Duque, Marina G. 2018. Recognizing International Status: A Relational Approach. International Studies Quarterly 62(3): 577–592.

How do states achieve status? Although we rely on status to explain important phenomena in international politics—such as wars and the foreign policy of emerging powers—we still do not understand what status is or where it comes from. Previous research treats status as a function of state attributes, such as wealth and military capability. Following Weber, I argue that status depends on social recognition: it concerns identification processes in which an actor gains admission into a club once they follow the rules of membership. Therefore, systematic social processes, which cannot be reduced to state attributes, influence status. In particular, status is self-reinforcing. Moreover, social closure influences status—which implies that (i) a state’s existing relations influence its ability to achieve status, and (ii) states recognize similar states rather than states with the largest portfolio of certain attributes. To investigate the determinants of international status, I move beyond ranking states based on attributes to examine quantitatively how status emerges from state relations. Leveraging inferential network analysis, I examine state practices that express recognition—specifically, the network of embassies. The analysis indicates that self-reinforcing dynamics and social closure, rather than state attributes directly, drive status recognition.

Duque, Marina Guedes. 2009. “The Copenhagen School’s Contribution to International Security Studies” [in Portuguese]. Contexto Internacional 31(3): 459-501.


Duque, Marina. 2016. “The Rascals’ Paradise: Brazilian National Identity in 2010.” In Making Identity Count: Building a National Identity Database, edited by Ted Hopf and Bentley B. Allan, 47-62. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [Book]


“The Logic of Expressive Rationality”

Why do states acquire status symbols? States adopt seemingly disparate strategies to achieve status—such as increasing their military capabilities and adopting prevailing international norms. IR scholars usually explain state behavior based on the logic of consequences or the logic of appropriateness. However, neither logic can adequately account for status-seeking behavior. On the one hand, acquiring military capabilities is often instrumentally irrational because it creates security dilemmas. On the other hand, no international norm stipulates what status a state should aspire to or the right strategy to achieve it. To explain status-seeking behavior, I turn to a third logic of action introduced by Weber: expressive rationality. Following this logic, behavior has an expressive role—it expresses an actor’s identity. Expressive rationality explains why status symbols such as democracy are diffused from high- to low-status states. High-status states act as standard setters by defining the standard of behavior for “modern” or “civilized” states. States that want to be modern or civilized follow suit, acquiring the corresponding status symbols. Unlike existing approaches, expressive rationality takes the social context into account and can accommodate different status-seeking strategies, while avoiding the liberal bias common in norm socialization studies.

“The Case for a Status Model of Recognition”

When are power transitions violent? Anarchy-based theories cannot adequately account for peaceful transitions. Theories drawing on Hegel posit that misrecognition—treatment that contradicts a state’s self-image—causes war. Following an identity model of recognition (Honneth 1996), these theories tie recognition to self-esteem. Because it takes a psychological perspective, the identity model ignores what else is at stake during power transitions: the redistribution of privileges. Moreover, it ultimately cannot explain why states are recognized or not. I propose a status model of recognition (Fraser 2000; 2001) to analyze power transitions. Drawing on Weber, the status model takes a sociological perspective to define misrecognition as a form of institutionalized social subordination. In this model, emerging powers want to be recognized as equal partners in the management of the international order. Hegemonic wars happen when the great power club denies the emerging power the status of full member, and the privileges that go with it. In contrast, peaceful transitions occur when the great power club deems the emerging power to conform to the rules of membership, and therefore recognizes it as an equal. To understand power transitions, IR scholars need to consider the distributions of both identities and privileges among states.