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Identity/Political Culture and US Foreign Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "Identity/Political Culture and US Foreign Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Identity/Political Culture and US Foreign Policy

2 Introduction In contrast to conventional (realist) explanations, the central role of identity in the construction of US foreign policy. Critical social constructivist approach -social realities constructed through discursive practices. Particular conceptions of US identity constitute US interests, thus providing the foundations for US FP.

3 Interests and US Foreign Policy Realists assume that states are the central actors in world politics and that states’ interests are determined by the ‘objective’ threats states face. Interest-based explanations assume rational actors with given (predetermined) interests. The threats and problems facing states are products of interpretations. Interests are also products of interpretation. The concept of ‘national interest’ remains central to explanation of US foreign policy because it is the language of foreign policy decision making and thus of state action.


5 Critical social constructivism Constructions entail ‘naturalized’ power relations that become common sense when treated as transparently reflecting reality. Reality is socially constructed: ‘things’ only have meaning through the signifiers used to represent them. Discourses are systems of meaning production which both constrain and enable what can be said and imagined. Articulation produces meaning by discursively linking symbols and ideas already present within culture. Articulations are neither natural nor permanent, but dynamic and constantly in need of rearticulating and reinforcement; other articulations are always possible.

6 Critical social constructivism as critique Naturalized power relations can and should be denaturalized. The social construction of reality: Although the world exists independently of our knowledge, we cannot access this knowledge except through discourse(s). Representations of identity and FP can be investigated using official/elite and popular cultural discourses.



9 Discourses as productive (power,identity,representation) Elites’ privileged roles in the (re)production of discursive constructions entail naturalized power relations. When there is little or no challenge to dominate discourses, they become hegemonic. (power) Individuals and states are embedded in many identities; the notion of a singular ‘core identity’ masks a complex interplay of multiple subject positions. Identities are subject positions constituted in discourse, which manifest themselves in representations( through generalization, simplifications, abstractions ) (i.e. The USSR as ‘evil empire’ )


11 Who is an American ?

12 List of official United States national symbols Flag of the United States Seal of the United States National bird: Bald Eagle National anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner" National mottos: "In God We Trust " National floral emblem: Rose National march: "The Stars and Stripes Forever" National creed: American's Creed



15 The core American identity, the American Creed as embodying the “principles of liberty, equality, individualism, representative government, and private property.“ The American Creed is the unique creation of a dissenting Protestant culture. Suggesting Americans to turn Protestantism, and recognize that what distinguishes America from other countries ; religious Western country, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation.



18 American’s self-image ( or national-identity) dividing it from the rest of the world and portrays America as an exeptional New World that remains suspicious and uncomfortable in the Old World Society. This self-image creates tension in AFP; nationalists/neoisolationists vs. internationalists vs.realists. National identity is a vital factor in the formation of a nation's foreign policy, though it is often overlooked in favor of measures of national power. "Identity and power approach" to studying foreign policy. Identity can converge or diverge, and power is possessed equally or unequally; formulating pattern of relations with the ‘rest’.


20 4 sets of ideas driving U.S. foreign policies 1) "Hamiltonians" link a strong government with strong businesses, and they support free trade. 2) "Wilsonians" emphasize America's democratic mission in the world. 3) "Jeffersonians" are more protective of American values at home. 4) "Jacksonians" emphasize military and economic readiness for possible conflict.


22 ‘ Danger is not an objective condition. It is not a thing which exists, indepedendently of those to whom it may become a threat…The ability to represent things as alien, subversive, dirty, or sick, has been pivotal to the articulation of danger in the American experience…The boundaries of a state’s identity are secured by the representation of danger central to foreign policy.’ (Campell 1998:1-3)


24 Identity in US foreign policy-1 Constructions of identity in dominant US foreign policy discourse marginalize other interpretations such as the US as imperialist. Primary characteristics associated with the US are leadership, freedom, strength, and commitment/determination.

25 Columbia – the National personification of the U.S. – leads civilization westward with American settlers.

26 On April 6, 1901, in the wake of gainful victory in the Spanish–American War, Columbia

27 The extension of U.S. domination (symbolized by an eagle ) from Puerto Rico to the Philipipines

28 Uncle Sam is lecturing children







35 Identity in US foreign policy-2 In the post-Cold War era, the dominant threat is articulated as ‘rogue states’/ ‘axis of evil’, often through the use of analogies to Hitler/Nazism/WWII. In the war on terror, terrorists are articulated as evil and irrational, while the US continues to be represented as defensive, strong and committed to defending freedom. The US’s and others’ identities interact and constitute discourses of US FP in complex and multifaced ways.




39 Some academics employed in US colleges and universities have introduced ‘political’ agendas into the classroom and abandoned traditional academic notion of ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’. ‘ Anti-American’ and left-wing ‘radicals’ have ‘ set about re-shaping the university curriculum to support their political interests…New Departments began to appear with objectives that were frankly political.’ (Horowitz,2006,p.x)


41 Noam Chomsky: Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later

42 Question to think: To what extent American identity shapes FP ?

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