Economics Constructivist Theory Discussion

Question Description

I’m working on a economics writing question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

Alexander Wendt points out that according to constructivist theory, anarchy in the
international domain and the behavior of states there are more complex than liberals or
realist would like to think.
Choose one theory from liberalism or realism. Compare and contrast those ideas that
influence and determine the way a state behaves towards other states according to
constructivist theory and the theory of your choice.

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Anarchy is what States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics
Alexander Wendt
International Organization, Vol. 46, No. 2. (Spring, 1992), pp. 391-425.
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Fri Nov 30 13:27:31 2007
Anarchy is what states make of it: the
social construction of power politics
Alexander Wendt
The debate between realists and liberals has reemerged as an axis of contention
in international relations theory.’ Revolving in the past around competing
theories of human nature, the debate is more concerned today with the extent
to which state action is influenced by “structure” (anarchy and the distribution
of power) versus “process” (interaction and learning) and institutions. Does
the absence of centralized political authority force states to play competitive
power politics? Can international regimes overcome this logic, and under what
conditions? What in anarchy is given and immutable, and what is amenable to
The debate between “neorealists” and “neoliberals” has been based on a
Like all social theories, rational choice
shared commitment to “rationali~m.”~
directs us to ask some questions and not others, treating the identities and
interests of agents as exogenously given and focusing on how the behavior of
This article was negotiated with many individuals. If my records are complete (and apologies if
they are not), thanks are due particularly to John Aldrich, Mike Barnett, Lea Brilmayer, David
Campbell, Jim Caporaso, Simon Dalby, David Dessler, Bud Duvall, Jean Elshtain, Karyn Ertel,
Lloyd Etheridge, Ernst Haas, Martin Hollis, Naeem Inayatullah, Stewart Johnson, Frank Klink,
Steve Krasner, Friedrich Kratochwil, David Lumsdaine, M. J. Peterson, Spike Peterson, Thomas
Risse-Kappen, John Ruggie, Bruce Russett, Jim Scott, Rogers Smith, David Sylvan, Jan Thomson,
Mark Warren, and Jutta Weldes. The article also benefited from presentations and seminars at the
American University, the University of Chicago, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst,
Syracuse University, the University of Washington at Seattle, the University of California at LQS
Angeles, and Yale University.
1. See, for example, Joseph Grieco, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique
of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism,” International Organization 42 (Summer 1988), pp. 485-507;
Joseph Nye, “Neorealism and Neoliberalism,” World Politics 40 (January 1988), pp. 235-51; Robert
Keohane, “Neoliberal Institutionalism: A Perspective on World Politics,” in his collection of essays
entitled International Institutions and State Power (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1989), pp. 1-20;
John Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International
Security 13 (Summer 1990), pp. 5-56, along with subsequent published correspondence regarding
Mearsheimer’s article; and Emerson Niou and Peter Ordeshook, “Realism Versus Neoliberalism:
A Formulation,” American Journal ofPolitical Science 35 (May 1991), pp. 481-511.
2. See Robert Keohane, “International Institutions: Two Approaches,” International Studies
Quarterly 32 (December 1988), pp. 379-96.
International Organization 46,2, Spring 1992
o 1992 by the World Peace Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
392 International Organization
agents generates outcomes. As such, rationalism offers a fundamentally
behavioral conception of both process and institutions: they change behavior
but not identities and interesk3 In addition to this way of framing research
problems, neorealists and neoliberals share generally similar assumptions
about agents: states are the dominant actors in the system, and they define
security in “self-interested” terms. Neorealists and neoliberals may disagree
about the extent to which states are motivated by relative versus absolute gains,
but both groups take the self-interested state as the starting point for theory.
This starting point makes substantive sense for neorealists, since they believe
anarchies are necessarily “self-help7′ systems, systems in which both central
authority and collective security are absent. The self-help corollary to anarchy
does enormous work in neorealism, generating the inherently competitive
dynamics of the security dilemma and collective action problem. Self-help is
not seen as an “institution” and as such occupies a privileged explanatory role
vis-his process, setting the terms for, and unaffected by, interaction. Since
states failing to conform to the logic of self-help will be driven from the system,
only simple learning or behavioral adaptation is possible; the complex learning
involved in redefinitions of identity and interest is not.4 Questions about
identity- and interest-formation are therefore not important to students of
international relations. A rationalist problkmatique, which reduces process to
dynamics of behavioral interaction among exogenously constituted actors,
defines the scope of systemic theory.
