State revisionism and ontological (in)security in international politics: The complicated case of Iran and its nuclear behavior

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Despite continuing to be a strong tendency in international relations today, “state revisionism” has been theoretically and empirically understudied. This article attempts to fill the lacuna by further conceptualizing revisionism and subsequently investigating its relationship with ontological (in)security through studying the ways in which revisionist states envision their identities and interests and take measures to secure them. It argues that revisionists define their relationship with outside “Others” primarily in terms of dissatisfaction and self-extending change and thus find themselves operating within an enmity-centric “Hobbesian culture of anarchy,” which may ironically serve as a source of ontological security due to the consequent “singularity” status it confers upon them. By opposing the prevailing status quo, however, revisionists are likely to subject themselves to a “geopolitics of exclusion,” which in turn helps render them more prone to feelings of ontological insecurity. To instantiate the theory, I focus on Iran and its nuclear behavior, contending that it represents a case of “thin revisionism” aimed at attaining ontological security, but which also entails undesirable consequences that generate ontological insecurity. The case furthermore reveals the limits of seeking ontological security, suggesting that the degree of revisionism is usually checked by existential fears of threat to survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836–857
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Aug

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science


  • Revisionism
  • International Politics
  • International Relations Theory
  • Ontological Security
  • Iran
  • Thin Revisionism
  • Nuclear Deal
  • Nuclear
  • United States
  • Thick Revisionism
  • Theory
  • Conceptualization
  • Foreign Policy
  • National Security
  • Ontological Insecurity
  • Survival
  • Realism
  • Neorealism
  • Constructivism
  • Cultures of Anarchy


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