Reputation and Status as Motives for War

23 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2013 Last revised: 20 Feb 2014

See all articles by Allan Dafoe

Allan Dafoe

University of Oxford

Jonathan Renshon

University of Wisconsin, Platteville

Paul Huth

University of Maryland

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 3, 2014


Justifications for war often invoke reputational or social aspirations: the need to protect national honor, status, reputation for resolve, credibility, and respect. Studies of these motives struggle with a variety of challenges: their primary empirical manifestation consists of beliefs, agents have incentives to misrepresent these beliefs, their logic is context-specific, and they meld intrinsic and instrumental motives. To help overcome these challenges, this review offers a general conceptual framework that integrates their strategic, cultural, and psychological logics. We summarize important findings and open questions, including: (1) whether leaders care about their reputations and status, (2) how to address the tension between instrumental and intrinsic motives, (3) whether observers draw inferences, (4) to whom and to what contextual breadth these inferences apply, and (5) how these relate to domestic audiences costs. Many important, tractable questions remain for future studies to answer.

Suggested Citation

Dafoe, Allan and Renshon, Jonathan and Huth, Paul, Reputation and Status as Motives for War (February 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Allan Dafoe (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Jonathan Renshon

University of Wisconsin, Platteville ( email )

Paul Huth

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

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