By adopting such reasoning, liberals concede to neorealists the causal
powers of anarchic structure, but they gain the rhetorically powerful argument
that process can generate cooperative behavior, even in an exogenously given,
self-help system. Some liberals may believe that anarchy does, in fact,
constitute states with self-interested identities exogenous to practice. Such
“weak” liberals concede the causal powers of anarchy both rhetorically and
substantively and accept rationalism’s limited, behavioral conception of the
causal powers of institutions. They are realists before liberals (we might call
them “weak realists7′), since only if international institutions can change
powers and interests do they go beyond the “limits” of r e a l i ~ m . ~
3. Behavioral and rationalist models of man and institutions share a common intellectual
heritage in the materialist individualism of Hobbes, Locke, and Bentham. On the relationship
between the two models, see Jonathan Turner, A Theory of Social Interaction (Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford University Press, 1988), pp. 24-31; and George Homans, “Rational Choice Theory and
Behavioral Psychology,” in Craig Calhoun et al., eds., Structures of Power and Constraint
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 77-89.
4. On neorealist conceptions of learning, see Philip Tetlock, “Learning in U.S. and Soviet
Foreign Policy,” in George Breslauer and Philip Tetlock, eds., Learning in U.S. and Soviet Foreign
Policy (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 24-27. On the difference between behavioral
and cognitive learning, see ibid., pp. 20-61; Joseph Nye, “Nuclear Learning and U.S.-Soviet
Security Regimes,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 371-402; and Ernst Haas,
When Knowledge Is Power (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 17-49.
5. See Stephen Krasner, “Regimes and the Limits of Realism: Regimes as Autonomous
Variables,” in Stephen Krasner, ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
1983), pp. 355-68.
Anarchy 393
Yet some liberals want more. When Joseph Nye speaks of “complex
learning,” or Robert Jervis of “changing conceptions of self and interest,” or
Robert Keohane of “sociological” conceptions of interest, each is asserting an
important role for transformations of identity and interest in the liberal
research program and, by extension, a potentially much stronger conception of
process and institutions in world politic^.^ “Strong” liberals should be troubled
by the dichotomous privileging of structure over process, since transformations
of identity and interest through process are transformations of structure.
is in part why, in an
Rationalism has little to offer such an a r g ~ m e n twhich
important article, Friedrich Kratochwil and John Ruggie argued that its
individualist ontology contradicted the intersubjectivist epistemology necessary
cannot change identities
for regime theory to realize its full p r o m i ~ eRegimes
and interests if the latter are taken as given. Because of this rationalist legacy,
despite increasingly numerous and rich studies of complex learning in foreign
policy, neoliberals lack a systematic theory of how such changes occur and thus
must privilege realist insights about structure while advancing their own
insights about process.
The irony is that social theories which seek to explain identities and interests
because I want to emphasize
do exist. Keohane has called them “reflectivi~t”;~
their focus on the social construction of subjectivity and minimize their image
problem, following Nicholas Onuf I will call them “constru~tivist.”~~
important differences, cognitivists, poststructuralists, standpoint and postmodern feminists, rule theorists, and structurationists share a concern with the
basic “sociological” issue bracketed by rationalists-namely, the issue of
identity- and interest-formation. Constructivism’s potential contribution to a
strong liberalism has been obscured, however, by recent epistemological
debates between modernists and postmodernists, in which Science disciplines
Dissent for not defining a conventional research program, and Dissent
celebrates its liberation from Science.” Real issues animate this debate, which
6. See Nye, “Nuclear Learning and U.S.-Soviet Security Regimes”; Robert Jervis, “Realism,
Game Theory, and Cooperation,” World Politics 40 (April 1988), pp. 340-44; and Robert Keohane,
“International Liberalism Reconsidered,” in John Dunn, ed., The Economic Limits to Modem
Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 183.
