Reputation for Resolve: How Leaders Signal Determination in International Politics

Winner, 2021 J. David Singer Book Award, ISA Midwest

Honorable Mention, 2021 Best Book Award, APSA Foreign Policy Section

Reviewed by H-Diplo/RJISSF, World Politics, Perspectives on Politics, and Choice

How do reputations form in international politics? What influence do these reputations have over the conduct of international affairs? In Reputation for Resolve, Danielle L. Lupton takes a new approach to answering these enduring and hotly debated questions by shifting the focus away from the reputations of states and instead examining the reputations of individual world leaders. 

Lupton argues that new leaders establish personal reputations for resolve that are separate from the reputations of their predecessors and of their states. Using innovative survey experiments and in-depth archival research into American-Soviet relations, Lupton finds that leaders acquire personal reputations for resolve based on their foreign policy statements and behavior. Furthermore, she shows that statements create expectations of how a leader will react to foreign policy crises in the future. How leaders follow up their early statements of resolve with concrete action critically affects whether they are perceived as resolute or irresolute. Leaders who fail to meet expectations of resolute action face harsh reputational consequences that affect their ability to achieve their foreign policy goals.

Reputation for Resolve challenges the often-publicized view that reputations do not matter in international politics. In sharp contrast, Lupton shows that the reputations for resolve of individual leaders influence the strategies statesmen pursue during diplomatic interactions and crises, delineating specific steps policymakers can take to avoid reputations for irresolute action. Thus, Lupton demonstrates that reputations for resolve do exist and can influence the conduct of international security. As a whole, Reputation for Resolve reframes our understanding of the influence of leaders and their rhetoric on crisis bargaining and the role reputations play in international politics.


"This book is the most important statement on reputations in international relations in a decade.  Danielle Lupton brings new methods and evidence to the debate about how reputations form and whether they matter at the highest levels of foreign policy.  She upends conventional wisdom and makes a convincing case for changing the way we think about reputations in international politics."

~Todd S. Sechser, Pamela Feinour Edmonds and Franklin S. Edmonds, Jr. Discovery Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, coauthor of Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy 

"Reputation for Resolve marshals impressive evidence that leaders, not states, signal firmness in interstate disputes. The book is an important contribution to the debate over whether and how resolve matters in international politics."

~Elizabeth N. Saunders, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Do reputations for resolve matter in international politics? How does an individual leader's reputation form, how does it change, and how does it interact with power and interest? Lupton's fresh theoretical perspective and multi-method approach makes an important new contribution to an old debate in the International Relations field."

~Jack S. Levy, Rutgers University

"Lupton’s work is especially innovative for combining a micro-foundational perspective on her research question, through process tracing survey experiments that manipulate key features of both context and leader behavior, with case studies that probe how Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev evaluated two US presidents—Dwight Eisenhower and Kennedy—through a reputational lens."

~Robert Jervis, Keren Yarhi-Milo, and Don Casler, World Politics (2020)

"This is an important book that is a welcome addition to the ongoing research on reputation and foreign policy, while also having important policy implications. In addition to its novel theoretical contribution, Lupton's study is also valuable in demonstrating the validity of a multimethod approach through her well-crafted qualitative and experimental research design. As such, Reputation for Resolve should have a strong appeal to diverse audiences, ranging from scholars and students of international politics to the broader policy community."

~Joe Clare, Perspectives on Politics (2020)

"Reputation of Resolve is sure to become essential reading for scholars of reputation, signaling, and credibility."

~Brian Blankenship,  H-Diplo/RJISSF (2023)

"Reputation for Resolve is essential reading for international relations scholars who are interested in reputation, leaders, and crisis diplomacy. Lupton crafts an elegant and intuitive theory while ably addressing both the reputation supporters and skeptics upon whose work she builds. She also brings nuance to bear on her argument, deftly integrating additional factors like situational assessments and power/capabilities." 

~Kathleen Powers, H-Diplo/RJISSF (2023)

"Lupton brings clarity to the ongoing debate about reputations and their effects in international security. Most importantly, her innovative focus on leader-specific reputations shows that both leaders and states can have reputations for resolve (or for irresolute action), and that these reputations interact in interesting ways."

~Jennifer Spindel, H-Diplo/RJISSF (2023)

Available from Cornell University Press, Amazon, and other online book sellers.