The State‐as­‐Person in International Relations Theory

  • Katharina E Hone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Having identified a prevalence of the discipline to treat the state as a person, the thesis critically engages with the idea of psychological state personhood in IR, prominently put forward by Alexander Wendt. As a result, an alternative conception in the form of the constructed state‐as‐person is suggested which argues that the state‐as-‐person is best understood as a metaphor and utilises constructionist psychology to point out that self and emotions are best located at the discursive level. In contrast to Wendt, who insists on the reality of the state‐as‐person, this thesis argues that the state is a real social structure which is made intelligible through the idea of state personhood. Agency firmly rests with individual human beings, acting alone or in groups. Concepts such as the state‐as‐person become relevant when they engage in the production and reproduction of the social structure. Wendt’s position on the role of metaphors and his conception of psychological personhood are areas in which this thesis suggests an alternative perspective. It is argued that metaphors are more than figures of speech and need to be taken seriously as theory-­‐constitutive elements in IR scholarship.

Constructionist psychology is utilised to present an alternative vision of how people make sense of themselves and how self and emotions are created discursively.

In this regard this thesis aligns itself with the “emotional turn” in the discipline to argue against the dichotomous treatment of rationality and emotions and to suggest that emotions should be treated as forms of knowledge. With the constructed state-­‐as-­‐person, this thesis presents an account of the state that allows for theorising about self and emotions of states. With regard to systemic interactions, this thesis points to the importance of culturally specific concepts of self and emotions and, ultimately, suggests that anarchy is what we make of it.
Date of Award14 Jul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorToni Ann Erskine (Supervisor) & Andrew Linklater (Supervisor)

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