One state-one nation: the naturalisation of nation–state congruency in IR theory

  • Moran M Mandelbaum


This paper suggests that the notion of nation–state congruency has become a ‘leitmotif’ in International Relations (IR) theory, especially since the end of the Cold War. Congruent states are often constructed as the precursor of liberal democracy, peace, and modernity, while security in particular is discursively intertwined with nation–state congruency. This paper asks: how has this congruency discourse become so embedded in IR theory and, consequently, what can we learn about the nexus between IR and the states/international system? These questions are of a ‘how-possible’ and critical nature that engage with the power dynamics and thus the effects that emerge from this ‘congruency bias’. To answer these, I deploy the ‘discursive practices approach’ and show the various practices/strategies through which congruency is constituted and established, naturalised and legitimated. Finally, I conclude by proposing to inquire genealogically into the conditions of emergence of nation–state congruency in IR and modernity.


discursive practices approach genealogy IR theory nation–state nationalism 


  1. Abizadeh, Arash (2004) ‘Liberal Nationalist versus Postnational Social Integration: On the Nation's Ethno-Cultural Particularity and “Concreteness”’, Nations and Nationalism 10 (3): 231–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abrahamsen, Rita (2005) ‘Blair's Africa: The Politics of Securitization and Fear’, Alternatives 30 (1): 55–80.Google Scholar
  3. Agnew, John A. (1994) ‘The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory’, Review of International Political Economy 1 (1): 53–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alesina, Alberto and Enrico Spolaore (2003) The Size of Nations, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Alesina, Alberto, William Easterly and Matuszeski Janina (2006) ‘Artificial States’, NBER Working Paper 12328.Google Scholar
  6. Andersen, N.A. (2003) Discursive Analytical Strategies: Understanding Foucault, Koselleck, Laclau, Luhmann, Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  7. Anderson, Benedict (1991) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Ashley, Richard K. (1987) ‘The Geopolitics of Geopolitical Space: Toward a Critical Social Theory of International Politics’, Alternatives 12 (4): 403–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ayoob, Mohammed (1995) The Security Predicament: State Making, Regional Conflict and the International System, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Bartelson, Jens (1995) A Genealogy of Sovereignty, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartelson, Jens (1998) ‘Second Natures: Is the State Identical with Itself?’ European Journal of International Relations 4 (3): 295–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bartelson, Jens (2001) The Critique of the State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Berlin, Isaiah (1998) ‘Nationalism: Part Neglect, Present Power’, in Henry Hardy and Roger Hausheer, eds, The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays, 581–604, London: Pimlico.Google Scholar
  14. Booth, Ken (1991) ‘Security in Anarchy: Utopian Realism in Theory and Practice’, International Affairs 67 (3): 527–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, Michael E., ed. (1993) Ethnic Conflict and International Security, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Brown, Michael E., ed. (1996) The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Brubaker, Rogers (1992) Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Buzan, Barry (1991) People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd edn., Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  19. Buzan, Barry and Ole Wæver (2003) Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Byman, Daniel (2002) Keeping the Peace: Lasting Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Byman, Daniel (2003) ‘Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities’, International Security 28 (1): 47–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Byman, Daniel and Kenneth M. Pollack (2006) Things Fall Apart, Washington: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  23. Call, Charles T. (2008) ‘The Fallacy of the “Failed State”’, Third World Quarterly 29 (8): 1491–1507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Campbell, David (1992) Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, Minnesota: Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  25. Chandler, David (2007) ‘The Security–Development Nexus and the Rise of “Anti-Foreign Policy”’, Journal of International Relations and Development 10 (4): 362–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Chazan, Naomi, ed. (1991) Irredentism and International Politics, Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  27. Cooper, Robert (2003) The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.Google Scholar