7. Rationalists have given some attention to the problem of preference-formation, although in
so doing they have gone beyond what I understand as the characteristic parameters of rationalism.
See, for example, Jon Elster, “Sour Grapes: Utilitarianism and the Genesis of Wants,” in Amartya
Sen and Bernard Williams, eds., Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1982), pp. 219-38; and Michael Cohen and Robert Axelrod, “Coping with Complexity: The
Adaptive Value of Changing Utility,” American Economic Review 74 (March 1984), pp. 30-42.
8. Friedrich Kratochwil and John Ruggie, “International Organization: A State of the Art on an
Art of the State,” International Organization 40 (Autumn 1986), pp. 753-75.
9. Keohane, “International Institutions.”
10. See Nicholas Onuf, World of Our Making (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press,
11. On Science, see Keohane, “International Institutions”; and Robert Keohane, “International
Relations Theory: Contributions of a Feminist Standpoint,” Millennium 18 (Summer 1989), pp.
245-53. On Dissent, see R. B. J. Walker, “History and Structure in the Theory of International
Relations,” Millennium 18 (Summer 1989), pp. 163-83; and Richard Ashley and R. B. J. Walker,
394 International Organization
also divides constructivists. With respect to the substance of international
relations, however, both modern and postmodern constructivists are interested
in how knowledgeable practices constitute subjects, which is not far from the
strong liberal interest in how institutions transform interests. They share a
cognitive, intersubjective conception of process in which identities and interests are endogenous to interaction, rather than a rationalist-behavioral one in
which they are exogenous.
My objective in this article is to build a bridge between these two traditions
(and, by extension, between the realist-liberal and rationalist-reflectivist
debates) by developing a constructivist argument, drawn from structurationist
and symbolic interactionist sociology, on behalf of the liberal claim that
international institutions can transform state identities and interests.12 In
contrast to the “economic” theorizing that dominates mainstream systemic
international relations scholarship, this involves a “sociological social
psychological” form of systemic theory in which identities and interests are the
dependent variable.13Whether a “communitarian liberalism” is still liberalism
does not interest me here. What does is that constructivism might contribute
significantly to the strong liberal interest in identity- and interest-formation
and thereby perhaps itself be enriched with liberal insights about learning and
cognition which it has neglected.
My strategy for building this bridge will be to argue against the neorealist
claim that self-help is given by anarchic structure exogenously to process.
Constructivists have not done a good job of taking the causal powers of anarchy
seriously. This is unfortunate, since in the realist view anarchy justifies
disinterest in the institutional transformation of identities and interests and
thus building systemic theories in exclusively rationalist terms; its putative
causal powers must be challenged if process and institutions are not to be
subordinated to structure. I argue that self-help and power politics do not
follow either logically or causally from anarchy and that if today we find
ourselves in a self-help world, this is due to process, not structure. There is no
“Reading DissidenceIWriting the Discipline: Crisis and the Question of Sovereignty in International Studies,” International Studies Quarterly 34 (September 1990), pp. 367-416. For an excellent
critical assessment of these debates, see Yosef Lapid, “The Third Debate: On the Prospects of
International Theory in a Post-Positivist Era,” International Studies Quarterly 33 (September 1989),
pp. 235-54.
12. The fact that I draw on these approaches aligns me with modernist constructivists, even
though I also draw freely on the substantive work of postmodernists, especially Richard Ashley and
Rob Walker. For a defense of this practice and a discussion of its epistemological basis, see my
earlier article, “The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International
Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 335-70; and Ian Shapiro and Alexander Wendt, “The
Difference That Realism Makes: Social Science and the Politics of Consent,” forthcoming in
Politics and Society. Among modernist constructivists, my argument is particularly indebted to the
published work of Emanuel Adler, Friedrich Kratochwil, and John Ruggie, as well as to an
unpublished paper by Naeem Inayatullah and David Levine entitled “Politics and Economics in
Contemporary International Relations Theory,” Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y., 1990.
13. See Viktor Gecas, “Rekindling the Sociological Imagination in Social Psychology,” Journal
for the Theoly of Social Behavior 19 (March 1989), pp. 97-115.
