), and the latter conceptualises socialisation as inducting new members into an already existing world-shaping the roles of novice international actors (Beasley and Kaarbo 2018;Beyers 2005). ...
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When do socialisation efforts succeed? This paper fills a theoretical gap by theorising effective state socialisation in international relations while also tackling an empirical puzzle: why do the EU’s and the US’s respective socialisation efforts towards China produce inconsistent outcomes? We argue that the efficacy of socialisation depends on the socialisee’s perception of whether the norms or roles the socialisers advocate are appropriate, and the socialisee’s perception of whether the socialisers’ behaviours are consistent with those norms or roles. By innovatively structuring Mill’s methods in a two-level hierarchy that accommodates equifinality, we investigate three sets of cases of socialisation outcomes between China and the EU as well as China and the US. The empirical analysis supports our theoretical argument that effective socialisation is a process of constituting the socialisee’s interests and perception.
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In Role Compatibility as Socialization, Dorothée Vandamme examines Pakistan’s socialization process in terms of role compatibility in the 2008-2018 period. Adopting an Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) method of analysis, Vandamme builds on role theory to develop a theory of socialization as role compatibility to explain the dynamics of Pakistan’s (dys)functioning position and its status-seeking process as a fully functioning member of the international system. Specifically, she focuses on how Pakistani civilian and military leaders define their country’s positioning towards India, the United States and China. In doing so, she traces the link between domestic role contestation at the country’s inception and the resulting domination of the military’s conception of their country, state identity, how it projects itself externally and how it is received by others. Departing from strictly structural or agent-oriented explanations, Vandamme expertly demonstrates Pakistan’s perceived role compatibility with significant others and underlines the causality between state identity, foreign policy behavior and socialization. Role Compatibility as Socialization will be of interest to graduate students and researchers who work on and with role theory and socialization theory, and for those with a research interest on South Asia.
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States exist in an anarchic international system in which survival is the necessary precursor to fulfilling all of their citizens’ other interests. Yet states’ inhabitants – and the policymakers they empower – also hold social ideas about other ends that the state should value and how it should pursue them: the ‘role’ they expect their state to ‘play’ in international politics. Furthermore, such role-performative impulses can motivate external behaviours inimical to security-maximization – and thus to the state survival necessary for future interest-fulfilment. This article therefore investigates the tensions between roleplay and realpolitik in grand strategy. It does so through interrogation of four mutual incompatibilities in role-performative and realpolitikal understandings of ‘Great Powerness’, a core – but conceptually contested – international-systemic ordering unit, thereby demonstrating their necessary logical distinctiveness. The argument is illustrated with brief case studies on the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Identification of such security-imperilling role motives thus buttresses neoclassical realist theory; specifically, as an account of strategic deviation from the security-maximizing realist baseline. Such conclusions carry important implications for both scholarship and statecraft, meanwhile. For once we recognize that roleplay and realpolitik are necessarily distinct incentive structures, role motives’ advocates can no longer claim that discharging such performative social preferences necessarily bolsters survival prospects too.
The chapter investigates the rivaling hegemonic role claims by the US and the People’s Republic of China during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this interactionist role theory account, I argue that Trumpian populism has tried to altercast China into the role of an “international perpetrator.” In turn, China’s leadership has countered this role ascription by presenting China as a defender of a rules-based order and as an important provider of global public goods. The chapter contends that while the Trump administration has failed as a public goods provider to its own people and the international community at large, this does not (automatically) enable China to raise international acceptance for its own role contention. The way the US neglected its leadership role by trying to shift blame onto China, and engaging in populist-inspired vaccine nationalism, incentivized the Chinese government to overreach its role (re-)making by promoting Chinese selective largesse, when most nations expected a more humble demeanor. This way, the US’ leadership failure enabled China to try to lead. Thus far, however, China’s leadership ambitions have found only limited international acceptance. Despite China’s claim to the contrary, most countries view that Beijing’s COVID-19 policies were not directed toward providing global public health goods. In this perspective, the Chinese government rather produced a varying mix of private and club health goods for itself and specific countries who assuage its reputational expectations and its commercial interests. While this is not unusual for governments around the globe, it bodes ill for an actor claiming largesse as a public goods provider and seeking approval for its global leadership.
