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American Identity and Neutral Rights from Independence to the War of 1812

Mlada Bukovansky
International Organization
Vol. 51, No. 2 (Spring, 1997), pp. 209-243
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2703449
Page Count: 35
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American Identity and Neutral Rights from Independence to the War of 1812
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Abstract

Constructivists have argued that interest-based explanations cannot fully account for important international phenomena and that analysis of the social construction of state identity may explain the genesis of state interests. This argument can be applied to the early development of neutral rights policy in the United States, when a weak and divided state clung to a policy that was opposed and consistently challenged by far stronger powers. My explanation poses a principled conception of identity: if leaders adopt a principle that constitutes a specific international role for the state and commands domestic legitimacy, then diverse interests will converge on that principle, generating foreign policy continuity. While neorealist and liberal institutionalist theories each provide fragments of an explanation, a constructivist hypothesis comprehensively explains the relative continuity of the policy over time.

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