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Otherness in international relations

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The question of otherness is the question of the other. The constitution of possibilities is when we think about questions about otherness, we think about how we can make certain actions possible. The way we represent someone will define how we interact. How in international relations, in the discipline, one can have different perspectives on what identity means. We will seek to understand the added value of so-called "post" analyses. The question of action is linked to the question of the representation of what can be described here as a "limit". We will see how the production of boundaries is linked to the question of identity, opening up two perspectives: the political dimension and the ethical dimension.

Constitution of possibles[edit | edit source]

Identities and International Relations (constructivism)[edit | edit source]

Identity is a borad theme approached by Brubaker and Cooper in their article Beyond identity[9].

We must focus on how, in the discipline of international relations, we have been led to reflect on this question.

Two types of identities can be distinguished, referring to two central spatial categories in international relations, namely embodied identity and social identity. They are spatial concepts that reproduce the vision that there is an interior and an exterior. With national identity, there is something inside that makes it possible to define a nationality. One of the key elements is that there is a tendency to reify something, that is, when we talk about something we create an object. There may be several considerations in defining national identity.

As Walker showed in Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory in 1993, there is a certain reproduction of what the State is and the establishment of an international space of relations between States which are self-organized structures defining an entity as distinct. When we think of international relations, the State becomes the unit of convention, which is a certain limit that defines an interior and an exterior. However, there are procedures that define the state beyond borders. Thus, States are targeted as the conventional units of a place.

For Wendt in Social Theory of International Politics, embodied identity is the meaning that one actor attributes to himself in relation to another. In terms of international relations, we will not be interested in how national identity has come to become what it is. Above all, it means affirming that there is no external influence on what national identity is. Looking at identity in a presocial way is to protect it from any internal or external influence. The "post" perspectives are there to break this idea down.

When we talk about social identity, for Wendt in Collective Identity Formation and the International State, these are the meanings that one actor attributes to himself in relation to another. It is the type of interaction, that is, the relationship we have with another person as thinking of ourselves in terms of great power in terms of social relations, it is just an identity that we will give to which another person will respond or not and it is socially constituted through interactions.

Pre-social conceptions[edit | edit source]

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If we take the example of democratic peace, democracies do not wage war against each other, but that does not mean that democracies are more pacifist. Because democracies have a specific identity, then the consequence is that the types of relationships they will have with each other are peaceful. The boundary is strong and interactions stop at the boundary of the other identity. It is based on the idea of intrinsic quality specific to a state. Interactions have no influence on pre-social vision.

Social conception[edit | edit source]

Ri2 Conceptions sociale.png

With the constructivist model, we find ourselves in the same configuration where the embodied identity is protected from what is happening outside, but we realize that there is a certain temporality. The more types of interactions there are, the more they will have a certain form, the more we will change the relationship we have with another.

If we start from a first interaction where identities are enemies, in a situation of anarchy the moment t0 is the State of nature. There are a number of interactions that will change social identity from a situation of social identity to a situation of rivalry. After another series of interactions, a third situation emerges that can be friendly.

Social interaction is the conditions for the possibility of action. Evolution over time is through social identity. We can make two major criticisms of this vision of things leading to the production of otherness not only to understand this production as such, but also how it can lead us to understand this type of action.

There is the idea of a time t0. Often we take as an example the discovery of the Americas which will bring Europeans and Amerindians into interaction. This time t0 is possible because it is assumed that the embodied identity is fixed. Studies show that the Spanish had a representation of otherness leading them to act based on the way the Spanish represented Jews and Muslims during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. We protect the idea that national identity is a given. We realize that this idea is difficult to maintain empirically, something else is happening.

Westphalian deferral[edit | edit source]

There is a process of representing otherness that explains why we have had to act internally and externally.

In International Relations and the Problem of Difference, Inayatullah and Blaney define Wesphantlian deferral as "The bounded political community constructs (and is constructed by) others both within and beyond its boundaries. The other lurks as a perpetual threat in the form of other states, foreign groups, imported goods, and alien ideas, and as difference within, vitiating the presumed but rarely, if ever, achieved "sameness. Internal others are managed or governed by some combination of hierarchy, eradication by assimilation or expulsion, and tolerance. External others are left to suffer or prosper according to their own means, interdicted at border crossings, balanced and deterred, or, in appropriate cases, subjected to coercion or conquest. »

We are changing perspective on the assumption that something is happening within states. In order to understand embodied identity, it is necessary to understand phenomena that occur within. To understand the constitution of an internal identity, it is necessary to understand the constitution of the principle of otherness.

