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Respect and disrespect in international politics: the significance of status recognition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2011

Reinhard Wolf*
Department of Political Science, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany


In our daily lives few things are as important to us as being treated with respect. Yet in International Relations (IR), we regularly assume that actors follow just their material interests or the social norms appropriate for their identity, without caring if the treatment they get matches their own sense of importance and worth. Drawing mostly on insights from moral philosophy and social psychology this article argues that even in international relations social respect can be a significant goal, both for instrumental reasons and as an end in itself. In fact, as long as we ignore this dimension of international politics we will be unable to fully explain major features, specifically the intensity and duration of many cross-border conflicts. To show the perspectives which systematic research on respect may open for IR, this article presents a theoretical overview of the chief factors that shape the reactions to respectful or disrespectful behavior.

Original Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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