The role of role theory in International Political Economy

Cameron Thies, Leslie Wehner

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This article demonstrates the benefits of using a role theory approach in the field of International Political Economy (IPE) by demonstrating the benefits of role theory relative to variants of the social constructivist paradigm, especially vis-à-vis identity based accounts of IPE. This article also documents why and how role theory has always had a home in IPE even before the constructivist revolution in the 1990s. The social interactionist dimension in the work of Herbert Mead and his notion of a general other are linked to the relational ideas of friendship and impartial spectator present in the works of the founding father of classical political economy, Adam Smith. These similar ideas about the self and their surrounding social environment is a useful starting point to locate role theory in IPE and demonstrate its analytical advantages within social constructivism. After showing the “forgotten” place role theory has always had in IPE, the article illustrates the potential of using a role theory approach within the field of IPE through an illustrative analysis of the Greek economic crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-733
Number of pages22
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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