In order to be able to produce a state, the natural idea that the state is something protected from the outside will be extinguished and we will focus on producing threats from the outside. We're always going to talk about the inside as being homogeneous. We will assume that what happens inside is in the same domain. Otherness happens outside, it is the relationship with those outside not recognizing the production of the self internally, but especially it is to limit the relationship to the other external. It is also the fact that we assume that the relationship with the other cannot have an effect on us.

There is also the idea of creating hierarchies. This is the situation where what is done in international relations is done outside. This is to show to what extent approaches to international relations lead to the view that certain phenomena are linked to international relations.

Beyond the constructivist model[edit | edit source]

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The boundary between the internal and external is now porous, the phenomena of interaction that were limited to the production of social identities will maintain that it may be necessary to understand the effects within States, but above all it is necessary to understand that within these identities, there are processes to which we must pay attention. It is a complex model that says that to understand these corporatized ideas, it is necessary to understand both how these articulations are positioned or are in articulation with phenomena external to it.

We realize that over time, there will be a embodied identity that will evolve. It is not only a temporal link, there can be several articulations of several identities. It is a reflection in which we try to open the Pandora's box of international relations, which is the distinction between internal and external.

It is difficult to account for the diversity of constructivist authors, but some approaches can be posed in a Euristic way to understand some theoretical positions.

From constructivism to so-called "post" perspectives[edit | edit source]

Constructivists take the state as a basis most of the time on the assumption that the state is a unit that will not really be questioned. Post" perspectives focus on internal production, which is not generally the case with constructivist approaches. Constructivists are not interested in the question of how, but in social identity and its change in the context of international relations. The "post" perspectives will focus on understanding why.

This is what John Agnew called the territorial trap in The territorial trap: the geographical assumptions of international relations theory, it is the idea that "post" perspectives will territorialize national identities that can be social movements, a purely internal and domestic case. This is an anti-foundationalist perspective that does not assume that there are natural entities that form the basis of international relations. Thinking international relations through individuals is just as legitimate as thinking through States.

It is the problematization of the non-problematic. Authors like Friedman do not seek to problematize. International relations as a discipline, their great strength is precisely to set things in motion without really problematizing them. The "post-" perspectives seek to understand, for example, the emergence of the State as a specific articulation, what sovereignty is. Often these findings are presented without thought.

There is also a re-registration of politics. For example, normality is an ability to give meaning to reality. With Doty in Foreign Policy as Social Construction: a Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines, performativity is the idea that by saying something you create social reality. When a certain number of actors define themselves, they create a reality.

Cox in Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory identified a tension between problem solving theory and critical theory. Problem solving takes the world as it is seeking to explain and understand it. There is no idea why the world has become such and such. Other approaches show that it is equally fundamental to understand how this world came to become what it is. It also means thinking that the world can be different. If the world reflects our discourses and practices, the world can change. From then on, we enter into an ethical question. Perspectives raise the question of the production of the other and the ethical conditions that this implies.

The question of the border[edit | edit source]

The first question is how the limit is produced. Often the production of limits occurs through moral or political discourse. The limit includes and excludes at the same time. When we include and exclude, we create a social order that articulates certain visions. For example, the Westphalian deferral is the creation of a sovereign order. Other States will be judged on this dimension. It also produces nuances. Post" perspectives seek to analyze the process and how the boundaries are articulated in order to understand how certain actions are possible.

Devetak in Postmodernism raises several questions such as how boundaries are constituted, what moral and political status are given to them, how they simultaneously include and exclude, how they simultaneously produce order and violence? These questions have an analytical force.

In Foreign Policy as Social Construction: a Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines examines "how meaning is produced and linked to various social subjects/objects, thus constituting particular interpretative provisions that create some possibilities and close others" by stating that "power creates[particular] patterns of subjectivity and interpretative provisions". By representing an object or other, in a certain way, we make it possible to take certain actions with regard to that object or person.

It is fundamental to understand how meaning is produced, if we say positive, negative things, how we prioritize. It is problematizing what is generally not tried in other approaches to international relations.

From the border to the question of identity[edit | edit source]

In Postmodernism published in 2005, Devetak asks some analytical questions, in particular by asking how, through what political practices and representations, are the limits set?

