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Interests, ideas, and the study of state behaviour in neoclassical realism

Meibauer, Gustav (2020) Interests, ideas, and the study of state behaviour in neoclassical realism. Review of International Studies, 46 (1). 20 - 36. ISSN 0260-2105

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0260210519000214


Ideational variables have frequently been employed in positivist-minded and materialist analyses of state behaviour. Almost inevitably, because of these commitments, such studies run into theoretical challenges relating to the use of ideas. In this article, I suggest that integrating ideational factors in positivist and materialist approaches to state behaviour requires: (1) distinguishing conceptually between interests and ideation as well as between individual beliefs and social ideas; and (2) addressing challenges of operationalisation and measurability. To that end, I employ neoclassical realism as a case study. I argue that a re-conceptualisation of ideas as externalised individual beliefs employed in political deliberation allows neoclassical realists to focus on how ideas and ideational competition intervene in the transmission belt from materially given interests to foreign policy choice. At the same time, it more clearly operationalises ideas as identifiable in language and communication. I suggest this reconceptualisation, while consistent with realist paradigmatic assumptions, need not be limited to neoclassical realism. Instead, transposed to different paradigms, it would similarly allow positivist-minded constructivists and institutionalists to avoid a conceptually and methodologically awkward equation of different ideational factors.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 British International Studies Association
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2019 10:45
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2024 23:57

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