The Struggle for Recognition in International Relations
Status, Revisionism, and Rising Powers
Oxford University Press 2020
Is a rising power – like China – a threat to the world order? The conventional wisdom in international relations says that power transitions – particularly increases in military power – are intrinsically destabilizing to the international order. In her new book The Struggle for Recognition in International Relations: Status, Revisionism, and Rising Powers (Oxford UP, 2020), Michelle Murray counters that political actors and scholars of politics should focus on how the actions of rising powers are interpreted or perceived by other nations. Murray encourages us to see power transitions as struggles for recognition: social constructs aimed at forming identities. Social uncertainty shapes the struggle for recognition – especially misrecognition by other nations.
Murray contrasts two case studies – Germany’s naval build-up before WWI and the United States’s expansion of power after the Spanish-American War of 1898 – to argue that military capabilities do not adequately account for why Germany was viewed as a threat by European powers but the United States was welcomed by Great Britain as a friendly power. Murray looks at the ways in which establishing and maintaining identity is uncertain because these identities are unpredictably perceived (or mis-perceived) by other powers. Her research explores the many ways in which states navigate identity formation under conditions of anarchy. The podcast includes interesting reflections on how China’s identity – as an ally or threat – might be shaped in the future.
Susan Liebellis associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).