Special Relationships in World Politics: Inter-state Friendship and Diplomacy after the Second World War, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Special Relationships in World Politics

Inter-state Friendship and Diplomacy after the Second World War, 1st Edition

By Kristin Haugevik


212 pages

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Hardback: 9780415786393
pub: 2018-08-30
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Claims of inter-state ‘specialness’ are commonplace in international politics. But how do some relationships between states come to be seen and categorized as ‘special’ in the first place? And what impact, if any, do recurring public representations of specialness have on states’ political and diplomatic interaction?

While much scholarly work exists on alleged instances of special relationships, and on inter-state cooperation and alliances more generally, little systematic and theory informed research has been conducted on how special relationships evolve and unfold in practice. This book offers such a comprehensive study. Theorizing inter-state relations as ongoing social processes, it makes the case for approaching special relationships as constituted and upheld through linguistic representations and bilateral interaction practices. Haugevik explores this claim through an in-depth study of how the bilateral relationship most frequently referred to as ‘special’ – the US-British – has unfolded over the last seventy years. This analysis is complemented with a study of Britain’s relationship with a more junior partner, Norway, during the same period.

The book offers an original take on inter-state relations and diplomacy during the Cold War and after, and develops an analytical framework for understanding why some state relationships maintain their status as ‘special’, while others end up as ‘benignly neglected’ ones.


"Scholars of international relations have not paid much attention to what makes relations between some states ‘special’. Kristin Haugevik’s fine book helps filling this gap. Employing a social constructivist lens, she offers a neat framework linking language and diplomatic practice to shed light on the inner-workings and long term dynamics of ‘special relationships’. Very well crafted and clearly written, this is a most welcome contribution to the IR literature on interstate friendship." - Dr Felix Berenskoetter, SOAS University of London, UK.

"Haugevik’s account of ‘special relationships’ resists the temptation to reify a category of practice; as such, she is able to remain squarely focused on the plethora of activity that it takes to shore up such a relationship between two states. Her remarkable study discloses the practical effort that goes into the production and reproduction of ‘specialness,’ complementing interest-based explanations by directing our attention to dynamic performances of state identity." - Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University, USA.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. What is a special relationship?

3. Theorizing special relationships as a social process

4. Friends, partners or ‘poodle politics’?

5. Photo-ops and open doors

6. When lodestars fade

7. Conclusion: How relationships become special

About the Author

Kristin Haugevik is Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

About the Series

New International Relations

The field of international relations has changed dramatically in recent years, with new subject matter being brought to light and new approaches from in and out of the social sciences being tried out. This series offers itself as a broad church for innovative work that aims to renew the discipline.


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General