Legitimacy, Foreign Policy and the Sources of Realpolitik


I want to take advantage of some of the gaps in the literature to propose an argument about realpolitik–as–ideology that explores variation in the intensity or hardness of realpolitik as a function of variation in the requirements for the legitimation of power inside a social group. Specifically, I want to make the following related arguments, moving from least to most controversial: ? Regime legitimation involves, among other things, the construction of a ?national identity? among the members of a society. ? Identity construction rests on establishing and perpetuating differences between the ingroup and all other outgroups. ? Foreign policy is a process in which differences between a sovereign nation–state ingroup and a sovereign nation state outgroup are (re)created. ? Foreign policy, therefore, is critical for identity construction and thus for legitimation. ? When state elites come to believe their legitimacy is declining or under challenge foreign policy will be a key tool/process used to intensify ingroup identity inside the nation state. ? Foreign policy strategies will be both positive (e.g. designed to cue pride and superiority in being a member of the ingroup) and negative (e.g. designed to cue fear and disdain towards outgroups). ? The specific content of these positive and negative strategies will depend on the specific, contingent contents of national identity.


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