Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Strategic Culture, Identity and the Shaping of Security Policy: A Comparative Study of Australia and New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-11, 20:49 authored by Mastalerz, Marcelina

This thesis seeks to explain the roots of security thinking in Australia and New Zealand and what it argues has been a gradual divergence in the two countries' approaches to defence issues. Drawing upon constructivist international relations theory, it highlights the importance of ideational rather than material influences on policy formulation. It focuses on two key variables: strategic culture and identity, arguing that they provide significant clues as to the varying threat perceptions, policy preferences and the domestic values that underpin thinking on security matters in these two countries. By tracing the evolution of Australian and New Zealand defence policies over a long historical timeframe, the study identifies persistent cultural norms and preferences that explain policies seemingly difficult to reconcile with a materialist understanding of world politics. After providing a detailed comparison of the influences on defence thinking in each country, the study compares Australian and New Zealand perspectives on regional security in the Pacific and the rationales given for participating in the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in 2003. This thesis concludes that compared to a materialist approach, an examination which includes ideational variables such as strategic culture and identity better explains why the two countries have pursued divergent security paths and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the logic shaping thinking on defence issues in these two states.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Capie, David