For example, there is a tendency to think of citizenship as a formal status creating a vertical relationship with the state. If you are interested in a classic non-critical way, it is all a question of status, you are a citizen or you are not. The international dimension is that there are dimensions of the circulation of knowledge and ideas that will admit that citizenship is not only a debate on the internal and external.

But we must also look at citizenship beyond an institutional question raising the question of how a conception of territorially defined identity was constructed in opposition to an Other Threatening?

The culturalist view will say that we belong to a state or nation, for example Benedict Anderson talks about an imagined community. To understand international institutions as an imagined community, one must blend into one relationship to be another.

The political dimension[edit | edit source]

For Chantal Mouffe in On the Political, "Politics is linked to acts of hegemonic institutions. It is in this sense that we can differentiate between social and political issues. The social is the place of sedimented practices, i.e. practices that hide the acts originating from their contingent political institution and that are not questioned (taken for granted), as if they were founded by themselves. Things can always be different and so any order is linked to the exclusion of other possible ones. It is in this sense that this order can be called'political' because it is the expression of a particular structure of power relations.

The hegemonic institution means that we simply say that one institution has more weight than the others. We do not ask ourselves the question of the emergence of norms, where they come from in political terms, we look for social places, people say certain things. When we present something, we exclude something else, it is to exclude a possible within the framework of power structures.

The ethical dimension[edit | edit source]

The political dimension is linked to the ethical question. When we produce another one, we produce ourselves. If the Other is a constituent part of the self, isn't there an ethical question that emerges?

For Derian in Post-Theory: The Eternal Return of Ethics in International Relations, "Ethics begins with the recognition of the need for the Other, the need for the recognition of the Other. Ethics therefore proceeds from an interdependence between concern for the other and responsabilité́ towards the other; an interdependence that cannot be separated from pluralism and the relativism of multiple identities.

With the notion of "care", the other's concern is that we will treat the other as a kind of alter-ego, he is different, but at the same time at the same level. If we are not in a situation of mutual recognition, then we are not in an ethical construction. In large part, international relations are the negation of the ethical situation. Constructivists in international relations, when he talks about the construction of norms and the effect of norms, are not interested in the other. As Mooth says, constructivists are only interested in social construction, they are only interested in the mechanics of things, while "post" perspectives are interested in the conditions of the production of otherness.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The "post-" approaches will problematize the non-problematic and raise the question of the formation, transformation and maintenance of identities. On the other hand, there is a rejection of all forms of essentialism, there is just a series of productions and articulations. There is a re-registration of politics in order to show what "is" as a result, the "post" perspectives will show these debates.

Foreign policy, representations of others, views of oneself[edit | edit source]

It is necessary to understand the logic of the reasoning behind the "post" perspectives and the place of otherness in these perspectives.

Power relations[edit | edit source]

The four forms of power is a classic distinction in the social science literature:

  • "A has power over B if he can get B to do something that B would not have done otherwise"[Dahl]
  • "A has power over B if he can prevent B from doing something that B would have done otherwise"[Bachrach and Baratz]
  • "If B acts against its objective and real interests, then A has power over B" For Lukes, there is a false consciousness
  • power is not a capacity towards another, but a coconstitutive relationship. Power is an asymmetrical relationship. When we co-constitute it is not necessary to impose taxes, but there are forms of reappropriation, of invention.

Power does not only explain actions or beliefs, but the constitution of subjects. Power relations "co-constitute" subjects and are omnipresent

For Connolly in Identity Difference. Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox, "An identity is established in relation to a series of differences that have become socially recognized. These differences are essential for the existence of this identity. If they did not exist as differences, identité́ could not exist in its specificity and solidity [...] the maintenance of a identité́ [...] implies the conversion of certain differences into another[otherness], into an evil, or into one of these multiple representatives. Identity requires difference to be and it converts difference into another[otherness] in order to secure its own certainty of being [....] Identity is in a complex and political relationship with the differences it seeks to fix.

There is the idea that in order to conceive ourselves as united, homogeneous and necessary, we need differences. It is the idea that we are in a performative dimension, that is, in order to be oneself, to find oneself around a specific community, there would be the need to produce the difference, but in a specific way. If we look at the political processes, self-production occurs when there is another one, which is the inversion of the self. Whether it's the self or the other, there's no gasoline. By saying something, we produce another, it is the production of the self and the other. There is no identity that has a certainty in itself.

