Rationalist and Constructivist Perspectives on Reputation
This article argues for a new and broader understanding of reputation as a generally shared belief concerning a referent's character or nature, based on a range of information, associations and social cues. This is in place of the conventional rationalist definition of this concept as the degree to which an actor reliably upholds its commitments, based on a record of past behaviour. A brief literature review shows that this concept is crucial in underpinning a wide range of work in political science and economics premised on strategic interaction. The difference between a rationalist and constructivist understanding of reputation hinges on three points. Firstly, reputation is argued to be a relational concept rather than a property concept. Secondly, reputation is a social fact with an emergent, intersubjective quality, not just a collection of individual beliefs. Thirdly, rather than being an inductively derived objective record of past behaviour, reputation is based on associations, feelings and social cues. The last section of the article applies this broader conceptual understanding to two empirical examples: the importance of international organisations' reputation for their influence over policy-makers, and the way in which small states are classified as tax havens by a reputation test.