State socialization and structural realism

Cameron G. Thies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


One of the common criticisms of Kenneth Waltz's Theory of International Politics is that its structural model is rather spare. This paper enriches neorealism by specifying the conditioning effects of competition and socialization operating on behalf of the international structure. Despite its neglected status in neorealist theory, I argue that socialization produces important effects on interstate interaction. I develop a model of the socialization process that uses role theory to demonstrate how interstate interaction is structured at the micro-level. Consistent with neorealism, the model assumes that socialization is heavily conditioned by material capabilities, and operates mainly on the adjustment of state behavior. I analyze several episodes of U.S. history to demonstrate that neorealism can explain how unit-level behavior is structured through socialization. The resulting elaboration of neorealism offers a more fully specified structural theory of international politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-717
Number of pages29
JournalSecurity Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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