Estrangement in Diplomatic Practice

26 Pages Posted: 20 May 2019 Last revised: 25 Jun 2019

See all articles by Jeffrey Robertson

Jeffrey Robertson

KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: May 20, 2019


Estrangement plays an implicit role in conflict (conflict resolution, nonproliferation, sanctions), international commerce (trade and investment), and global governance (globalization, governance, and multilateralism) but has attracted scant attention in the study of international relations. However, the concept has come to fruition in the sub-field of diplomatic studies as an important theoretical tool to explore and explain diplomacy with several authors positioning it at the core of their theoretical premises. The practice turn in diplomatic studies has pushed scholars to address the historical dissonance between theory and practice, with the hope that cross-fertilization could potentially provide further insight. This leads to the research question; does estrangement affect the day-to-day practice of diplomacy?

The study finds that that diplomats do suffer from a sense of estrangement in the practice of their profession. The findings indicate that the nature of the diplomatic profession; the context of international society; and how individual nations conceptualize diplomacy are causal factors, which result in three main categories of phenomena: (a) powerlessness, (b) meaninglessness, and (c) social isolation; which are enhanced in smaller, remote, low-activity, culturally dissimilar posts. The study presents a link between theory and practice, thus justifying, strengthening, and reinforcing the use of estrangement as an ideal tool to explain and explore diplomacy.

Keywords: estrangement, alienation, separateness, diplomatic studies, diplomacy

Suggested Citation

Robertson, Jeffrey, Estrangement in Diplomatic Practice (May 20, 2019). KDI School of Pub Policy & Management Paper, May, 2019 Working Paper 19-07, Available at SSRN: or

Jeffrey Robertson (Contact Author)

KDI School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

263 Namsejong-ro
Sejong-si 30149
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics