I am grateful for Judith Kelley’s thoughtful review of my book. I appreciate her discussion of the notion that reputations can be highly contextual and still matter. She also notes the problem that arises when there is a gap between perception and self-perception. This issue is addressed in the conclusion but merits more systematic research. What happens when a state’s leadership thinks that it has created a reputation for toughness, but potential foes perceive aggression instead? I worry that such a gap in perception exacerbates crises rather than avoids them.
Kelley also identifies three important issues, all of which are useful for thinking of future research. The first concerns the reputation of leaders versus states. How are the reputations of leaders different from the more abstract reputations of states, and which is more important? If I could isolate one suggestion for future research on this dimension, it would be to step away from the question of which approach is “better” to address the more difficult puzzle: How are the two levels of analysis intertwined? For example, we tend to see our own actions and reputations as individuals, but we also tend to observe others as groups. Leaders may be preoccupied with their own reputations, but they also evaluate the reputations of friends and foes in the aggregate. How can scholars process these multiple streams of reputational information simultaneously?
Kelley also queries the importance of domestic politics, which are largely black-boxed in Of Friends and Foes. Here again I agree. For one, domestic institutions can help us understand the impact of leadership change on state reputations. A leadership change in a personalist dictatorship is more likely to impact that state’s reputation than a new leader in a democratic republic. Yet we cannot appreciate the added value of this domestic dimension without first grasping the basic interstate interaction process.
Lastly, Kelley is right to point out that I do not discriminate between victory and defeat in conflict. Clearly, one outcome is judged by history to be more incompetent than the other, but both can also signal aggression. More work is needed to identify incompetence, a quality of reputation that particularly exacerbates uncertainty. Ultimately, reputation is about information and uncertainty, and Of Friends and Foes highlights how reputation matters most when information about our partners and enemies is most elusive.
Additional extensions come to mind, such as how a reputation for competence may be more fragile than one for incompetence, how a state’s reputation vis-à-vis domestic audiences spills over into the international arena, or how the social construction of cultural similarity can change the way states process reputational information (see, for example, “The Case for Hip-Hop Diplomacy” by Mark Katz, American Music Review, 46), 2017). Like Kelley, I view these questions and extensions as evidence of the contribution that Of Friends and Foes makes. Looking broadly at the set of research produced on this topic over the last decade, I see both a renaissance and a growing opportunity for the study of reputation in world politics.