The power of language[edit | edit source]

The strength of language is to produce something through language that is not only what is said, but also what is written or visual. Language is not personal or private, it can evolve under the influence of other individuals if we accept these changes. For example, subordinate groups can reclaim language and reinvent it. Language refers to a whole series of concepts and ideas that produce subjectivities that are not simply forms of impositions, but can also be forms of appropriation or reinterpretation.

Language does not reflect reality, but reality, whether social or political, is the result of language. The classic distinction of Saussure is between signified, signifier and referent. When we talk about the State, we can wonder about the referent because the State has no physical reality. All concepts in the social sciences are concepts where there is no referent. Language creates reality. The social and political reality that surrounds us reflects the performative property of language. John Austin talks about performative language with the idea of "speech act", that is, when you say something, there is an effect. The title of his book is How to do things with words. Saying something creates a situation. If people have the ability to say something, they can create certain situations.

Language is therefore the reflection of a power dynamic, it is the vector of it, because the question arises of who has the ability to name what and how.

For Bourdieu in Raisons pratiques. Sur la théorie de l'action published in 1994[10],

"by authoritatively stating what a being, thing or person is in truth (verdict), in its legitimate social definition, that is, what it is allowed to be, what it is entitled to be, the social being that it is entitled to claim, profess, exercise (as opposed to the illegal exercise), the State exercises true creative power [....] the State is[therefore] in a position to impose and inculcate cognitive and evaluative structures universally, on the scale of a certain territorial jurisdiction,[...] and that it is therefore the foundation[...] of a tacit, pre-reflective, immediate agreement on the meaning of the world, which is at the principle of experiencing the world as the world of common sense[...]".

Bourdieu states a certain truth. Those who will take credit for it, present things, be the enunciators of a speech present a certain truth. Foucault will speak of a "regime of truth", that is, creating worldviews to which others will refer. The state has the ability to say what the standard is, to reproduce common sense. Ideology, discourse is common sense.

The speech[edit | edit source]

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A "discourse" is not limited to textual or oral dimensions, it can be visual elements such as images, colours, fashion or gestures such as postures, body interactions.

In The discursive construction of national identity by Wodak, Cillia, Reisigl, and Liebhart, coconstitution is when there is a "relationship between discursive acts and the situations, institutions and social structures in which they are embedded: situational, institutional and social contexts shape and influence discourse and, in turn, discourse influences social and political reality".

A speech is always contextualized. There are structures that lead us to think, we are socialized to think about the world in a certain way, but the way we think affects the structures. Discursive acts are socially constitutive in a multitude of ways. Discourse is at the root of the production and construction of "special social conditions" such as, for example, gender, class, "race" relations, etc. The construction of discourse is representative of the construction of meanings and representations with effects of reality.

Discursive acts contribute to the "restoration, legitimization or relativization of a social status quo (ante)". For example, the discourse of nuclear non-proliferation legitimizes something that already exists that is not objective in itself, but to reinforce it. Speeches are "used to maintain and reproduce the status quo". Another example is the discourse against homoparenting or "right to protect". Discourses can also lead to transformations that can be "effective in transforming, dismantling or even destroying the status quo". When we talk about discourse, we are talking about the dimension that underlies all our beliefs, our values, what shapes them, but also it is not only a structural and structuralist vision where we blindly adopt what society tells us because discourses and values can change.

The representation[edit | edit source]

For Campbell in Writing Security. United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, "nation-states are inevitably paradoxical entities that do not possess prediscursive and stable identities.... In other words, states are never finite entities; the tension between the demands of identity and the practices that constitute it can never be fully resolved, because the performative nature of identity can never be fully revealed. This paradox inherent in their existence puts states in a permanent need of reproduction... If a state were to put an end to its representation practices, it would expose the absence of prediscursive foundations; stasis would mean death.

There is no referent. Common sense is something you don't think about. To be an identity, there is need for the other, it is the continuous production relationship in another. This is not to say that there is no instrumentality, but in terms of the production of identity, we will always be in a constitutional relationship. The production of meaning can be linked to very concrete existential realities, but the production of a group only occurs through practices linked to a discourse. The ethical issue is that these practices do not take the form of "othering".

