A number of IR theories have sought to know worldwide conflicts amongst states, and notably, the position of identification has gained momentum in theoretical debate (Berenskoetter, 2017). This essay compares poststructuralism, constructivism and neorealism and argues that, in understanding the position of identification in worldwide conflicts, poststructuralism gives probably the most compelling account. Considerably, poststructuralism explores the structure of a state’s identification, how identification can “make attainable” for international insurance policies to hold out in worldwide conflicts and the mutually constitutive results between international insurance policies and identification (Campbell, 2013). Neorealism lacks these elements, and though constructivism discusses identification, its explorations aren’t as complete as these of poststructuralism. This paper adopts the Cuban Missile Disaster to justify its argument, as this seminal occasion led to “the brink of nuclear battle” (Allison, 1971: 39) and precipitated “the next likelihood that extra human lives would finish abruptly than ever earlier than in historical past” (Allison, 1969: 689). The essay first critically explores the three theories above after which examines my empirical case research.


Neorealism believes that an “anarchic system” traps states in an “iron cage” with “unremitting competitors for energy” (Mearsheimer, 2013: 78, 80). As such, states dwelling in a “self-help world” with “ceaseless safety competitions” are pressured to give attention to the stability of energy (materials capabilities) to realize their “fundamental purpose”—survival (Mearsheimer, 2013: 79, 80). On this “aggressive world”, “all states are potential threats”; thus, “battle is frequent” (Mearsheimer, 1990: 12). Root causes of conflicts, then, lie within the structure of the worldwide system slightly than the character of particular person states (Mearsheimer, 1990: 12), as states are seen as “black containers”, “assumed to be alike” (Mearsheimer, 2013: 78) and regarded to be in pursuit of energy. Neorealist argue that elements that decide the chance of battle embody “polarity of the system”, “energy stability”, “energy shifts” and “distribution of powers” amongst states (Mearsheimer, 2013: 84–88). When there may be peace, it is because of rational actors calculating the “price and advantages” and discovering the prices to be too excessive to enter the battle (Mearsheimer, 1990: 13).

In assuming that every one states are “self-interested” (Hopf, 1998: 175) and that materials energy is probably the most influential determinant of states’ behaviour (Hopf, 1998: 177), nevertheless, neorealism is problematic. With neorealism’s (neo) positivist epistemology, energy is just not solely mounted and noticed scientifically, however it’s nothing greater than materials powers and the state’s functionality to hold them out (Brooks, 1997: 447). Any ideational elements are ignored. Extra crucially, neorealism holds that “[the] state is ontologically previous to the worldwide system” (Ashely, 1984: 240), and states’ pursuits and existence are “handled as given” (Ashely, 1984: 238), impartial of any social establishments and social powers (Ashely, 1984: 243, 244). Neorealists assume that states are unitary actors with a “single everlasting which means” and “[the] identical prior pursuits” (Hopf, 1998: 176) searching for their “intrinsic needs” (Ashely, 1984: 243). The position of identification is uncared for, as all states are assumed to be self-help actors with the identical function. Social processes are ignored (Roush, 2020) and states are taken without any consideration (Hansen, 2017: 167). Ashely claims that the “[p]roposition that states may be basically problematic…is excluded from neorealist idea” (1984: 238) and in reality, “removed from questioning commonsense look”, the “neorealist orrery hypostasizes them” (Ashely, 1984: 237). Thus, neorealism clearly excludes the position of identification in worldwide conflicts.


