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Alexander Wendt’s Identities Critique


Guzzini and Leander (2006) do not agree with Wendt’s theory that under the anarchy regime, the state society is unable to cooperate into identity formations. Guzzini and Leander (2006) contradict this theory, emphasizing that a lot of other factors influence identity state formation. They also disagree with Wendt’s consideration that while forming, states are free from institutional constraints, and only in the developmental process, these constraints appear.

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Wendt does not take into consideration several modern world tendencies which can influence his theory. A big number of different identities in modern world are not considered by Wendt that may shake his theory. The other fact is the rapid growth of international cooperation. The power of different nations is different. Some nations possess a huge power and influence, the others are limited in influence, or are absolutely deprived of it. The presence of absolutely different agents in the world with lots of different ideas and directions of thought also cannot lead society to identity formations of the state.


Reading Guzzini and Leander (2006), it is possible to understand that, in spite of Wendt, Guzzini focuses his attention on cultural development, human nature characteristics, while dwelling upon identity formation. In order to fulfill the culture, the state should come through several stages, corresponding to lots of factors, and only in this case it is possible to talk about constructive identity formation. Guzzini tried to characterize Wendt’s synthesis in Social Theory of International Politics with the usage of constructivist theory of identity. Let us show all the interconnections on the figure 1.1. (Guzzini and Leander, 2006)

Copeland (2000) provides his own theory making an emphasis on the fact of different amounts of power and influence. He represents the example where one state is dependant on the other, and in this case it is impossible even to mention about the identity of states (that is Copeland’s sureness).

Some judgments, provided by more powerful state may create some negative consequences for dependant ones. In this situation dependant country cannot rely on any independent decision, and as a result, no any identity may be provided. Copeland is guarded by present state of affairs, taking into consideration the modern and real understanding of the issues. Copeland (2000) criticizes Wendt, as his theories are not provable, ha states that it is impossible to provide and understand Wendt’s theories about state identities in the society as his ideas are too identical.

Maja Zehfuss (2001) puts into critique Wendt’s theory in the question of identity state formation. The main argument which Maja Zehfuss (2001a) puts into her critical issue of Wendt’s theory is the absence in his theory the “level of domestic politics or his commitment to scientific realism” (Zehfuss 2001a). She confirms his statement about considering identity as corporate and stable, but at the same time takes notice of some defects in his theory.

To the point, her arguments are not so new, because the same theories were considered by the others theorists and investigators of Wendt’s theories. Zehfuss (2001a) inclined to think that Wendt’s theories are more based on positivism; she is sure that he should consider his theories and provide some changes according to her book, “Constructivism in International Relations: the Politics of reality”. Entering into a controversy with Wendt’s variant of conceptualization of identity, Zefuss (2001a) is guided by poststructuralist approach that no one identity can be one and the same to itself. In the case of united Germany this, according to Zefuss (2001a), is expressed first of all in simultaneous recognition and negation of Nazi past as the part of modern Germany history.

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Ruggie (1998) in his work, relying on Wendt’s theory, states that “social constructivists in international relations have not yet managed to devise a theory of constructive rules, but the phenomenon itself is of central concern of them” (p. 23). Ruggi (1998) emphasizes that the question about the primary factor in identity formation of this or that is not answered. A lot of factors, including social, may influence the identity formation of the state. These factors allowed Ruggi (1998) to verify the fact that constructivists have not formed their value theory.


Chekel (2004) is also one of the professors, who criticize Wendt’s vision of state identity. He fairly notices that shift from identity to interests and concrete political decisions are much worse studied than the very investigation of identity. Chekel (1998) is sure that “constructivists need to pay more attention to research design” (p. 339). The reason is that much attention is paid to single countries and issues, without using cross-national design. Chekel (1998) also reproaches the admirers of this theory as bad political actions are not noticed by them. While constructing their theories, only good norms are taken into consideration. Constructivists’ attention is paid to key term definitions.

Their works are fulfilled with different notions and terms but no any definition is given. Chekel (1998) in his work gives the example of word ‘institutionalization’, which is mentioned almost in every analysis. Chekel (1998) has noticed that institutionalism and constructivism, in general, similarly identify that institutions have significance in international relations, taking into consideration that they provide their influence on existing processes. Checkel is sure that Wendt’s theory of constructivist identity needs to be carefully considered as it seems to lack something (Chekel, 1998)

Macro loop of mutual constitution

Reference List

Chekel, JT 1998, The Constructivist Turn in International relations Theory, World Politics, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 324-348.

Checkel, JT 2004, Social Constructivism in Global and European Politics: A Review Essay // Review of International Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, p. 230-231.

Copeland, DC 2000, “The Constructivist Challenge to Structural Realism: A Review Essay”, International Security, Vol. 25, No. 2.

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Guzzini, S, & Leander, A 2006, Constructivism and International Relations: Wendt and his critiques, Routledge.

Ruggie, JG 1998a, Constructing the world polity: essays on international institutionalization, Routledge.

Ruggie, JG 1998b, What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge // International Organization, vol. 52, no 4.

Zehfuss, M 2001a, Constructivism in international Relations: the Politics of reality, Cambridge University Press.

Zehfuss, M 2001b, Constructivism and Identity: A Dangerous Liaison // European Journal of International Relations, vol. 7, no 3, p. 335.

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