In This Review

Social Construction of International Politics: Identities and Foreign Policies, Moscow, 1955 and 1999
Social Construction of International Politics: Identities and Foreign Policies, Moscow, 1955 and 1999
By Ted Hopf
Cornell University Press, 2002, 299 pp
Purchase

Identity, the author believes, is crucial in shaping one's understanding of states as adversaries, allies, or something in between. Identity's content, however, can be conjured not by drawing on a priori categories but only by uncovering society's discourses, and these emerge not only from speeches, texts, essays, and editorials, but even from pulp fiction. Hopf shows how this approach works for two very different years of Soviet and Russian foreign policy -- 1955 and 1999 -- by arduously parsing an immense range of sources, including archival material. He then carefully assembles the clusters of perspectives that constitute the varied lens through which the other side is viewed. Conceptually, this book is more dense and intricate than it needs to be. But because it challenges so much of the political science canon -- rational choice assumptions, realist theory, standard definitions of national identity, even the constructivist school of thought where Hopf situates himself -- it is worth the reader's investment.