Anarchy 395
“logic” of anarchy apart from the practices that create and instantiate one
structure of identities and interests rather than another; structure has no
existence or causal powers apart from process. Self-help and power politics are
institutions, not essential features of anarchy. Anarchy is what states make of it.
In the subsequent sections of this article, I critically examine the claims and
assumptions of neorealism, develop a positive argument about how self-help
and power politics are socially constructed under anarchy, and then explore
three ways in which identities and interests are transformed under anarchy: by
the institution of sovereignty, by an evolution of cooperation, and by intentional efforts to transform egoistic identities into collective identities.
Anarchy and power politics
Classical realists such as Thomas Hobbes, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Hans
Morgenthau attributed egoism and power politics primarily to human nature,
whereas structural realists or neorealists emphasize anarchy. The difference
stems in part from different interpretations of anarchy’s causal powers.
Kenneth Waltz’s work is important for both. In Man, the State, and War, he
defines anarchy as a condition of possibility for or “permissive” cause of war,
arguing that “wars occur because there is nothing to prevent them.”14 It is the
human nature or domestic politics of predator states, however, that provide the
initial impetus or “efficient” cause of conflict which forces other states to
respond in kind.15 Waltz is not entirely consistent about this, since he slips
without justification from the permissive causal claim that in anarchy war is
always possible to the active causal claim that “war may at any moment
occur.”16 But despite Waltz’s concluding call for third-image theory, the
efficient causes that initialize anarchic systems are from the first and second
images. This is reversed in Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, in which firstand second-image theories are spurned as “reductionist,” and the logic of
anarchy seems by itself to constitute self-help and power politics as necessary
features of world politics.17
This is unfortunate, since whatever one may think of first- and second-image
theories, they have the virtue of implying that practices determine the
character of anarchy. In the permissive view, only if human or domestic factors
cause A to attack B will B have to defend itself. Anarchies may contain
dynamics that lead to competitive power politics, but they also may not, and we
can argue about when particular structures of identity and interest will emerge.
14. Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959),
p. 232.
15. Ibid., pp. 169-70.
16. Ibid., p. 232. This point is made by Hidemi Suganami in “Bringing Order to the Causes of
War Debates,” Millennium 19 (Spring 1990), p. 34, fn. 11.
17. Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1979).
396 International Organization
In neorealism, however, the role of practice in shaping the character of anarchy
is substantially reduced, and so there is less about which to argue: self-help and
competitive power politics are simply given exogenously by the structure of the
state system.
I will not here contest the neorealist description of the contemporary state
system as a competitive, self-help world;18 I will only dispute its explanation. I
develop my argument in three stages. First, I disentangle the concepts of
self-help and anarchy by showing that self-interested conceptions of security
are not a constitutive property of anarchy. Second, I show how self-help and
competitive power politics may be produced causally by processes of interaction between states in which anarchy plays only a permissive role. In both of
these stages of my argument, I self-consciously bracket the first- and secondimage determinants of state identity, not because they are unimportant (they
are indeed important), but because like Waltz’s objective, mine is to clarify the
“logic” of anarchy. Third, I reintroduce first- and second-image determinants
to assess their effects on identity-formation in different kinds of anarchies.
Anarchy, self-help, and intersubjective knowledge
Waltz defines political structure on three dimensions: ordering principles (in
this case, anarchy), principles of differentiation (which here drop out), and the
distribution of capabilities.19By itself, this definition predicts little about state
behavior. It does not predict whether two states will be friends or foes, will
recognize each other’s sovereignty, will have dynastic ties, will be revisionist or
status quo powers, and so on. These factors, which are fundamentally
intersubjective, affect states’ security interests and thus the character of their
interaction under anarchy. In an important revision of Waltz’s theory, Stephen
Walt implies as much when he argues that the “balance of threats,” rather than
the balance of power, determines state action, threats being socially con~tructed.~’
Put more generally, without assumptions about the structure of
identities and interests in the system, Waltz’s definition of structure cannot
predict the content or dynamics of anarchy. Self-help is one such intersubjective structure and, as such, does the decisive explanatory work in the theory.
The question is whether self-help is a logical or contingent feature of anarchy.
In this section, I develop the concept of a “structure of identity and interest”
and show that no particular one follows logically from anarchy.
