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On the first of October, 2012, Georgia held parliamentary elections. In Western capitals and analytical circles, it was widely believed that Mikheil Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement (UNM) would be returned to power. Most polling on political rankings supported this expectation. Some analysts had suggested that the highly unequal impact of Georgia’s impressive growth record was generating significant social discontent, undermining the ruling party’s position. Deepening inequality, sporadically high inflation, persistently high unemployment, and deepening poverty might translate into opposition votes. These people were dismissed as misinformed or deluded cranks, me included.

What matters more: who you think you are or who others think you are? Addressing a major gap in IR scholarship, the importance of identity in influencing state behaviour was first elucidated by writers within the Constructivist school of thought, most notable among whom was Alexander Wendt. In his seminal article “Anarchy is what states make of it”, Wendt draws attention to the significance of identity by employing the metaphor of “the looking-glass self”, arguing that states form identities of themselves through their interactions with other states: that “the self is a reflection of an actor’s socialization”(Wendt 1992:404). Such a theory seems to predict that a state’s identity and how others perceive it should bear correlation. How, then, do we …