Wendtian cultures of anarchy and the study of strategic cultural

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 84-90)

First of all, the notion that international relations and world politics are gov- erned by anarchy (the absence of centralized authority) is one of the core as- sumptions and claims of rationalist theories (realism/liberalism) in the field of IR. What scholars like Wendt sought to accomplish by reintroducing a constructivist account of anarchy to systemic theorizing was not only the fa- mous notion that ‘anarchy is what states make of it’ but rather that the spe- cific distribution of ideas in the system can lead to different kinds of anar- chies governed by different logics, or in Wendt’s words, cultures of anarchy and that therefore, as Wendt argued, “we would do better to focus first on states’ ideas and interests they constitute, and only then worry about who has how many guns”.190

Theoretically, Wendt’s approach differed from the top-down approach of realism (logic of international politics on system level is singular and does not depend to any degree of the units that constitute the system) and from the bottom-up approach of liberalism (logic of international politics depends

189 See Dyson, Tom 2007, The Politics of German Defence and Security, Berghahn 2007. 190 Wendt 1999, p. 256.

entirely on actors on the unit level) in that it embraced the idea that anarchic structures construct their elements but that these structures vary at the mac- ro-level and may therefore possess multiple logics. The point Wendt was try- ing to get across was that in international politics, ‘structure’ should be un- derstood first and foremost in its social dimension (even though Wendt by no means argued that all structures are social) because ‘social’ implies that ac- tors take each other’s behaviour into account in choosing their actions.191

Before considering Wendt and cultures of anarchy, it needs to be pointed out that the purpose of this section is not to elaborate in detail on whether and to what degree these cultures of anarchy actually manifest themselves empiri- cally in international politics, but rather what the different logics of anarchy imply in terms of strategic culture and its change. In the following, I will dis- cuss Wendt’s account of anarchy in a condensed form, because the purpose is not to discuss the merits and demerits of his whole theory but rather to pin- point some interesting aspects of it by linking it to our discussion on strategic cultural change.

Wendt distinguishes between three logics that are characteristic of three ‘cultures of anarchy’. These logics are epitomized in the specific ‘role’ struc- tures that underpin each of these logics. Importantly, as Wendt points out, ‘roles’ should not be understood as properties or qualities of actors but rather of structures (roles can then be filled by different actors).192 These logics are

Hobbesian logic of enmity, Lockean logic of rivalry and Kantian logic of friendship, resulting in respective ‘cultures of anarchy’ the stability of which depends on the degree of internalization of the normative structure by the units (states) that operate within these cultures.193 Wendt further argues that

there are three degrees of internalization: coercion, self-interest and altru- ism, which basically translate into (de)stability arguments regarding the structure of the system because the level of internalization defines the ‘ac- ceptance’ level of the shared norms and ideas within the system. These levels of internalization can also be seen as the minimal sustain-requirements for each of these cultures, respectively (coercion in Hobbesian, self-interest in Lockean and altruism in Kantian) because they form the primary logics of interaction within these cultures.

Hence, it seems that for the given logic of anarchy to function as intended by the role structure, there has to be a critical mass of units (states) willing to support this logic and hence fill the role of enemy, rival or friend depending on the prevailing logic (coercion, self-interest or altruism) at any given time, otherwise these systems may become unstable. Theoretically, a ‘critical’ mass of units in this regard might consist of just two units if they agree to the same

191 Ibid., pp. 247-249. 192 Ibid., p. 25 193 Ibid., pp. 266-268.

logic as is indicated by Wendt’s discussion on ‘Ego’ and ‘Alter’194. Moreover,

this is also echoed in Wendt’s example that if two states agree to the princi- ples of a Kantian culture while the rest do not, the prevalent logic in the sys- tem won’t change unless those two particular states are in a dominant posi- tion in the system and hence the others are likely to follow suit, which, in turn, would in principle suggest that the most powerful state in the system could ultimately make others internalize its culture. However, Wendt would argue that what counts as power would depend on the definitions of the situ- ation.195 Indeed, dominance as such need not be based on physical coercion

or raw military force (or the threat of it).