Dichotomies[edit | edit source]

Generally, if we move away from the ethical model, we find ourselves confronted with dichotomies. The analysis of speeches makes it possible to highlight them by showing that there is an evolution of the mode of speeches:

  • civilization/barbarbarism
  • modern/traditional
  • secular/religious
  • developed/underdeveloped
  • male/female
  • parent/child

From Foreign Policy to foreign policy[edit | edit source]

Campbell in Writing Security. United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity distinguishes between "Foreign Policy" and " foreign policy ".

"Foreign Policy" is understood as the policy of States towards other States. International relations have been produced with the idea that the nation-state is at the centre of these things. This is what Inalatuya and Neei explain, that another understanding of the international involves erasing the production of the self and the other by making it natural by simply producing an internal and an external and that foreign policy is an interface between the internal and the external. In other words, it reflects the policy of states towards other states, a privileged forum in the context of the modern nation-state of the relationship between oneself and others in the context of the "Westphalian deferral". However, from a "post" point of view, it is a forum, among others, where foreign policy is articulated.

For Campbell, "foreign policy" is "any practice of differentiation or modality of exclusion... constituting objects in "foreign" in their relationship to them.... "foreign policy"[deploys] representational practices that serve as resources for drawing interpretation modalities to deal with new examples of ambiguïté́ and contingency". If we take the origin of the term "foreign policy" it qualifies the relationship with another. It is in the analysis as a Nation-State that "Foreign Policy" has become the common sense in international relations. International relations are practices of production of otherness, they are practices of domination over others that are there to justify a certain international social and political order that is hidden behind "Foreign Policy".

foreign policy[edit | edit source]

In Writing Security. United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, Campbell says, "Our understanding of foreign policy shifts from a focus on inter-state relations taking place on either side of a-historical, fixed[limits] already provided to a focus on establishing the[limits] that constitute, in parallel and simultaneously, the'state' and the'international system'.... In other words, foreign policy is a'specific form of political performance that produces[limits]'".

What interests these perspectives is to understand how these limits are produced, how the nation-state began to occur in an economic, racial or gendered way. This leads us to know what the conditions are for the possibility or impossibility of being someone or something produced at the international level.

We move from "foreign policy" to " Foreign Policy " in one production report to another. This is the idea of inclusion and exclusion. For Campbell, "foreign policy" is the continuous policy of building a certain identity of the self that is not called into question, which can pass through a subtle dimension. The discourse produced by the dominant society has effects on subordinate populations.

Summary[edit | edit source]

We have highlighted the logic of action to the logic of representation, on the other hand, the dichotomies have a weight on the representations that one can have on the other. These dichotomies are often very strong and present. We were led to think about the "territorial trap" at delà̀ even if the referent is still the State. Most of the more relevant perspectives on globalization are perspectives where the state is reconfigured, it transforms itself in its capacities. It is a question of thinking beyond the Internet and the outside world. The production of meanings are global discourses.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

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  • Barras, A. & Guillaume X. (2013). The safety of authenticity: Ali Kebab or an exploration in the contemporaneity of foreignness and the self’s post-colonial imaginary. European Journal of Cultural Studies 16(3), pp. 310-328.
  • Belsey, C. (2002). Postructuralism. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.! Bourdieu, P. (1994). Raisons pratiques. Sur la théorie de l'action. Paris: Seuil.!
  • Campbell, D. (1993). Writing Security. United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Connolly, W. E. (1991). Identity\Difference. Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Cox, R. W. (1981). Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 10(2), 126–155.
  • Der Derian, J. (1997). Post-Theory: The Eternal Return of Ethics in International Relations. in Michael W. Doyle and G. John Ikenberry (eds.) New Thinking in International Relations Theory. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 54–76.
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  • Digeser, P. (1992). The fourth face of power. The Journal of Politics, 54(4), 977–1007.
  • Doty, R. (1993). Foreign Policy as Social Construction: a Post-Positivist Analysis of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines. International Studies Quarterly 37 (3): 297–320.
  • Howarth, D. (2000). Discourse. Buckingham: Open University Press.!
  • Inayatullah, N. et D. Blaney (2004). International Relations and the Problem of Difference. London: Routledge.
  • Mouffe, C. (2005). On the Political. London: Routledge.
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  • Wendt, A. (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wodak, R., de Cillia, R., Reisigl, M., & Liebhart, K. (2009). The discursive construction of national identity. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

References[edit | edit source]