  28. Deudney, Daniel (1996) ‘Binding Sovereigns: Authorities, Structures, and Geopolitics in Philadelphian Systems’, in TJ Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds, State Sovereignty as Social Construct, 190–239, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dobbins, James, John G. McGinn, Keith Crane, Seth G. Jones, Rollie Lal, Andrew Rathmell, Rachel Swanger and Anga Timilsina (2003) America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  30. Dobbins, James, Seth G. Jones, Keith Crane and Beth Cole DeGrasse (2007) The Beginner's Guide to Nation-Building, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  31. Doty, Roxanne L. (1993) ‘Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-Positivist Analysis of US Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines’, International Studies Quarterly 37 (3): 297–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Doty, Roxanne L. (1996) ‘Sovereignty and the Nation: Constructing the Boundaries of National Identity’, in TJ Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds, State Sovereignty as Social Construct, 121–47, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Downes, Alexander B. (2001) ‘The Holy Land Divided: Defending Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Wars’, Security Studies 10 (4): 58–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Downes, Alexander B. (2004) ‘The Problem with Negotiated Settlements to Ethnic Civil Wars’, Security Studies 13 (4): 230–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Downes, Alexander B. (2006) ‘More Borders, Less Conflict?’ SAIS Review 26 (1): 49–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Duffield, Mark (2001) Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security, London: Zed.Google Scholar
  37. Duffield, Mark (2003) ‘Social Reconstruction and the Radicalisation of Development: Aid as a Relation of Global Liberal Governance’, in Jennifer Milliken, ed., State Failure, Collapse and Reconstruction, 291–312, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  38. Esman, Milton J. (2004) An Introduction to Ethnic Conflict, Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  39. Evans, Peter B., Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol, eds (1985) Bringing the State Back In, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fearon, James D. (2004) ‘Separatist Wars, Partition and World Order’, Security Studies 13 (4): 394–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Fenton, Steve (2004) ‘Beyond Ethnicity: The Global Comparative Analysis of Ethnic Conflict’, International Journal of Comparative Sociology 45 (3–4): 179–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Foreign Policy (2010) ‘The Failed States Index’, (accessed 13 July, 2012).
  43. Foucault, Michel (1986) The Archaeology of Knowledge, London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  44. Foucault, Michel (2004) Society Must be Defended, London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  45. Foucault, Michel (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  46. Foucault, Michel (2009) Security, Territory, Population, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  47. Gellner, Ernest (2006) Nations and Nationalism, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Goldstone, Jack A., Ted Robert Gurr, Barbara Harff, Marc A. Levy, Monty G. Marshall, Robert H. Bates, David L. Epstein, Colin H. Kahl, Pamela T. Surko, John C. Ulfelder Jr. and Alan N. Unger (2000) ‘State Failure Task Force Report: Phase III Findings’, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), (accessed 13 July, 2012).Google Scholar
  49. Gottlieb, Gidon (1993) Nation Against State, New York: Council on Foreign Relations.Google Scholar
  50. Greenfeld, Liah (1992) Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Guilhot, Nicolas (2008) ‘The Realist Gambit: Postwar American Political Science and the Birth of IR Theory’, International Political Sociology 2 (4): 281–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Gurr, Ted R. (2000) Peoples versus States, Washington DC: USIPE.Google Scholar
  53. Hansen, Lene (2006) Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  54. Hansen, Lene and Ole Wæver, eds (2002) European Integration and National Identity: The Challenge of the Nordic States, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Herz, John (1950) ‘Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma’, World Politics 2 (2): 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1990) Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Hoffman, John (1995) Beyond the State: An Introductory Critique, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  58. Holsti, Kalevi J. (1996) The State, War, and the State of War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Horowitz, D.L. (1985) Ethnic Groups in Conflict, Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  60. Huysmans, Jef (2006) The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Inayatullah, Naeem (1996) ‘Beyond the Sovereignty Dilemma: Quasi-States as Social Construct’, in TJ Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds, State Sovereignty as Social Construct, 50–80, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Kaplan, Robert D. (1993) Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History, New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  63. Kaufmann, Chaim D. (1996) ‘Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars’, International Security 20 (4): 136–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Kaufmann, Chaim D. (1998) ‘When All Else Fails: Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century’, International Security 23 (2): 120–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Kendall, Gavin and Gary Wickham (1999) Using Foucault's Methods, London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Kohn, Hans (1944) The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background, New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  67. Kramer, Mark (2001) ‘Introduction’, in Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak, eds, Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, 1–42, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  68. Kumar, Radha (1997) ‘The Troubled History of Partition’, Foreign Affairs 76 (1): 22–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Kuzio, Taras (2002) ‘The Myth of the Civic State: A Critical Survey of Hans Kohn’s Framework for Understanding Nationalism’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 25 (1): 20–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Kymlicka, Will (2001) Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Lepsius, Rainer M. (1985) ‘The Nation and Nationalism in Germany’, Social Research 52 (1): 43–64.Google Scholar
