Between sovereignty and integration: German foreign policy and national identity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


G. Matthew Bonham


German debates, German foreign policy, German government

Subject Categories

International Relations


unification confer and negotiate the delicate issue of German national identity. I analyze the emerging discourses of post-unification German foreign policy and track the influences of these discourses in actual foreign policy debates. I use a discursive analytic methodology embedded in a theory about the role of narrative in social reality to analyze foreign policy texts, specifically transcripts of the German parliamentary debates on sending German ground troops to participate in the peacekeeping mission sanctioned by the Dayton Peace Accords for the former Yugoslavia. By mapping the key concepts of "normalcy" and "responsibility" I show how the German government dramatically changed their policy regarding the use of troops in peacekeeping missions over the course of five years. This process illuminates an emerging consensus among the German foreign policy community about foreign and security issues. I argue that a "normal" foreign policy, however, is relative to respective understandings of the nation and subject to constraints imposed by the ambiguous role of the state caught between the traditional role of sovereignty and the uncertain trajectories of integration and globalization. These respective understandings of the nation are given voice through two dominant discourses of German foreign policy, identified here as normalism and (in a specific sense) liberalism. Normalism rearticulates classic political realism to incorporate a sense of responsibility, and ultimately rests on a re-affirmation of traditional views of the nation and state, skepticism of political integration and concern about the lack of positive national identity. The liberal discourse adopts a neoliberal institutionalist approach, working out its world-view through the twin concepts of the "societal world" and "world domestic policy." By highlighting the interplay of signification, representation, and interpretation in the foreign policy debates my analysis elucidates the way German national identity is constructed, reified and reflected through differing interpretations of foreign policy. Continuity and change in German foreign policy and national identity is assessed amidst changing conceptions of state, nation, and the international system at the end of the Twentieth Century.


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