A fundamental principle of constructivist social theory is that people act
toward objects, including other actors, on the basis of the meanings that the
18. The neorealist description is not unproblematic. For a powerful critique, see David
Lumsdaine, Ideals and Interests: The Foreign Aid Regime, 1949-1989 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, forthcoming).
19. Waltz, Theoq of International Politics, pp. 79-101.
20. Stephen Walt, The Origins ofillliances (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987).
Anarchy 397
objects have for them.21States act differently toward enemies than they do
toward friends because enemies are threatening and friends are not. Anarchy
and the distribution of power are insufficient to tell us which is which. U.S.
military power has a different significance for Canada than for Cuba, despite
their similar “structural” positions, just as British missiles have a different
significance for the United States than do Soviet missiles. The distribution of
power may always affect states’ calculations, but how it does so depends on the
intersubjective understandings and expectations, on the “distribution of
knowledge,” that constitute their conceptions of self and other.22If society
“forgets” what a university is, the powers and practices of professor and
student cease to exist; if the United States and Soviet Union decide that they
are no longer enemies, “the cold war is over.” It is collective meanings that
constitute the structures which organize our actions.
Actors acquire identities-relatively stable, role-specific understandings and
expectations about self-by participating in such collective meanings.23Identities are inherently relational: “Identity, with its appropriate attachments of
psychological reality, is always identity within a specific, socially constructed
21. See, for example, Herbert Blumer, “The Methodological Position of Symbolic Interactionism,”
in his Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969),
p. 2. Throughout this article, I assume that a theoretically productive analogy can be made between
individuals and states. There are at least two justifications for this anthropomorphism. Rhetorically, the analogy is an accepted practice in mainstream international relations discourse, and since
this article is an immanent rather than external critique, it should follow the practice. Substantively, states are collectivities of individuals that through their practices constitute each other as
“persons” having interests, fears, and so on. A full theory of state identity- and interest-formation
would nevertheless need to draw insights from the social psychology of groups and organizational
theory, and for that reason my anthropomorphism is merely suggestive.
22. The phrase “distribution of knowledge” is Barry Barnes’s, as discussed in his work The
Nature ofpower (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988); see also Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The
Social Construction of Reality (New York: Anchor Books, 1966). The concern of recent international relations scholarship on “epistemic communities” with the cause-and-effect understandings
of the world held by scientists, experts, and policymakers is an important aspect of the role of
knowledge in world politics; see Peter Haas, “Do Regimes Matter? Epistemic Communities and
Mediterranean Pollution Control,” International Organization 43 (Summer 1989), pp. 377-404; and
Ernst Haas, When Knowledge Is Power. My constructivist approach would merely add to this an
equal emphasis on how such knowledge also constitutes the structures and subjects of social life.
23. For an excellent short statement of how collective meanings constitute identities, see Peter
Berger, “Identity as a Problem in the Sociology of Knowledge,” European Journal of Sociology, vol.
7 , no. 1,1966, pp. 3 2 4 0 . See also David Morgan and Michael Schwalbe, “Mind and Self in Society:
Linking Social Structure and Social Cognition,” Social Psychology Quarterly 53 (June 1990), pp.
148-64. In my discussion, I draw on the following interactionist texts: George Herbert Mead, Mind,
Self; and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934); Berger and Luckmann, The Social
Construction of Reality; Sheldon Stryker, Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version (Menlo
Park, Calif.: Benjamin/Cummings, 1980); R. S. Perinbanayagam, Signifiing Acts: Structure and
Meaning in Everyday Life (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985); John Hewitt, Self
and Society:A Symbolic Interactionist Social Psychology (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1988); and Turner,
A Theory of Social Interaction. Despite some differences, much the same points are made by
structurationists such as Bhaskar and Giddens. See Roy Bhaskar, The Possibility of Naturalism
(Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1979); and Anthony Giddens, Central Problems in
Social Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).
