Document Type

Working Paper


The issue of state identity poses many problems for international relations since the end of the Cold War. Drawing support from philosophy and sociology, constructivists problematize the basic assumptions of existing international relation theory and proclaim the inter-state identity evolution. They predict that a ‘world state (beyond identity) is inevitable’. This creates a systematic theory of international politics with ideas as its characteristics, and sets a new research agenda from the social perspective. However, this article argues that the confusion between self-identity and proper identity makes constructivists fall into theoretical dilemmas. A matrix of need-power-identity is instead suggested through the comparative studies of international systems between the Chou Dynasty of ancient China and the city-state period of ancient Greece. The article challenges the two conclusions of constructivists: inter-state identity is in linear progression; beyond identity is inevitable. The article ends with the caveat that the future world will not be clear, because the states (actors) would struggle for authority. So-called ‘beyond identity’ would not be realized without common needs for the same destination


David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies

Publication Year