Recognizing International Status: A Relational Approach

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 - 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
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How do states achieve status? Although we rely on status to explain important phenomena in international politics—such as wars and the foreign policy of emerging powers—we still do not understand what status is or where it comes from. Previous research treats status as a function of state attributes, such as wealth and military capability. Following Weber, I argue that status depends on social recognition: it concerns identification processes in which an actor gains admission into a club once they follow the rules of membership. Therefore, systematic social processes, which cannot be reduced to state attributes, influence status. In particular, status is self-reinforcing. Moreover, social closure influences status—which implies that (i) a state’s existing relations influence its ability to achieve status, and (ii) states recognize similar states rather than states with the largest portfolio of certain attributes. To investigate the determinants of international status, I move beyond ranking states based on attributes to examine quantitatively how status emerges from state relations. Leveraging inferential network analysis, I examine state practices that express recognition—specifically, the network of embassies. The analysis indicates that self-reinforcing dynamics and social closure, rather than state attributes directly, drive status recognition.