  72. Lijphart, Arend (1977) Democracy in Plural Societies, New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Linz, Juan J. and Alfred Stepan (1996) Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Löwenheim, Oded (2008) ‘Examining the State: A Foucauldian Perspective on International “Governance Indicators”’, Third World Quarterly 29 (2): 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Löwenheim, Oded and Orit Gazit (2009) ‘Power and Examination: A Critique of Citizenship Tests’, Security Dialogue 40 (2): 145–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Mann, Michael (1993) The Sources of Social Power, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Maoz, Zeev and Bruce Russett (1993) ‘Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946–1986’, American Political Science Review 87 (3): 624–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. McGarry, John (2005) Consociationalism and Pluri-National States: Northern Ireland and Other Cases, Jerusalem: Van Leer Workshop.Google Scholar
  79. Mearsheimer, John J. and Robert A. Pape (1993) ‘The Answer – A Partition Plan for Bosnia’, New Republic: 22–28.Google Scholar
  80. Migdal, Joel S. (1988) Strong Societies and Weak States, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Miller, Benjamin (2007) States, Nations, and the Great Powers: The Sources of Regional War and Peace, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Miller, Benjamin (2012) ‘Does Democratization Pacify the Revisionist State?’ International Studies Quarterly, (accessed 7 August, 2012).
  83. Miller, Benjamin and Moran M Mandelbaum (2008) ‘Democracy, the State-to-Nation Balance, War and Peace’, Paper presented at the Annual Millennium Conference, 25–26 October, London.Google Scholar
  84. Miller, Benjamin and Moran Mandelbaum (2010) ‘Taming the Revisionist State: The Effects of Military Defeats on the War-Proneness of Germany vs Iraq’, McGill University: CIPSS Working Papers.Google Scholar
  85. Milliken, Jennifer (1999) ‘The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods’, European Journal of International Relations 5 (2): 225–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Minson, Jeffrey (1985) Genealogies of Morals: Nietzsche, Foucault, Donzelot and the Eccentricity of Ethics, London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Morgenthau, Hans J. (1948) Politics among Nations, New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  88. Murphy, Alexander B. (1996) ‘The Sovereign State System as Political-Territorial Ideal: Historical and Contemporary Considerations’, in Thomas J. Biersteker and Cynthia Weber, eds, State Sovereignty as Social Construct, 81–120, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Naimark, Norman M. (2002) Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  90. Paris, Roland (1997) ‘Peacebuilding and the Limits of International Liberalism’, International Security 22 (2): 54–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Paris, Roland (2004) At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Posen, Barry (1993) ‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’, in Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security, 103–124, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  93. Richmond, Oliver P. (2009) ‘A Post-Liberal Peace: Eirenism and the Everyday’, Review of International Studies 35 (3): 557–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Rotberg, Robert I. (2002) ‘The New Nature of Nation-State Failure’, The Washington Quarterly 25 (3): 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Rotberg, Robert I., ed. (2003) State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  96. Ruggie, John G. (1993) ‘Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations’, International Organization 47 (1): 139–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Rummel, Rudolph J. (1995) ‘Democracy, Power, Genocide, and Mass Murder’, Journal of Conflict Resolution 39 (1): 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Rustow, Dankwart A. (1970) ‘Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model’, Comparative Politics 2 (3): 337–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Rynhold, Jonathan (2011) ‘The German Question in Central and Eastern Europe and the “Long Peace” in Europe after 1945: An Integrated Theoretical Explanation’, Review of International Studies 37 (1): 249–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Schiller, Nina G. and Ayse Çağlar (2009) ‘Towards a Comparative Theory of Locality in Migration Studies: Migrant Incorporation and City Scale’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35 (2): 177–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Simonsen, Sven G. (2005) ‘Addressing Ethnic Divisions in Post-Conflict Institution-Building: Lessons from Recent Cases’, Security Dialogue 36 (3): 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Smith, Anthony D. (2000) The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism, Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  103. Societal-Systems Research Inc. and Colorado State University (2009) ‘Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2009’, (accessed 13 July, 2012).
