Causes of War
The Struggle for Recognition
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Theories on the origins of war are often based on the premise that the rational actor is in pursuit of material satisfaction, such as the quest for power or for wealth. These perspectives disregard the need for homo symbolicus – the preservation of a positive self-image for both emotional and instrumental reasons.
A good reputation ensures authority and material resources. Non-recognition can be as much as an explanation of war as that of other explicative 'variables'.
Two empirical studies examining the role of non-recognition in great power conflicts and in international crises will demonstrate the value of this symbolic approach.
'Thomas Lindemann's book explores a central characteristic of contemporary warfare that military strategists and geopoliticians try to minimise because it does not fit with their premises: struggles for recognition may be more important than terrestrial conquest and losing the war, if winning recognition and respect is central in many combats. In a very detailed and subtle analysis, the author succeeds brilliantly in convincing his readers that any scholar interested in war studies needs to recognise the role of the struggle for recognition as well as understanding the meaning of symbolic power.'
Didier Bigo, Professor of War Studies, King's College London, and Sciences Po Paris
'Lindemann demonstrates persuasively that the drive for self-esteem is a principal cause of international conflict and war and is not infrequently pursued at the expense of security and material interests. Recognition, other forms of inclusion and positive valuation, can accordingly function as a powerful tool of conflict prevention and management. Theoretically and empirically rich, this book has something important to say to academics and policy makers.'
Richard Ned Lebow, James O Freedman Presidential Professor of Government, Centennial Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science
'An excellent book on the neglected topic of recognition in international relations. This solid and historically rich analysis of international violence from an identity-based perspective synthesises work from political science, sociology, and philosophy in French, German, and English in a novel perspective.'
Pierre Allan, Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences, University of Geneva
'Wilhelmian Germany yearned for recognition as a Great Power. The Soviet Union sought political recognition by the United States. China aspires to global recognition. Placed in the context of history, symbolic recognition takes on full meaning at the peace treaties following major war. This excellent book explains how the problems of recognition impact world politics, and why.'
Charles Doran, Andrew W Mellon Professor of International Relations, Johns Hopkins University (SAIS)