Identities and Expectations: On the Maintenance of Security Communities (Dissertation)

Why do longstanding allies worry about each other’s reliability? This is puzzling specifically in the case of those allied relationships that are better understood as a relatively thick social order that is constituted through dependable expectations of resolving disputes peacefully.

We might expect that states in such a security community relationship need not be concerned about each other’s reliability: They are, after all, credibly committed to each other as reliable allies. They are bound by common interests and values, by trust and a collective identity as well as institutions (such as NATO as the institutional core of the transatlantic security community, e.g.). Empirically, however, we see a persistent concern even in these cases. Why is that? According to existing theoretical arguments, concerns about reliability should decline the more dependable expectations become.

I argue that reliability judgments are based on two sets of expectations – predictive and prescriptive. The way that allies relate to one another (and to third parties) – i.e. the normative understanding or social structure of the relationship – is embedded in prescriptive expectations and generally reaffirmed habitually or through practices. Reliability concerns are generated as a byproduct of changing expectations that call the understanding of the relationship into question. My argument thus highlights the importance of the continuous alignment of intersubjective expectations for the maintenance of security communities.

Theoretically, I argue that changing expectations create problems for the maintenance of security communities when they impinge upon the sense of self, or ontological security, of member states. It is in these cases when changing expectations give rise to a struggle for recognition. Empirically, I trace successes and failures of the alignment of expectations in the German-American relationship since 1945.

Varieties of IR: Assessing the Ontological Furniture of a Not So International Discipline (with Teresa Kramarz)

In 1998, Ole Waever maintained that within the discipline of International Relations (IR) we could observe national specializations along meta-theoretical and methodological lines, and he forecast a development from the global hegemony of American IR to “national professionalization.”

We revisit these claims and complement his study by pointing to national specializations along ontological lines. Based on a database of publication patterns in leading IR journals over the last 25 years, we present an empirical picture that suggests that European versus US scholars focus, among other things, on divergent actors, geographic scales, and topics of study. We see variation in the “ontological furniture of IR” (Colin Wight) that is taken to be self-evident in different contexts and scholarly communities.

We evaluate different possible explanations for this observation and suggest that academics’ domestic experience (with state-society relations, institutions, and traditions, for example) socializes them into particular understandings of politics. Our focus on the variation within the discipline not only with regard to how but also what we study aims to fill one of the many remaining blind spots amidst the increasing disciplinary self-reflection in recent years.