A Hegelian Realist Constructivist Account of War, Identity, and State Formation

Journal of International Relations and Development

Author/s (editor/s):

Joseph MacKay, Jamie Levin

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Joseph MacKay and Jamie Levin, ‘A Hegelian Realist Constructivist Account of War, Identity, and State Formation’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 2015.

This article offers a realist constructivist account of armed conflict, based on the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel has received relatively little attention in mainstream IR theory. When he has been read, four readings have predominated: realist, liberal, critical, and normative. Instead, we link his thought to both realism and constructivism. For Hegel, a persistent struggle for recognition and identity between individuals and groups drives much of human interaction. In his account of the causes of war in Philosophy of Right, Hegel relates international violence not only to realist international-structural pressures, but also to nationalism, and to the internal socioeconomic imperfections of the modern state. The result is broadly realist constructivist, linking a major international phenomenon — armed conflict — to interactions between power and ideas. Previous readings of Hegel in IR have deemphasised some or all of these features. Recovering them furnishes realist constructivism with theoretical tools for explaining the processes linking ideas and power politics — tools it has lacked thus far — in the context of a substantive phenomenon: armed conflict.

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