Reshaping Enmity : Studying Change in the Relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703273322
Title: Reshaping Enmity : Studying Change in the Relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America
Author: Hafner, Reeta
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2015
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703273322
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/158704
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Political Science, World Politics
Yleinen valtio-oppi, maailmanpolitiikan tutkimus
Allmän statslära, forskning i världspolitik
Abstract: This research inquires into change in the relations between Iran and the United States after the Iranian presidential elections in June 2013 and until the achievement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program in July 2015. The author argues that moving beyond the definition of the state as a unitary actor and the international as well as challenging the dominant understanding of causality is necessary in order to gain deeper understanding of the social phenomena under study within the discipline of World Politics. Through empirical analysis based predominantly on qualitative evidence the research addresses the questions of whether there has been change in the relations between Iran and the United States, what has caused this change and what information the process provides about future developments in these relations. The theoretical basis of the study consists of Alexander Wendt’s theorization of the cultures of the international system as well as relevant critical realist criticism of Wendt’s ideas. The study employs the (meta)methodology of iconic modeling as introduced by Heikki Patomäki for structuring the study of change in open systems. In line with the reductive approach to iconic modeling, a set of the most important causal components responsible for the process is identified and an explanatory story told. The research discovers that significant but limited change has taken place in Iran—US relations. This change has been driven by reflexive thinking on behalf of the Obama administration and the Rouhani government to change the logic of enmity in order to avoid destructive outcomes. Several important causal forces enabling and constraining the actors are found including the positions of the main actors within their respective states, as well as the dominant norms of the international system. It is argued that the international sanctions regime against Iran has been an important but not a sufficient cause in bringing about the end result. The author maintains that without compromise and responsiveness from the other party, the process would have developed in a different direction. The findings of this study draw attention to the importance of adequate methodological and theoretical tools in grasping the complexity of the social world in the discipline of World Politics. The study constitutes an example of how intricate processes can be studied by moving beyond the definition of the state as a sole unit and the international as a separate sphere from other social structures. It also demonstrates how Wendt’s theorization can be combined to the insights of the critical realist approach and how this can lead to deeper understanding of important processes in world politics.


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