Volume XLIX – Number 2

James Roberts, Ph.D

Abstract: The construction of identity is a central concept in the constructivist approach to international relations. Much of the scholarship on identity formation has focused on how an agent acquires its own identities and how those identities affect the actions that the agent takes. International relations, however, requires not only understanding how your identity affects your own actions, but also requires understanding how the identities of the other agents with which you interact affect their actions. This paper proposes that the identities of “the other” are constructed by one agent ascribing preferences to the other agent based on cues embedded in the social, cultural, and political setting within which the interaction takes place. Preferences are decision rules that operationalize the interests of agents. An agent perceives the identity of another agent by attempting to understand the other agent’s interests and goals. In other words, one agent knows the other agent by knowing what it wants. Understanding how agents know the other is critical in the contemporary world where new agents rapidly emerge from old social, cultural, and political formations.

Key Words: Constructivism, Identity Formation

About the Author: Dr. Roberts is a Professor at Towson University. He presented this piece at the 56th annual meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, LA, February 18 – 21, 2015. Furthermore, this piece continues Dr. Robert’s work presented at the 2005 meeting of the Southern Political Science Association and the 2012 meeting of the International Studies Association. 

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