Foreign Policy Analysis: Conceptualizing Temporality and Otherness in the Role Theory

  • Vít Beneš
Keywords: role theory, symbolic interactionism, poststructuralism, national role, foreign policy analysis, theory of time, othering


Role theory, which is based on the symbolic interactionism of George H. Mead, is increasingly used in foreign policy analysis. The goal of this paper is twofold. Firstly, the text expands the conceptual framework of role theory by incorporating the arguments of Mead’s theory of time. We argue that national roles have not only the relational dimension (the constitution of roles vis-a-vis others), but also the temporal dimension. Based on the theory of time, we conceptualize this temporal dimension by introducing the concepts of historical self and historical other. Secondly, the article attempts to incorporate in role theory the arguments of poststructuralism concerning the meaning of otherness and the defining of one another for the formation of identity. In this view, the symbolic-interactionist process of “taking the role of the other” and poststructuralist “negative othering” can be perceived as two extremes on the continuum of modalities of the constitutive relationship between self and the other.

Author Biography

Vít Beneš

is a lecturer at the Department of International Relations and European Studies, Metropolitan University Prague. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Economics, Prague and for several years he worked as a researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. He has been teaching courses on international relations theory, European integration and research methodology. His research interests focus on the political and institutional aspects of the European integration, EU institutional reform and EU enlargement. He is also studying Czech foreign policy, and Czech policy towards the EU. He is the author of numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals (Journal of Common Market Studies; Cooperation and Conflict, and others) and chapters in monographs on the topics of research methodology, theory of international relations, EU enlargement and the European dimension of Czech foreign policy.

Research Articles