Recognising the often-blurred boundary between important constructivism and poststructuralism (each adapt the same discursive epistemology, e.g. Weldes, 1999a), this essay follows Hansen (2006) in not dividing them; thus, “constructivism” on this essay refers to standard constructivism. Constructivism and neorealism each goal to elucidate the causes of states’ actions; nevertheless, constructivism recognises “the significance of identification” (Adler & Barnett, 1998: 12) and “concentrates on problems with identification in world politics” (Hopf, 1998: 172), as a world with out an identification could be “chaos” (Hopf, 1998: 175). Not like neorealism, constructivism appreciates “social forces” (Adler & Barnett, 1998: 4) and argues that “intersubjective meanings outline social actuality” (Adler, 1997: 327). Moreover, whereas realising the “existence of the fabric world”, they argue that actors act primarily based on socially constituted “collective interpretations of the exterior world” (Adler, 1997: 330). Constructivism holds that identification is constituted by a cognitive understanding amongst actors (Adler, 1997: 332) whose identities are created on the “foundation of data that individuals have of themselves and others” (Adler & Barnett, 1998: 43). States achieve identification by means of social learnings that assist them perceive themselves in relation to others (Adler & Barnett, 1998: 47; Zehfuss, 2001: 319); thus, identification is just not given however made. Believing that social identities exist previous to conceptions of curiosity (Corridor, 1993: 51), constructivism argues that states’ pursuits and actions are identity-based (Adler & Barnett: 1998: 46; Worth & Reus-Smit, 1998: 259; Hopf, 2002: 16; 1998: 175; Koslowski & Kratochwil, 1994: 223; Flockhart, 2016: 87; Barnett, 2017). Additional, this comparatively “mounted or fixed” identification (Hopf, 1998:183) gives “secure expectations” in direction of others’ actions (Adler & Barnett: 1998: 34). Thus, the “identification of buddy or foe” (Adler & Barnett: 1998: 46) determines whether or not states enter conflicts.

Though constructivism engages with the position of identification, its strategy nonetheless has limitations. It argues that actors achieve their social identities by means of interactions and states’ pursuits and behaviours happen accordingly. That is problematic because it nonetheless requires us to have “imagined [actors] on their very own” and “know” what actors are like earlier than coming to be a part of the context (Zehfuss, 2001: 332, 333). Constructivism “accepts the existence” and presents “no account” of identification’s origins (Hopf, 1998: 184). It presents identification as “harmless” and “comparatively freed from prior assumptions” (Zehfuss, 2001: 336) and excludes the preliminary strategy of “establishing state identification” (Zehfuss, 2001: 335). Subsequently, a selected identification is already in place earlier than social interactions happen. Furthermore, to recognise identification adjustments in interactions, constructivism should “determine the identification an actor ‘has’ at any given level” (327). On this logic, particular person states are handled as a “unified entity” (Zehfuss, 2001: 337) “with out [a] distinction” (Zehfuss, 2001: 332). This “anthropomorphic” idea treats states as if they’re “unitary actors with minds, need and intentions” (Zehfuss, 2001: 335). It’s “inconceivable to acknowledge the complexity” of this “seemingly pure narrative of identification”, and the exclusion of the “strategy of building of states as a bearer of identification” additionally ignores the ability politics behind this articulation (Zehfuss, 2001:333, 335, 336). Constructivism’s “ontological basis… precludes investigation into energy as constitutive of topics” (Doty, 1993: 299) and thus fails to query how a state’s particular identification comes into being. Moreover, this view has led to constructivism posing “why questions” (why states behave this like this), which already presume this particular motion “might occur”(Doty, 1993: 298). As such, constructivism presupposes an actor’s capacity to think about these actions, and thus, their identification “should already be in place” (Doty, 1993: 298). In brief, though constructivism engages with identification on a a lot bigger scale than neorealism, it nonetheless fails to discover identification formation previous to the social interplay and views the state as a “unitary actor” with a single identification.


