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The potential for transforming relations of difference into relations of threat and conflict is always there. However, recognizing the potential does not and should not amount to positing a necessity. One should instead analyze the social conditions under which this potential is realized. The empirical chapters of this book will show that the interactions of community-building institutions with peripheral states exhibit a relationship of constitutive difference. Simultaneously, however, these interactions are characterized by considerable diversity and variability in their behavioral manifestations.

On the other hand, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could be said to be more inclusive than the EU in that it has adopted a less strict definition of Europe that is based on self-identification as European, rather than European in an exclusively geographical and/or cultural sense (Adler 1998). Inclusive and exclusive identities set the bases for different forms of self/other relations. The potential for Othering is present in inclusive as well as exclusive identities; however, the context of its realization is different.

The existence of an overarching structure or a system of intersubjective understandings and meanings does not mean that the construction of the identities of self and other will go uncontested. The underlying premise of symbolic interactionist theory is that, from the perspective of the actor, the central problem in interaction is to create complementary and mutually compatible roles for self and others involved in interaction (Blumer 1969; Goffman 1959). Neglecting this aspect of symbolic interactionism, liberal constructivism has been more interested in studying the constitution of state identities by intersubjective understandings rather than studying their contestation and negotiation between actors.

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