Balancing Identity: The Sino-Soviet Split, Ontological Security, and North Korean Foreign Policy

Derek Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Scholarship on ontological security (OS), the security of being, reveals how national narratives delineate communities within which individuals have OS and how the corresponding self-interest in upholding these narratives influences foreign policy. A hereto-unexplored implication of these works is how the desire to maintain national narratives influences decisions on balancing and bandwagoning. The article uses Raymond Aron’s classical realism to develop an OS theory of balancing, drawing upon what it argues are his “early OS intuitions.” Specifically, using Aron’s concept of “secular religion,” the article shifts the analytical focus of current ideological approaches of balancing toward the “secular religion” of nationalism. It argues decisions on balancing and bandwagoning are made with reference to perceived (in)compatibility between national narratives and the distribution of power. The case of North Korean responses to the Sino-Soviet split demonstrates the utility of an OS perspective on balancing compared to traditional balance of power formulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-301
Number of pages31
JournalSecurity Studies
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021

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