Claims of inter-state ‘specialness’ are commonplace in international politics. But how do some relationships between states come to be seen and categorized as ‘special’ in the first place? And what impact, if any, do recurring public representations of specialness have on states’ political and diplomatic interaction?

While much scholarly work exists on alleged instances of special relationships, and on inter-state cooperation and alliances more generally, little systematic and theory informed research has been conducted on how special relationships evolve and unfold in practice. This book offers such a comprehensive study. Theorizing inter-state relations as ongoing social processes, it makes the case for approaching special relationships as constituted and upheld through linguistic representations and bilateral interaction practices. Haugevik explores this claim through an in-depth study of how the bilateral relationship most frequently referred to as ‘special’ – the US-British – has unfolded over the last seventy years. This analysis is complemented with a study of Britain’s relationship with a more junior partner, Norway, during the same period.

The book offers an original take on inter-state relations and diplomacy during the Cold War and after, and develops an analytical framework for understanding why some state relationships maintain their status as ‘special’, while others end up as ‘benignly neglected’ ones.

chapter 1|10 pages


chapter 2|11 pages

What it means to be special

chapter 3|22 pages

How relationships become special

chapter 4|12 pages

Studying relational dynamics in action

chapter 5|28 pages

‘Friendship’ or ‘poodle politics’?

chapter 6|32 pages

Photo ops and open doors

chapter 7|28 pages

When lodestars fade

chapter 8|26 pages

Benignly neglected

chapter 9|10 pages