Poststructuralism, like constructivism, goals to denaturalise the social world (Hopf, 1998: 182) however goes deeper than constructivism. It questions the ontological assumptions we make concerning the world and the way sure issues that appear “pure” and “apparent” are problematic (Hansen, 2017: 171). It holds the non-foundationalist perspective that realities “haven’t any ontological standing” aside from the acts that represent them (Campbell, 1998: 9). This isn’t to disclaim that objects exist externally to thought however that “objects might represent themselves as objects exterior any discursive situation of emergence” (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985: 108), as “we will by no means know [the existence of the world]” past discourse (Campbell, 1998: 6). Poststructuralism argues that “we should not think about that the world turns towards us a legible face which we might solely should decipher” (Foucault, 1984: 127). With this “post-positivist epistemology”, poststructuralism makes use of a discursive practices strategy to unpack the “linguistic building of actuality” (Doty, 1993: 302). Thus, it denies the existence of an “goal yardstick” that may outline realities, crises or identities (Hansen, 2017: 159; Nabers, 2019: 2). For poststructuralism, “identification is an inescapable dimension of being”, but it surely “is just not mounted by nature” (Campbell, 1998: 9). Identification is just not given (Derrida, 1998: 28) however is performatively constituted and is determined by discourses (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 374; Doty, 1993: 304; Hansen, 2017: 164, 169; Campbell, 1998: 5, 9; 2013: 234; Zehfuss, 2001, 336). Accordingly, a state is known as an “imagined political neighborhood” (Anderson, 1991) whose “identification” “is constituted in relation to distinction” (Campbell, 1998: 9; 2013, 238). In poststructuralism, “[the] structure of identification is achieved by means of the inscription of boundaries that serve to demarcate an ‘inside’ from an ‘exterior’” (Campbell, 1998: 9), “self” from “different” and “us” from “them”. Furthermore, this boundary is “secured by the illustration of hazard” (Campbell, 1998: 3). Poststructuralism thereby explores the development of identification in a approach that constructivism doesn’t.

Poststructuralism additionally understands that it’s “inconceivable [for states] to keep up a coherent identification” (Roush, 2020), as there exists no goal, secure actuality, dichotomy nor main identification (Hansen, 2017: 169; Campbell, 1998: 11). States are thus “all the time in [the] strategy of turning into” (Campbell, 1998: 12), which requires a “regulated strategy of repetition” (Butler, 1990: 136) of discursive practices to (re)produce this identification. States subsequently want copy to “keep” their identification’s realness (Hansen, 2017: 169). On account of challenges in opposition to “apparent” and “goal” look; as poststructuralism argues, this “naturalness” is created and maintained by repeated articulations (Weldes, 1996: 285). States shouldn’t be handled as “unitary actors” with a single identification as they’re in neorealism and constructivism. 

This brings us to energy politics. Energy is “productive” (Doty, 1993; Hansen, 2017: 164). By way of energy discourse, particular data is exercised and produced (Edkins, 2005: 4). This energy/data nexus prioritises particular data that articulates meanings for objects whereas on the identical time “marginalis[ing]” different “realities” and “identities” (Foucault, 2004: 7). This energy discourse, whereas constituting seemingly “pure” realities (identities) (Hansen, 2017: 164), additionally workout routines authority. It determines what “actual” identification a state “has”. Different attainable “identities” are thus denied. If we settle for that energy discourse creates a single identification for states and thus advantages some teams on the expense of others (Roush, 2020), then the “why questions” posed by constructivism are problematic (Doty, 1993). Energy discourse is commonly uncared for in “why questions”. Poststructuralism, nevertheless, asks “how questions”, e.g. how actuality is articulated and the way explicit international insurance policies had been legitimised and allowed to occur (Doty, 1993: 298, 305). Poststructuralism additionally views the connection between identification and international coverage as mutually constituted: “identification is concurrently a product of and the justification for international insurance policies” (Hansen, 2017: 169). Recognising that constituted identification wants fixed (re)manufacturing and that it “permits” particular international insurance policies to occur, poststructuralism argues that international insurance policies and actions in conflicts and crises additionally (re)produce and (re)articulate states’ identities (Hansen, 2017: 169). This exploration of the three theories reveals that poststructuralism gives probably the most compelling account of identification in conflicts, because it compensates for the restrictions inside neorealism and constructivism.

Case Research: The Cuban Missile Disaster

Having critically engaged with these three theories, we now transfer to an empirical case research on the Cuban Missile Disaster, one of many greatest “Chilly Struggle confrontations” between the US and Soviet Union that occurred in October 1962 (Historical past, 2019). It started when a US U-2 spy airplane found the Soviets’ missile deployment in Cuba on 14 October. The US then urged the Soviets to take away the missiles. Throughout the disaster, the US was “quickly prepar[ing] [for] a considerable air assault and land invasion pressure” (Garthoff, 1992: 47) in opposition to Cuba whereas additionally enacting insurance policies comparable to blockades. The disaster was heightened to the purpose the place it nearly led to a nuclear battle between the US and the Soviets (Allison, 1971: 39).