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This paper develops an analytical framework to explain how regional organizations engage institutional strategies in regional role location process. It argues that ASEAN employed institutionalization as a role bargaining tool in relations with China and other great powers in ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) between 2007 and 2019. The shifts in ASEAN approach to institutionalization were triggered by modifications in China’s role claims, yet the choice of particular institutional responses reflected ASEAN’s own role conception and expectations for appropriate role enactment for itself and for China. By manipulating the institutional processes of ADMM Plus ASEAN successfully sustained its foreign policy roles as a ‘central actor’ and ‘security promoter’ as well as discouraged China from consolidating the undesirable for ASEAN role of regional ‘co-leader’ within ADMM Plus.
Leon Trotsky’s notion of ‘uneven and combined development’ (UCD) has been gaining traction as an explanatory theory of international relations over the past decade, notably in work by Justin Rosenberg and Alexander Anievas. The idea that the uneven sequencing of economic development between countries affects both their relative power relationships and domestic political stability, in particular, carries prima-facie intuitive plausibility. The potential consequences for international stability of such relative power shifts and domestic upheavals suggest, furthermore, that there may be significant explanatory payoffs from this line of investigation. At the same time, however, the UCD intuition raises other questions about causal foundations and theoretical affiliations. What accounts for the sequencing of uneven development, for example? And how exactly do both relative power shifts and domestic political instability elevate war risks? This paper will address these lacunae, by demonstrating that – at the level of its underlying micro-foundations – UCD can be understood as a compound of catch-up convergence growth theory and security-dilemma realism. Such a recognition paves the way, in turn, for a fruitful application of UCD to contemporary questions in international politics.
What is a “net provider of security,” or a “global security provider”? How are such roles adopted by rising powers? We define a net provider of security as a social role, when an actor provides novel, niche, and functionally differentiated security duties, supporting burden-sharing in providing public goods. The nascent literature on these US-vectored roles characterizes role adoption as largely successful. However, rising powers contest the US-designated net provider of security role. Rising powers have stated or latent foreign policy goals to shape international order in their strategic vision, reflecting ideational capacity to reconceptualize their role in global politics, or a material capacity to reposition their rank. Building upon insights from role theory, we illustrate that rising powers exploit temporal and rhetorical ambiguities and leverage their material and ideational resources to execute role differentiation through three micro-processes of role resistance—role acknowledgment, role task rejection, and role task substitution—used to promote an idiosyncratic role, casting the US-vectored role as non-functional, non-representational, and untenable. We examine crucial cases of rising powers, India and China, to develop our theoretical contribution. Our findings speak to the literatures on the logic of identity management, rhetoric in international politics, the taxonomy of contemporary ad hoc security arrangements, and the epistemological project of globalizing international relations.
This article examines the feasibility of using role theory as a tool for predicting compliance with the nuclear nonproliferation regime specifically and foreign policy generally. Following the work of K.J. Holsti, we correlated Belarussian and Ukrainian leaders' articulations of national role with their countries' subsequent behavior. We found that the use of national role conception as both an independent and mediating variable explains more cases of compliance and noncompliance with the nuclear nonproliferation regime than prevailing theories of proliferation.
Several analysts argue that, despite anomalies, the realist paradigm is dominant because it is more fertile than its rivals. While the ability of the realist paradigm to reformulate its theories in light of criticism accounts for its persistence, it is argued that the proliferation of emendations exposes a degenerating tendency in the paradigm's research program. This article applies Lakatos's criterion that a series of related theories must produce problemshifts that are progressive rather than degenerating to appraise the adequacy of realist-based theories on the balancing of power advanced by neotraditionalists. This research program is seen as degenerating because of (1) the protean character of its theoretical development, (2) an unwillingness to specify what constitutes the true theory, which if falsified would lead to a rejection of the paradigm, (3) a continual adoption of auxiliary propositions to explain away flaws, and (4) a dearth of strong research findings.
Alternative hypotheses involving self-interested versus benevolent motives have played an important role in the study of foreign assistance policy behavior. Most often, such studies infer motives from data regarding the foreign assistance expenditures of a donor state. This study moves beyond such inferences. Donor self-interest can take different forms that are likely to be expressed in different policies. Inferences about motivation derived from aid expenditure data infer motives from the observation of actions only. This study proposes a typology of aid motivation; and proposes separate indicators of motivation and behavior. The proposed national role conception framework hypothesizes that certain motivations, as expressed in rhetoric, and certain behaviors, as expressed in the foreign assistance expenditures, co-vary. The study focuses on the foreign assistance debate in and policy behavior of the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK. It finds that there is a congruence between the rhetoric and policy behavior of the foreign assistance decision makers of the Netherlands and the UK, but that the Belgian data lack such congruence. -from Author
Structural and interactionist theory share a parallel set of weaknesses in their ability to account adequately for the relationship between culture and action. Structural theory takes socialization as the major link between culture and conduct and thus generates an overdetermined and unrealistically rigid view of action. Interactionist theory, because of its focus on the improvisational and emergent character of action, finds it difficult to account for the massive fact that patterns of belief and action persist over time. The concept of aligning actions provides a bridge between structural and interactionist perspectives, lending the former a more satisfactory view of the formation of conduct and the latter a means of explaining persistence.
