Since the 1940's Britain's transatlantic identity has been one of its most prominent features. This identity has been so profoundly internalized that one often forgets Britain's "zigzagging" between three alternative and even contradictory identities after World War II: 1. A Third World Force aimed at creating a bridge between East and West 2. A European civilization 3. A transatlantic identity
I account for these variations in British identity by presenting the theoretical concept of identity balancing which postulates that states manipulate their identities in order to fulfill materialistic interests. Identity balancing is a four-phase process: 1. States identify a threat to their physical security and locate other states that are similarly threatened 2. The threatened states emphasize identity characteristics which unite them and downplay those that separate them 3. They frame the common characteristics as being crucial for their continued existence and as requiring cooperation among all states with similar identity characteristics 4.this utilitarian identity becomes so deeply integrated that it transcends its original purpose, becoming an inherent factor within the fabric of society.
Applying the concept of identity balancing I explain the shift in Britain’s identity as deriving from a shift in its security interests. After World War II, Britain believed that its interests would be best served by forming an independent pole and therefore emphasized the difference between its identity and that of its wartime allies. As the British economy deteriorated and the Soviet geo-strategic menace escalated, Britain realized that it needed American support. Since the US conditioned its support on a consolidated Europe, Britain sought to "invent” a common European identity. Once it realized that a European identity circle enabled the US to evade its commitment to Europe, it reverted to the strategy of forming close relations with the US, emphasizing the transatlantic identity dimensions common to both countries.