Having launched the background, neorealism’s limitations at the moment are examined by means of utility to this case research. Inside neorealism’s theoretical mannequin, the “trigger” of conflicts and US aggression in direction of Cuba is thought to be the “aggressive nature of bipolar politics” between the US and Soviet Union (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 365). Below the mannequin, the Soviet Union’s deployment of missiles in Cuba was threatening the US’s survival; thus, the US needed to counter the Soviets and pressure them to take away the missiles (Weldes & Saco, 1996:365). Nevertheless, this rationalization not solely neglects the position of identification however can also be incorrect. If bipolar superpower politics precipitated the conflicts, “then the tip of the Chilly Struggle and Soviet threats ought to [have] sign[led] a decline” (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 365) in US hostility in direction of Cuba, however this antagonism has not modified instantly after the tip of the Chilly battle (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 365). Furthermore, then US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara argued afterwards that the Soviet’s missile deployment “made no distinction”, as it could not have critically threatened the US: “Can anybody critically inform me that [Soviet] having 340 [missiles] would have made any distinction?” (Blight and Welch, 1990: 23). It’s subsequently clear that analyzing solely the ability stability presents a restricted account of the disaster.

Having denied the usefulness of neorealism’s theoretical strategy, the next sections look at the position of identification to know the case. To totally perceive the position of identification in worldwide conflicts, a compelling idea ought to discover the preliminary strategy of identification “building”. This part will denaturalises the “identification” of the state by analyzing quite a few US discourses across the disaster interval, and poststructuralism’s superiority to constructivism will probably be evident as identification was constructed by means of discourses.

In US discourses, the Soviet Union has been articulated as an “different” that’s in distinction with “self” and has been given a detrimental identification in distinction to the US. The Soviet missile deployment was typically articulated as threatening in US discourses; for instance, Dean Rusk, then the US Secretary of State acknowledged that it was an “aggressive intervention” into the Western Hemisphere (Weldes, 1996: 290). Douglas Dillon equally acknowledged that missile deployment is a “navy intrusion [from] a international nation” (Dillon, 1964). “Others” with “intrusion” traits are established on this discourse. Extra considerably, in Kennedy’s (1962) speech, the Soviet Union was related with “secrecy and deception”, with their missile deployments a “secret, swift and extraordinary” “speedy offensive buildup”. Discourse represented these Soviet missiles as “clearly offensive” and searching for to “assault” “the Western Hemisphere”; thus, they had been a “risk to the peace and safety of all of the Americas” (Kennedy, 1962). The Soviets’ “clandestine determination” was depicted as a “provocative and unjustified” transfer, in opposition to the US’s “justified” additional motion. 

In distinction, the US, together with the “world neighborhood”, positioned itself as being “against battle”, claiming it consisted of “peaceable folks” who hope “for a peaceable world” (ibid). The Soviets’ “misleading” and “secretive” traits had been additional contrasted with the US’s “openness” within the US Division of State’s (1962) discourses: “Our missiles overseas are established beneath open and introduced agreements”, whereas “Soviet missiles had been positioned in Cuba in secret with none public statements and with out an alliance” (7–8). By way of discourse, distinct identities are represented, as Robert Kennedy, then the US Lawyer Basic’s discourse clearly exhibits: “We (the US) had not been that form of nation [the Soviet Union]” (Weldes, 1999b: 41). These official discourses established a threatening, aggressive, secretive and duplicitous Soviet identification (Weldes, 1996: 290). Furthermore, by establishing “others”, the US was recognized as a “peaceable”, “justified” “international chief” (US Nationwide Safety Council, 1950: 390) in these dichotomous discourses (Weldes, 1996: 282, 299). 