Wendt further specifies four ‘master variables’ that can bring about struc- tural change, i.e. change in the structure of anarchy, which for Wendt is a collective identity.196 These are independence, homogeneity, common fate

and self-restraint. For Wendt, actors are independent when the outcome of interaction between them depends on the choices that those actors make. Moreover, interdependence does not occur only in co-operative relations but also in hostile as well as more benevolent relations.197 In turn, actors face a

common fate when their own survival depends on that of the group but it differs from interdependence in that common fate does not necessarily imply any kind of interaction between actors because common fate is brought upon them by a third party.198 Homogeneity refers to actors being alike in either

their corporate identities (the degree to which actors are isomorphic in terms of their functions, institutional forms, causal powers etc.) and in their type identity (organization of political authority).199

According to Wendt, the first three are ‘effective causes’ whereas self- restraint is an ‘enabling cause’. He posits that interdependence, homogeneity and common-fate by themselves are insufficient to explain structural change and that only when they occur under the condition of self-restraining units can they bring about change, even though the likelihood of change increases if there is more than one effective cause at work simultaneously. Self- restraint is a necessary enabling factor because it alone ensures that there is a sufficient degree of trust among actors which means that they trust each oth- er to act similarly when they interact. In short, Wendt’s hypothesis regarding

194 In terms of identity formation, Wendt assumes two actors, ‘Ego’ and ‘Alter’, who meet in a First

Encounter, a world without shared ideas, which by assumption bring with them to their Encounter preconceived ideas about who they are that assign tentative roles and form the starting point for their interaction. For more on ‘Ego’ and ‘Alter’, see ibid., p. 328.

195 Ibid, p. 331.

196 Wendt argues that collective identity formation follows µcultural selection¶ instead of µnatural selec-

tion¶. Cultural selection consists of imitation and social learning. For more on cultural selection, see ibid., pp. 324-336.

197 Ibid., pp. 344-345. 198 Ibid., pp. 349-350. 199 Ibid., pp. 354-355.

structural change is that when interdependence, common fate or homogenei- ty is on the increase, change is more likely to happen (under the condition of self-restraint). However, Wendt does not discuss the reverted hypothesis of what is likely to occur when these factors are on the decrease, or when inter- dependence turns into dependence etc. Wendt does not give an answer to the question of cultural regress, because according to him, history has shown that cultures tend to progress due to increasing interaction between units in the system.

Indeed, if these factors are supposed to bring about a collective identity i.e. form a structure of anarchy, it would seem logical to assume that their continued absence would not necessarily ensure the status quo of any given system of anarchy but would invert the process (and bring about change all the same). Wendt argues that it is unlikely for “cultural time to move back- ward unless there is a big exogenous shock”.200 It is important to point out,

however, that Wendt’s hypothesis was based on the notion that while states formed a Lockean system in the seventeenth century based on sovereignty, states were undergoing another structural change from a Lockean culture to a Kantian culture of collective security in the late twentieth century.201 Hence,

Wendt’s hypothesis regarding these variables needs to be understood in this context.

However, Wendt also then somewhat confusingly argues that there is nothing in his theory that would necessarily point to the inevitability of cul- tural progression: “there is no historical necessity, no guarantee, that the in- centives for progressive change will overcome human weaknesses and the countervailing incentives to maintain the status quo.”202 Technically, this

may be so but then again the point of Wendt’s model is to argue in terms of collective identity formation which in itself cannot occur without some de- gree of ‘cultural progression’ since, and as Wendt posits, “(i)t is possible for a Hobbesian anarchy to have no culture at all”.203 However, this confusion is

cleared to a degree if we think in empirical terms how difficult it is for a Kantian culture to sustain itself in the contemporary international politics on the system level.

Table 3 illustrates the differences that these logics of anarchy imply for the conduct of international relations in in a summarized format. In terms of Wendt’s model, we can formulate a couple of hypotheses regarding the link between cultures of anarchy and the strategic cultures of the units. First, Wendt’s model would seem to suggest that strategic cultures change ‘with the system’, i.e. the continuity of their cultural patterns (ideas, practices) would

200 Ibid., p. 312.

201 Ibid., p. 314. However, Wendt also argues that there is nothing in his theory that would necessarily

point to the inevitability of cultural progression (except historical evidence, it seems) and that and that the possibility of structural change depends on the malleability of social facts, see ibid., pp. 314-15.