  104. Stepan, Alfred C. (2008) ‘Comparative Theory and Political Practice: Do We Need a “State-Nation” Model as Well as a “Nation-State” Model?’ Government and Opposition 43 (1): 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Talentino, Andrea K. (2004) ‘The Two Faces of Nation-Building: Developing Function and Identity’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17 (3): 557–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Tamir, Yael (1993) Liberal Nationalism, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  107. Ther, Philipp and Ana Siljak, eds (2001) Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  108. Thies, Cameron G. (2004) ‘State Building, Interstate and Intrastate Rivalry: A Study of Post Colonial Developing Country Extractive Efforts, 1975–2000’, International Studies Quarterly 48 (1): 53–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Tilly, Charles (1985) ‘War Making and State Making as Organized Crime’, in Peter B. Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol, eds, Bringing the State Back In, 169–191, New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. Tilly, Charles (1990) Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990–1990, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  111. Toft, Monica D. (2002/2003) ‘Indivisible Territory, Geographic Concentration, and Ethnic War’, Security Studies 12 (2): 82–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Van Evera, Stephen (1994) ‘Hypotheses on Nationalism and War’, International Security 18 (4): 5–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Wæver, Ole (2002) ‘Identities, Communities and Foreign Policy: Discourse Analysis as Foreign Policy Theory’, in Lene Hansen and Ole Wæver, eds, European Integration and National Identity: The Challenge of the Nordic States, 20–49, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  114. Walker, R.B.J. (1990) ‘Security, Sovereignty, and the Challenge of World Politics’, Alternatives 15 (1): 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Walker, R.B.J. (1993) Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  116. Walter, Barbara F. (2002) Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  117. Walter, Barbara F. (2003) ‘Explaining the Intractability of Territorial Conflict’, International Studies Review 5 (4): 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. Waltz, Kenneth (1959) Man, the State, and War, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  119. Waltz, Kenneth (1979) Theory of International Politics, Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  120. Weldes, Jutta (1996) ‘Constructing National Interests’, European Journal of International Relations 2 (3): 275–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  121. Wimmer, Andreas and Nina G. Schiller (2002) ‘Methodological Nationalism and Beyond: Nation–State Building, Migration and the Social Sciences’, Global Networks 2 (4): 301–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  122. Wolff, Stefan (2003) ‘The Long-Term Consequences of Forced Population Transfers: Institutionalized Ethnic Cleansing as the Road to New (In) Stability? A European Perspective’, in Steven Vardy and Hunt Tooley, eds, Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe, 501–509, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  123. Wyn Jones, Richard (1996) ‘Travel without Maps: Thinking about Security after the Cold War’, in M. Jane Davis, ed., Security Issues in the Post-Cold War World, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moran M Mandelbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), University of BristolUK

Personalised recommendations