This paper analyzes the implications of social choice theory for the study of world politics. A view of the world system as a social choice mechanism leads to the observation that the outcomes of world politics are determined neither by structure nor by preferences alone, but rather by their interaction. Structural change occurs only when the actors cannot achieve their preferences through the current system. Three particular social choice mechanisms are analyzed to determine which conditions of Arrow's theorem they violate. The argument is illustrated by examining two salient theoretical works, Waltz's Theory of International Politics and Gilpin's War and Change in World Politics. The critique of Waltz illustrates that structure alone cannot determine outcome; the critique of Gilpin examines how structural change occurs in world politics and underlines the importance of preferences in such changes.
Kenneth N. Waltz, former Ford Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, is a Research Associate of the Institute of War and Peace Studies and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University. I am indebted to Karen Adams and Robert Rauchhaus for help on this article from its conception to its completion. For insightful and constructive criticisms I wish to thank Robert Art, Richard Betts, Barbara Farnham, Anne Fox, Robert Jervis, Warner Schilling, and Mark Sheetz. 1. For example, Richard Ned Lebow, "The Long Peace, the End of the Cold War, and the Failure of Realism," International Organization, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Spring 1994), pp. 249-277; Jeffrey W. Legro and Andrew Moravcsik, "Is Anybody Still a Realist?" International Security, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall 1999), pp. 5-55; Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War Peace (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993); Paul Schroeder, "Historical Reality vs. Neo-realist Theory," International Security, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Summer 1994), pp. 108-148; and John A. Vasquez, "The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative vs. Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz's Balancing Proposition," American Political Science Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (December 1997), pp. 899-912. 2. Michael W. Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Parts 1 and 2," Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 12, Nos. 3 and 4 (Summer and Fall 1983); and Doyle, "Kant: Liberalism and World Politics," American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 4 (December 1986), pp. 1151-1169. 3. Francis Fukuyama, "Liberal Democracy as a Global Phenomenon," Political Science and Politics, Vol. 24, No. 4 (1991), p. 662. Jack S. Levy, "Domestic Politics and War," in Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb, eds., The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 88. 4. Kenneth N. Waltz, "Kant, Liberalism, and War," American Political Science Review, Vol. 56, No. 2 (June 1962). Subsequent Kant references are found in this work. 5. Ido Oren, "The Subjectivity of the 'Democratic' Peace: Changing U.S. Perceptions of Imperial Germany," International Security, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall 1995), pp. 157ff.; Christopher Layne, in the second half of Layne and Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Should America Spread Democracy? A Debate (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, forthcoming), argues convincingly that Germany's democratic control of foreign and military policy was no weaker than France's or Britain's. 6. John M. Owen, "How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace," International Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 1994), pp. 87-125. Cf. his Liberal Peace, Liberal War: American Politics and International Security (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997). 7. Christopher Layne, "Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace," International Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 1994), pp. 5-49. 8. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992), pp. 254-256. Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace, p. 24. 9. For example, Leopold von Ranke, Gerhard Ritter, and Otto Hintze. The American William Graham Sumner and many others shared their doubts. 10. Immanuel Kant, The Philosophy of Law, trans. W. Hastie (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1887), p. 218. 11. John Mueller, "Is War Still Becoming Obsolete?" paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., August-September 1991, pp. 55ff; cf. his Quiet Cataclysm: Reflections on the Recent Transformation of World Politics (New York: HarperCollins, 1995). 12. Edward Hallett Carr, Twenty Years' Crisis: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, 2d ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1946), pp. 129-132. 13. Quoted in Anthony Lewis, "The Kissinger Doctrine," New York Times, February 27, 1975, p. 35; and see Henry Kissinger, The White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), chap. 17. 14. See, for example, Kenneth N. Waltz, "America as Model for the World? A Foreign Policy Perspective," PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 24, No. 4 (December 1991); and Mueller, "Is War Still Becoming Obsolete?" p. 5. 15. Quoted in Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p. 28 and n. 36. 16. Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2," p. 337...