202 Ibid., p. 311. 203 Ibid., p. 266.

depend on the stability of the overall system (i.e. the degree to which the pre- vailing norms have been internalized by the units as a whole) and on the de- gree to which a state’s strategic culture has internalized the prevailing logic of anarchy, i.e. the collective culture on the system level.

Second, however, Wendt’s model also at least implicitly suggests that this would ultimately depend on the specific logics of anarchy because in Hobbes- ian anarchy, a state would have to adapt to the condition bellum omnium contra omnes or accept its own demise, whereas in the Lockean and Kantian systems it would be presented with a logic that would either require self- interested behaviour (with the possibility of periodic violence) or with a logic that would require the acceptance of total self-restraint.

Table 3. Three cultures of anarchy

Cultures of Anarchy Relations between

units The use of violence

Level of norms internationalization

Hobbesian culture

logic of enmity hostile relations between

mutually perceived enemies states deny each other the

right of existence

violence, war and the use of force is the ‘modus

operandi’ of the Hobbesian self-help


as enemies, units are ultimately coerced to this logic and if they are weak

they cease to exist units have no self-control

or self-restraint

Lockean culture

logic of rivalry competition between mutually perceived rivals states’ right of existence is

accepted because it is based on sovereignty

wars and violence are not the norm but they may

occur periodically disputes between units

may be settled by war instead of negotiation

as rivals, self-interested units act in an international society that adheres to the principle of

sovereignty units balance between external constraints and

self-restraint Kantian Culture logic of friendship benevolent relations between mutually perceived friends states’ right of existence is

accepted and two rules adhered to: rule of non-violence and rule of

mutual aid

interstate wars and violence are prohibited in

the international law the use of military force is an aberration of the norm of peaceful co-existence

as friends, units identify with each other – units form a collective identity

that can be expressed in the distribution of cosmopolitan ideas on a

global scale units have full self-control

and accept external constraints as legitimate the Self in effect becomes

Hence, it would seem that systemic, external pressure would ultimately de- cide the terms on which strategic cultures are able to evolve (or regress, for that matter) even in a Kantian system. Indeed, as Wendt points out, in a Kantian system norm-breakers are quickly brought into line (ultimately by coercion if need be) if their behaviour threatens the identity of the shared security community, given the principle of mutual-aid.204

Thirdly, we could also posit that change at the level of national strategic culture depends on the degree to which Wendt’s master variables are at work in the strategic practices of the state, because if we follow Wendt’s logic, that would imply the degree to which the state itself is willing to change and fol- low certain logic of interaction.

Hence, in terms of German strategic culture we could formulate the fol- lowing hypotheses based on Wendt’s model (under the assumptions regard- ing the nascent Kantian culture):

1) Change in German strategic culture is dependent on the changes of collective identity formation at the system level, which, in turn, is de- pendent on the degree of interdependence, common fate and homo- geneity of Germany with other units in a system in which states have agreed on the principle of self-restraint.

2) Change in German strategic culture is ultimately conditioned by ex- ternal constraints and pressure (i.e. the prevailing logic of anarchy). Hence, on one hand, these hypotheses would seem to fit as basic condi- tions (or rather claims regarding the basic conditions) for the functionality of the analytical framework of strategic cultural change, which I presented in Chapter 2.3, but, on the other hand, they would ultimately suggest a different kind of logic of change that highlight the explanatory power of macro-level phenomena. My argument is that these hypotheses alone cannot explain change in German strategic culture because they take the internal dynamics of unit level cultures other than identity formation largely as given. Moreo- ver, Wendt’s model ultimately indicates that identities are essentially social and political entities that can be negotiated between states, which is a point of criticism that could be made. Taken as a whole, however, Wendt’s model can serve as either a contrasting or a complementary argument to the claims made in Chapter 2.3, because Wendt’s model seems ultimately compatible with the one I presented. Indeed, another way to treat the unit-system level interaction is to argue that they focus on different parts of the same causal process in explaining change. I will return to discuss these contrasts at the end of Chapters 3 and 4.

In document From Guilt to Responsibility and Beyond? : Change in German Strategic Culture after the End of the Cold War (Page 84-90)