Role theory, foreign policy, and the social construction of sovereignty: Brexit stage right

Ryan K. Beasley, Juliet Kaarbo, Kai Oppermann

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The international roles states play in world politics are bound up with the ways in which sovereignty is constructed within the international system. While scholarship on sovereignty has recognized its social construction, and role research emphasizes social interactions as shaping roles and role behaviors, little work has explored the relationship between sovereignty and roles. Linking roles and sovereignty offers a distinct perspective on the social construction of sovereignty, providing a broad conception of socialization, emphasizing agency, and bridging domestic politics and international relations. We develop the concept of a “sovereignty–role nexus” through an examination of Brexit, revealing, through processes of role contestation and role socialization, multiple and competing constructions of the nature and value of sovereignty. While Brexit is unique, we suggest that these dynamics will affect other cases where states face role changes linked to sovereignty concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberksab001
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date26 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Foreign Policy
  • Brexit
  • Role theory
  • Sovereignty


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