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The Social Construction of Russia's Resurgence

, 336 pages

3 line drawings

April 2009



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The Social Construction of Russia's Resurgence

Aspirations, Identity, and Security Interests

Shortlisted, 2010 Jospeh Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies, Association for the Study of Nationalities. Democratization

Once again, it appears that Russia is marching to the forefront of the international stage. Anne L. Clunan's analysis of Russia's resurgence convincingly argues that traditional security concerns, historical aspirations, and human agency are coalescing around a new national identity and reconfigured national interests in the post-Soviet nation. Her work moves beyond balance-of-power and realist politics to posit a new, interdisciplinary theory: aspirational constructivism.

This groundbreaking theory draws on international relations research and social psychology. Clunan argues that the need for collective self-esteem creates aspirations—often based in a nation's past—that directly shape its national and security interests. In applying this theory to Russia, she points to the nation's continuing efforts to exert influence over former Soviet satellite states and relates the desire for international status found in five broad Russian national self-images—Western, statist, Slavophile, neocommunist, and nationalist—to Russia's definition of its security interests with respect to Europe, Eurasia, and nuclear weapons.

Clunan's examination of how sociology, social psychology, and traditional international politics affect post-Soviet Russian identity and security concerns is truly cross-disciplinary. A concluding chapter discusses the policy implications of aspirational constructivism for Russia and other nations and a methodological appendix lays out a framework for testing the theory.

Anne L. Clunan is an associate professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. She is the coeditor of several books, including Terrorism, War, or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons and Ungoverned Spaces: Alternatives to State Authority in an Era of Softened Sovereignty.

"Anne Clunan's insightful and careful analysis of the interplay among five alternate Russian national self-images—Western, statist, Slavophile, neo-communist, and nationalist—is likely to be the book's most influential and enduring contribution... this very good book deserves praise and a wide audience both inside and outside the academy."

"The author explains lucidly and with originality how... elites determine what will be the 'platform' of the Russian identity."

"Clunan does something unusual in this book: she both intervenes in an academic debate over international relations theory and produces fresh insight into the wellsprings of contemporary Russian foreign policy... In the process, she provides an unusually nuanced view of what Russia's current national identity is all about."

"The author is to be congratulated for a stimulating, well-researched and well-written study."

"[Clunan's] model, based on aspirational constructivism, provides a compelling view of the process by which political elites forge national identity on the basis of a country's understanding ofits past."

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