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Role-playing and identity affirmation in international politics: Britain's reinvasion of the Falklands, 1982

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2010


Did Britain reinvade the Falklands because of its ‘identity’? Or was reinvasion instead required by its ‘role’ in international politics? In this article I show that a complete constructivist explanation of Britain's response must consider both its identity affirmation, which constructivist International Relations (IR) theory would certainly draw attention to, but also the role it played on the world stage at the beginning of the 1980s, which would very likely be overlooked. I show that a solely identity-based explanation is incomplete and ultimately unpersuasive since identities are affirmed by playing social roles, which give identity meaning. In 1982, a number of roles could have fulfilled this function for Britain; it is important then that Britain chose and was able to play the role of a status quo oriented power rather than that of a colonial power. Beyond offering a more complete interpretation of the events, the article clarifies the links between roles, identity, and action in international politics, and the type of theory appropriate to such analysis.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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