Clunan does something unusual in this book: she both intervenes in an academic debate over international relations theory and produces fresh insight into the wellsprings of contemporary Russian foreign policy. In the constructivist-realist debate, she favors the constructivists, largely because she is more interested in how a national identity comes to be than how a state -- in this case, Russia -- acts once in place. Borrowing from social psychology, Clunan fashions a subtle but lucid framework for tracing how different schools of thought develop their aspirations for the country and how a single one emerges ascendant. She identifies five current national "self-images" and systematically explains why Vladimir Putin's "statist developmentalism" has triumphed. In the process, she provides an unusually nuanced view of what Russia's current national identity is all about.
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