398 International Organization
world,” Peter Berger argues.24Each person has many identities linked to
institutional roles, such as brother, son, teacher, and citizen. Similarly, a state
may have multiple identities as “sovereign,” “leader of the free world,”
“imperial power,” and so on.25 The commitment to and the salience of
particular identities vary, but each identity is an inherently social definition of
the actor grounded in the theories which actors collectively hold about
themselves and one another and which constitute the structure of the social
Identities are the basis of interests. Actors do not have a “portfolio” of
interests that they carry around independent of social context; instead, they
define their interests in the process of defining situation^.^^ As Nelson Foote
puts it: “Motivation . . . refer[s] to the degree to which a human being, as a
participant in the ongoing social process in which he necessarily finds himself,
defines a problematic situation as calling for the performance of a particular
act, with more or less anticipated consummations and consequences, and
thereby his organism releases the energy appropriate to performing it.”27
Sometimes situations are unprecedented in our experience, and in these cases
we have to construct their meaning, and thus our interests, by analogy or invent
them de novo. More often they have routine qualities in which we assign
meanings on the basis of institutionally defined roles. When we say that
professors have an “interest” in teaching, research, or going on leave, we are
saying that to function in the role identity of “professor,” they have to define
certain situations as calling for certain actions. This does not mean that they
will necessarily do so (expectations and competence do not equal performance), but if they do not, they will not get tenure. The absence or failure of
roles makes defining situations and interests more difficult, and identity
24. Berger, “Identity as a Problem in the Sociology of Knowledge,” p. 111.
25. While not normally cast in such terms, foreign policy scholarship on national role
conceptions could be adapted to such identity language. See Kal Holsti, “National Role
Conceptions in the Study of Foreign Policy,” International Studies Quarterly 14 (September 1970),
pp. 233-309; and Stephen Walker, ed., Role Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis (Durham, N.C.:
Duke University Press, 1987). For an important effort to do so, see Stephen Walker, “Symbolic
Interactionism and International Politics: Role Theory’s Contribution to International
Organization,” in C. Shih and Martha Cottam, eds., Contending Dramas: A Cognitive Approach to
Post- War International Organizational Processes (New York: Praeger, forthcoming).
26. On the “portfolio” conception of interests, see Barry Hindess, Political Choice and Social
Structure (Aldershot, U.K.: Edward Elgar, 1989), pp. 2-3. The “definition of the situation” is a
central concept in interactionist theory.
27. Nelson Foote, “Identification as the Basis for a Theory of Motivation,” American
Sociological Review 16 (February 1951), p. 15. Such strongly sociological conceptions of interest
have been criticized, with some justice, for being “oversocialized”; see Dennis Wrong, “The
Oversocialized Conception of Man in Modern Sociology,” American Sociological Review 26 (April
1961), pp. 183-93. For useful correctives, which focus on the activation of presocial but
nondetermining human needs within social contexts, see Turner, A Theory of Social Interaction, pp.
23-69; and Viktor Gecas, “The Self-concept as a Basis for a Theory of Motivation,” in Judith
Howard and Peter Callero, eds., The Self-Socie Llynamic (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1991), pp. 171-87.
Anarchy 399
confusion may result. This seems to be happening today in the United States
and the former Soviet Union: without the cold war’s mutual attributions of
threat and hostility to define their identities, these states seem unsure of what
their “interests” should be.
An institution is a relatively stable set or “structure” of identities and
interests. Such structures are often codified in formal rules and norms, but
these have motivational force only in virtue of actors’ socialization to and
participation in collective knowledge. Institutions are fundamentally cognitive
entities that do not exist apart from actors’ ideas about how the world works.”
This does not mean that institutions are not real or objective, that they are
“nothing but” beliefs. As collective knowledge, they are experienced as having
an existence “over and above the individuals who happen to embody them at
In this way, institutions come to confront individuals as more or
the rn~rnent.”‘~
less coercive social facts, but they are still a function of what actors collectively
“know.” Identities and such collective cognitions do not exist apart from each
On this view, institutionalization is a
other; they are “mutually c~nstitutive.”~~
process of internalizing new identities and interests, not something occurring
outside them and affecting only behavior; socialization is a cognitive process,
not just a behavioral one. Conceived in this way, institutions may be cooperative or conflictual, a point sometimes lost in scholarship on international
regimes, which tends to equate institutions with cooperation. There are
important differences between conflictual and cooperative institutions to be
sure, but all relatively stable self-other relations-even those of “enemiesnare defined intersubjectively.