IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The anthropomorphic fallacy in international relations theory and practice

Listed author(s):
  • Carlos Escudé

A headline of the Venezuelean daily El Nacionalista, published June 16, 2008, read: “Venezuela se negó a seguir de rodillas ante las pretensiones del gobierno norteamericano”. A few weeks before, on May 8, president Hugo Chávez himself had said that Venezuela “would not watch crossed-armed” (“Venezuela no se quedará de brazos cruzados”) while Bolivia was driven into territorial desintegration by imperialist forces. The image of Venezuela with her arms crossed is one of slovenliness and negligence, whilst the image of it on its knees is humiliating. They both generate outrage and the need to set things “right”. This is only an example of the often unnoticed practical and theoretical consequences of the anthropomorphic language we all use when referring to states in terms of (for example) "weak" and "strong" actors who "suffer", are "honored", are "humiliated", have "pride" and aspire to "glory". This language obscures the fact that, oftentimes, when a weak state challenges a strong one at a great cost to itself, we are not witnessing an epic of courage (as might be the case when a weak individual challenges a strong one), but rather the sacrifice of the interests, welfare and sometimes even the lives of multitudes of poor people, to the vanity of their elite. The very fact that this is being obscured biases the value structure of international relations theory, which is not only not value-free, but often has totalitarian values unintendedly built into it.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Universidad del CEMA in its series CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. with number 373.

in new window

Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Handle: RePEc:cem:doctra:373
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Av. Córdoba 374, (C1054AAP) Capital Federal

Phone: (5411) 6314-3000
Fax: (5411) 4314-1654
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cem:doctra:373. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Valeria Dowding)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.