This research project assembles a constructivist, intersubjective database of national identities that will become a key source for International Relations scholars who wish to include constructivist arguments in their scholarship. This stage of the project covers ten great powers from 1950, but the project’s ultimate aim is a constructivist database of all great power identities from 1810 to the present.
IR scholars have now come to recognize that behaviour in the international system is not driven solely by the “distribution of power,” but also depends on the “distribution of identities.”
Despite this major theoretical advance, many scholars carry on as if social and relational phenomena do not matter. This is a serious problem in the literature since it ignores a leading theoretical approach, and maintains systematic omitted variable bias in much of IR scholarship. This bias adversely impacts how the policy community conceptualizes and analyzes anything from enduring interstate conflict to stable interstate peace to international institutional cooperation (or the lack thereof) on security and non-security issues.
National identity should be included as an alternative explanation in many areas of world politics because constructivist IR theory has already demonstrated its basic empirical validity in a wide variety of domains. A database of great power national identities would strengthen this scholarship in two interrelated ways: first, it would allow scholars of any stripe to test whether identity relations are a better predictor of outcomes than the objectivist variables on offer. Second, in comparison to the existing survey research-based proxies, this inductively recovered and appropriately coded database has a real potential to be used as the unique basis for high-validity quantitative operationalizations of national identity.
This is all the more important considering that too many IR scholars are quick to exclude intersubjective variables—and therefore constructivist hypotheses—on the grounds of issues of transparency, replicability, and accessibility. This project sets out to rectify this infelicitous practice, and thus encourage problem-driven research in IR.
Discourse analysis offers an intersubjective method for recovering national identity that can be made systematic and reliable enough to produce a body of comparable reports across time for the same country, and across countries, as well.