Symbols and Values in International Relations in the Middle East

Zvyagelskaya I.D.,

Head of the Middle East Studies Center, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences,

elibrary_id: 71360 |

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2019.01.08

For citation:

Zvyagelskaya I.D. Symbols and Values in International Relations in the Middle East. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No 1. P. 105-123 (In Russ.) . DOI:

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The article considers the impact of symbols and values on international relations in the Middle East. Symbolic politics has long been regarded as an integral part of domestic politics, but nowadays its translation into the foreign policy is attracting more and more attention. The behavior of the states in the international arena reflects the role played by values and symbols, by historical narrative and status issues. The symbolic content of the foreign policy agenda of the Middle East countries is most obvious. It can be linked to the incomplete processes of nation-building and to the remaining fragmentation of local societies, to traditionalism; to systemic conflicts with ethno-confessional dimension. Fear and deep-rooted distrust among the main regional players prevent an adequate assessment of the intentions and capabilities of an opponent, often causing an overreaction to the challenges. In terms of threat perception, an important role can be played by subjective factors closely associated with the tradition, which dictates a certain mode of behavior. A special role in the formation and conduct of foreign policy is played by “politically suitable past”, when the glorification of ancestors is used to require from contemporaries the same dedication and willingness to sacrifice. One of the central political issues remains the question of its value content. Values are translated through symbols and rituals, which secure a symbolic contract between the government and society. More than often a political practice does not correspond to the declared values, especially in the foreign policy. The gap between the lofty goals declared by states and nonstate actors and the methods of their implementation may be impressive. The struggle for justice can be easily combined with an extreme cruelty, and the promotion of democracy with a military invasion. The article marshals a number of examples illustrating the above assumptions. 

symbols, values, conflicts, international relations, foreign policy behavior, status issues, ethno-confessional factor, traditionalism, identity.

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Content No 1, 2019

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