Cuba’s identification, too, was constituted by US Chilly Struggle discourse. Cuba was articulated as an “imprisoned island” (Kennedy, 1962), managed and betrayed by the “Castro gang” (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 385). As showcased in Eisenhower’s discourse earlier, Cuba is believed to be “serving Soviet functions” (380). Later, this “Soviet serving position” was reproduced in The New York Occasions (1961): Cuba is described as “a brand new satellite tv for pc” established by the Russians, “[governed] by Khrushchev’s chief puppet” (10). In these discourses, the Castro authorities controlling Cuba is thus constructed as being the “Soviets’ software”.

Therefore, the US’s identification is just not pre-given; its identification conceptions relaxation upon discursive (re)manufacturing of a relationship of distinction (Weldes, 1999b: 59). US discourses in “differentiating the US from the aggressive different [(Cuba controlled by Castro and Soviets)]… constituted a US identification” (Weldes, 1999b: 44). Thus, an identification is secured by remodeling distinction “into otherness, into evil or considered one of its quite a few surrogates” (Connolly, 1991: 64). Fairly than assuming the US has a peaceable, justified international management identification and the Soviet Union has a misleading, harmful communist identification when getting into social interactions, like constructivism would possibly, poststructuralism by means of discourse evaluation unpacks identification building.   

Poststructuralism’s compelling account additionally lies in that it investigates the results of energy politics behind discourse that (re)assemble the US identification in a selected approach. Poststructuralism argues that the state is just not a “unitary actor” with a single identification and that identification is unstable and is extra problematic than it appears to be (Zehfuss, 2001). By way of these highly effective (official, high-profile) discourses, the US got here to be represented as a state that acquires a peaceable democratic identification in opposition to the evil Soviet Union. These energy discourses have marginalised different discourses that articulate a special US identification. Energy discourses have typically articulated US international missile deployment in Turkey and Italy as “open” and “defensive” in distinction with the Soviets’ “offensive” ones. That is apparent when analyzing Stevenson, then US politician’s speech, the place he argued that the US’s international missiles are deployed “with out concealment or deceit” and are “publicly declared” and positioned “within the NATO space in response to the risk posed to NATO by Soviet missiles” (Stevenson, 1962: 729). This discourse constituted a “single identification” that’s “defensive” and legit to the US. This successfully oppressed different attainable representational discourses. Actually, throughout the Chilly Struggle, there have been anti-nuclear protests within the US which included discourses like “No double requirements, US bases are not any completely different” (Estuary Press, n.d.) throughout the US. These marginalised discourses might need articulated a special US identification, one which may have articulated US as an imperialist energy. Therefore, states’ identification is constituted by means of energy discourse. Constructivism and neorealism each treats states as unitary actors with a single identification, thus they overlook the ability politics behind discourse that represent a selected identification on the expense of others. Thereby, poststructuralism gives an in-depth exploration on identification. 

An extra approach by which poststructuralism permits us to raised perceive the position of identification in conflicts is that they look at “how” a sure “identification” allows particular international insurance policies and conflicts. Importantly, solely by means of discussing how energy discourse marginalises different attainable constituted “identit[ies]” can one perceive why “why questions” are problematic (Doty, 1993). By way of the development of an aggressive identification of the Soviet Union and Cuba, discourse permits for the “possib[le] circumstances for the existence of phenomena” (Majeski & Sylvan, 1991: 8)—that’s, US international insurance policies. These “hostile and aggressive [US] international insurance policies” (Weldes & Saco, 1996: 378) had been made attainable by means of discourses that articulated the US as a world chief who must “defend” the Western Hemisphere and Cuba as an aggressive puppet for the Soviet Union. These “threatening” and “offensive” traits related to Soviet and Cuban identification made the US’s insurance policies seem not solely “wise” however even “seemingly unavoidable” (Weldes & Saco, 1996:  378). In any case, not like the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba, “[the US] stands for freedom” (Kennedy, 1961 in Weldes, 1999b: 42), and its missiles defend the Western Hemisphere in opposition to threats to “world peace” (Kennedy, 1962). With these contrasts, it appears affordable (certainly, inevitable and fascinating) that “the newest Soviet risk should and will probably be met by [the US through] no matter motion is required” (Kennedy, 1962). Furthermore, the Castro authorities’s framing as “puppets and agent[s]” beneath an “worldwide conspiracy” and the US “shar[ing] [Cuban populations’] aspirations for liberty and justice” additional permits the US to invade Cuba to “save” the folks from Soviet domination (Kennedy, 1962). Accordingly, it “appears” affordable for a “peaceable, official international chief” such because the US to implement international insurance policies, requiring the Soviets to take away missiles in Cuba and even their missile deployments in Turkey and Italy. 

