Social Construction of International Politics: Identities and Foreign Policies, Moscow, 1955 and 1999 / Edition 1

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In this deeply researched book Ted Hopf challenges contemporary theorizing about international relations. He advances what he believes is a commonsensical notion: a state's domestic identity has an enormous effect on its international policies. Hopf argues that foreign policy elites are inextricably bound to their own societies; in order to understand other states, they must first understand themselves. To comprehend Russian and Soviet foreign policy, "it is just as important to read what is being consumed on the Moscow subway as it is to conduct research in the Foreign Ministry archives," the author says.Hopf recreates the major currents in Russian/Soviet identity, reconstructing the "identity topographies" of two profoundly important years, 1955 and 1999. To provide insights about how Russians made sense of themselves in the post-Stalinist and late Yeltsin periods, he not only uses daily newspapers and official discourse, but also delves into works intended for mass consumption—popular novels, film reviews, ethnographic journals, high school textbooks, and memoirs. He explains how the different identities expressed in these varied materials shaped the worldviews of Soviet and Russian decisionmakers. Hopf finds that continuous renegotiations and clashes among competing domestic visions of national identity had a profound effect on Soviet and Russian foreign policy. Broadly speaking, Hopf shows that all international politics begins at home.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this impressive work of interpretivist international relation theorizing, Ted Hopf seeks an understanding of how the identities contained within a state affect the ways in which that state views others."—Virginia Quarterly Review, 79:3

"Identity, the author believes, is crucial in shaping one's understanding of states as adversaries, allies, or something in between. Identity's content, however, can be conjured not by drawing on a priori categories but only by uncovering society's discourses, and these emerge not only from speeches, texts, essays, and editorials, but even from pulp fiction."—Foreign Affairs, March/April 2003.

"Ted Hopf, a professor of political science at Ohio State University and author of works on both American and Russian foreign policy, has produced an intriguing book. Social Construction of International Politics is an examination of how Soviet and, later, Russian leaders understood the USSR, Russia, and other states in terms of social identities, and how those social identities were instrumental in shaping Soviet and Russian foreign policy choices. . . . For specialists of Soviet and/or Russian foreign policy, or international relations theorists, this is a worthwhile read and one that I recommend."—Nathaniel Richmond, Utica College, The Russian Review, 62:4, October 2003.

"Ted Hopf has long been at the forefront of linking theories of social construction and identity to the empirical study of foreign policy. In this long-awaited magnum opus, he develops valuable insights from the social theory of identity, invents a highly sophisticated inductive method for discovering political identities, and demonstrates the method with fascinating case studies from the history of Soviet and Russian foreign policy. No serious student of international relations, qualitative methodology, or Russian politics can afford to ignore this path-breaking work."—Matthew Evangelista, Author of Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War

"Ted Hopf's discussion of what identity entails, his careful delineation of the lines between individual and social cognition, and his approach to discerning the very diverse axes that define identity are all among the most sophisticated treatments of these issues I have seen in the literature on international relations."—James Richter, Bates College

"Social Construction of International Politics is one of the most original and important works to appear in international relations theory in many years. This book will become the definitive theoretical statement of interpretivist constructivism, one rooted in cognitive psychology and symbolic interactionism."—Douglas Blum, Providence College

Foreign Affairs
Identity, the author believes, is crucial in shaping one's understanding of states as adversaries, allies, or something in between. Identity's content, however, can be conjured not by drawing on a priori categories but only by uncovering society's discourses, and these emerge not only from speeches, texts, essays, and editorials, but even from pulp fiction. Hopf shows how this approach works for two very different years of Soviet and Russian foreign policy — 1955 and 1999 — by arduously parsing an immense range of sources, including archival material. He then carefully assembles the clusters of perspectives that constitute the varied lens through which the other side is viewed. Conceptually, this book is more dense and intricate than it needs to be. But because it challenges so much of the political science canon — rational choice assumptions, realist theory, standard definitions of national identity, even the constructivist school of thought where Hopf situates himself — it is worth the reader's investment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487910
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,408,425
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Constructivism at Home: Theory and Method 1
2 The Russian Nation, New Soviet Man, Class, and Modernity: Identity Relations in 1955 39
3 Identities as Social Structures: Enabling and Constraining Soviet Alliance Choices in 1955 83
4 Historical, Internal, and External Others: Russian Identity in 1999 153
5 The Unipolar World: Recentering a Peripheral Russia in 1999 211
6 Identity, Foreign Policy, and IR Theory 259
Index 297
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    winner of the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize

    Social Construction of International Politics: Identities & Foreign Policies, Moscow, 1955 & 1999, by Ted Hopf, published by Cornell University Press was a co-winner of the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) and sponsored by the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. The Shulman book prize is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph dealing with the international relations, foreign policy, or foreign-policy decision-making of any of the states of the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. The other winner was Bertrand M. Patenaude, for The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921, published by Stanford University Press. The book prize committee wrote the following: Ted Hopf¿s Social Construction of International Politics cuts across the disciplines of international relations, comparative politics, and area studies in a remarkable exploration of the sources of Soviet/Russian foreign policy behavior. He skillfully links theories of identity and social construction to debunk rational choice and neorealist claims regarding the way the international system works. State behavior, Hopf argues, emerges through a multifaceted prism of substate actors¿s intricately constructed and sometimes clashing notions of their own societal identity. His convincingly chosen case studies, the Soviet Union of 1955 and Russia in 1999, draw on an astonishingly broad and innovative set of source materials: not just archives, but also film reviews, popular novels, ethnographic journals, and even a systematic analysis of high school textbooks. Hopf¿s work is a model for area studies scholars wanting to make a rigorous contribution to the theoretical development of a traditional academic discipline, or for discipline-based scholars wanting to enjoy the rich and nuanced rewards of careful area study.

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