As soon as we recognise how US identification was constituted by means of energy discourse, we will then realise that these insurance policies aren’t as unproblematic as they appear to be. Overseas insurance policies had been made attainable by this constituted US identification throughout the Chilly Struggle, with out which none of those international insurance policies could be justified or allowed. By asking why the US engaged in battle with the Soviets, constructivism assumes a unitary goal US identification. They may argue that the Soviets had been posing a risk to the US, as they’ve acquired a “totalitarian communist identification”, and that the US understands itself as a “democratic international chief” that should interact in conflicts. Nevertheless, this constructivist understanding is restricted in that it fails to query how the whole battle was made attainable. The Cuban Missile Disaster was made attainable by an influence discourse constituted US identification. Poststructuralism efficiently gives a complete account of the position of identification within the conflicts; by means of its epistemology, identification might be denaturalised and the makings of the Cuban Missile Disaster might be understood.

Fairly than a a method causal hyperlink between identification and international polices, poststructuralism expands our understanding by exploring their mutual constitutional relationship. US identification not solely permits international insurance policies to occur however is itself a results of international insurance policies. US missile deployment in Turkey and Italy considerably (re)constituted US identification as a protector of the West. Insurance policies in opposition to Cuba comparable to “direct[ing] the Armed Forces to arrange for any eventualities” (Kennedy, 1962) and blockading illustrate the identical results. These discursive acts create the picture that the Soviets’ missile deployment in Cuba was offensive and that the US is a world chief that can reply to this risk with willpower. This identification was additionally being rearticulated by means of the US’s “continued and elevated shut surveillance of Cuba and its navy buildup” (Kennedy, 1962). This surveillance serves to assemble the Soviets as a risk that must be carefully monitored and the US as a frontrunner taking over this duty. Extra considerably, by ultimately “forcing the removing of the Soviet missiles”, the US identification as a hemispheric chief “in defence of freedom” was once more (re)articulated (Weldes, 1999b: 55). The Cuban Missile Disaster and US international insurance policies are mutually constituted with US identification. The disaster was “not solely enabled by a selected illustration of the US however concurrently made it attainable for that identification itself actively to be (re)produced” (Weldes, 1999b: 53). Constructivism narrowly focuses on how a selected identification “causes” sure practices or conflicts, whereas poststructuralism recognises that these international insurance policies and conflicts are additionally (re)producing state’s identification. 

Thus, the exploration of those three theories and their utility to the Cuban Missile Disaster reveal that poststructuralism gives probably the most compelling account of identification’s position in worldwide conflicts. Its strengths lie in its shut consideration to the preliminary building of identification, whereas neorealism fully neglects it and constructivism, although it recognises identification, doesn’t look at the identification a state “has” previous to social interactions. Poststructuralism additionally recognises the ability politics behind particular articulations and problematises the seemingly “apparent” state identification, whereas each neorealism and constructivism deal with states as a unitary actor with a single identification. Poststructuralism additionally questions how worldwide conflicts and international insurance policies are made attainable, whereas the others don’t. Moreover, solely poststructuralism explores the mutual establishing results between international insurance policies and identification. To totally perceive identification’s position in worldwide conflicts, we should discover “identification” itself and never deal with it as given or pure. The US didn’t enter social interactions with a given peaceable, democratic and international chief identification—it was established by means of energy discourses. Had different much less highly effective discourses not been marginalised, the US’s identification may be understood in another way. With out this optimistic identification, its international insurance policies could have been blocked, and the disaster seemingly would have had a special consequence. Subsequently, this essay concludes that of neorealism, constructivism and poststructuralism, solely the latter can present a complete understanding of identification’s position in worldwide conflicts. 


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