actors structures in foreign policy analysis n.
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Actors & Structures in Foreign Policy Analysis. January 23, 2014. Overview. Introduction Historical background The role of actors and structures in ‘ process ’ approaches to foreign policy analysis The role of actors and structures in ‘ policy ’ approaches to foreign policy analysis

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Actors & Structures in Foreign Policy Analysis

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Presentation Transcript
  • Introduction
  • Historical background
  • The role of actors and structures in ‘process’ approaches to foreign policy analysis
  • The role of actors and structures in ‘policy’ approaches to foreign policy analysis
  • A possible solution – integrative framework

Foreign policy is impacted by a number of actors and structures, both domestic and international

These actors and structures act in combination all of which makes foreign policy analysis challenging

Scholars have tried to create some kind of analytical framework or approach to make things clearer, but fundamental disagreements remain.

In other words…

historical background
Historical background

Realism: (Morgenthau)

  • Effort to provide universal law-like explanations for the external behaviour of all states
    • Did this by linking the concept of power to national interest.
  • Idea that with these “laws” in place you explain and understand the behaviour of states
  • Realism was the dominate approach to IR in the US during the Cold War
  • Gained dominance in US social sciences in post WWII era at same time realism was dominating IR in US
  • Effort to apply scientific approach to social sciences
  • Idea that could use testable hypotheses to develop a empirical generalisations of political behaviour
two key questions
Two key questions
  • What are we trying to explain with our analysis?
    • i.e. What is the object of our analysis (the explanadum or independent variable)?
  • What factors do we see as responsible for explaining the thing we are trying to explain?
    • i.e. What are approaches and instruments that do the explaining (the explanans or dependent variable)
Essentially approaches to foreign policy analysis can be divided based on whether they focus on the decision-making process or on the policy itself when looking for explanatory factors
  • The role of actors and structures is considered in both approaches, with different perspectives placing more emphasis on one or the other
the role of actors and structures in process approaches to fpa
The role of actors and structures in ‘process’ approaches to FPA
  • Here the focus is on decision-making; identifying what foreign policy-makers are doing.
  • Process-orientated analysts of foreign policy consider how certain goals arise and why certain behaviours result.
the role of the decision making process
The role of the decision-making process
  • Focus on the factors and processes through which foreign policy decisions, statements and behaviours are made
  • The aim is to explore the process of foreign policy decision-making rather than policies themselves.
Don’t see states as unitary actors
  • Instead states are the institutional structures within which individual decision-makers act.
  • So can’t see actors as generic, because individuals will act differently, so focus on specific individuals
levels of analysis
Levels of analysis
  • Process focused approaches tend to favour a level of analysis framework
  • At its most basic there are three levels:
    • Individual
    • State
    • International
  • Impact of actors and structures are examined one level at a time
the role of actors and structures in policy approaches to fpa
The role of actors and structures in ‘policy’ approaches to FPA
  • The focus here is the choice of specific policies, rather than specific decision-making process.
  • Policies are understood to result from processes, rather than being part of them.
the role of actors and structures in policy approaches to fpa1
The role of actors and structures in ‘policy’ approaches to FPA

The main focus is the action that is the product of the decision (i.e. the policy); distinguishing a foreign policy action from the process that preceded it.

The focus is on policy agreements, not the behaviour of any particular entity.

These approaches vary in the degree to which they see either actors or structures as more important

structural perspectives and foreign policy
Structural perspectives and foreign policy
  • Realism (aggressive and defensive neorealists, neoclassical realists)
  • Neoliberal institutionalism (regime theory)
  • Constructivism
  • These perspectives don’t exclude actors in their analysis, but instead see the structure as the key factor explaining how states behave
actor based perspectives and foreign policy
Actor-based perspectives and foreign policy
  • Cognitive and psychological approaches
  • Bureaucratic politics approach (Allison)
  • New liberalism
  • Interpretative actor perspective
cognitive psychological approaches
Cognitive & psychological approaches
  • Contrasts with realist and liberal approaches that see actors as rational
    • i.e. actors are open-minded and adapt to changing circumstances
  • Instead cognitive and psychological approaches suggests that a variety factors can get in the way, including:
    • Individual beliefs, personality, the way they process information & cognitive traits
an example groupthink
An example: Groupthink
  • Coined by Irving Janis in the 1970s
  • Idea that highly cohesive groups under significant pressure to make a good decision and maintain unanimity can end up acting irrationally and fail consider alternative approaches
  • Janis’ examples: Bay of Pigs, failed Iran hostage rescue, US failure to anticipate Pearl Harbour
bureaucratic politics approach
Bureaucratic politics approach
  • Idea that internal negotiating and infighting results in a final decision that no person or group in the decision-making process intended
  • Thus, focus of this approach is on interactions of individuals or groups inside the organisation
new liberalism
New liberalism
  • In contrast to neoliberalism, focus on the importance of actors rather than institutions
  • In particular looks at importance of societal actors rather than politically appointed actors or groups
interpretive actor perspective
Interpretive actor perspective
  • Emphasizes the role of individual decision-makers as key explanatory factor
  • Thus, focus on analyzing the thinking and actions of particular individuals
agency structure problem
Agency-structure problem
  • Tendency to see either actors or structures as key to explaining particular policy choice
  • Thus, treat them as distinct from one another
  • Problem is that in real world actors and structure interact and influence one another, so can’t really look at them separately
  • Challenge is to find an approach that integrates impact of both actors and structure across all levels of analysis
potential solution integrative framework
Foreign policy actions are explained in a three-way structure of intentional, dispositional and structural dimensions.Potential solution - integrative framework
integrative framework
Integrative framework

Step 1

  • Focus first on the relationship between a given foreign policy action and the intention or goal that was behind it
  • Essentially trace reasoning behind a specific action - i.e. they did this in order to achieve that
example the us decision to invade iraq
Example: the US decision to invade Iraq
  • Starting from step 1, what kind of things would we look for to examine the intentional dimensions of the decision to invade Iraq?
  • How would we determine what the specific goal(s) or intention of the invasion was?
integrative framework1
Integrative framework

Step 2

  • Trace the link between the intentional and the dispositional dimensions, focusing on the underlying values that motivate actors to pursue certain goals over others.
  • Here bring cognitive & psychological approaches
    • Perceptions, beliefs, values etc.
  • These first two steps focus on actors
us and iraq
US and Iraq
  • Based on step 2 how would we analyze why the US decision-makers chose those particular goals over others?
  • What kinds of information would we be looking for to help us explain these choices?
integrative framework2
Integrative framework

Step 3

  • Examines how structural factors affect actors
  • Looks at how these structural factors are perceived, reacted to and taken into account by the actors.
  • Structural factors affect the cognitive and psychological dispositions of individuals.
  • Can either enable or constrain actors’ dispositions
us iraq
US & Iraq
  • How would we determine how structural factors and the actors perceptions of them impact their choices?
  • What structural factors were likely to be important in this case?
integrative framework3
Integrative framework
  • Not a complete solution to agency-structure problem
  • Tends to be a static approach, i.e. can use it to explain a single foreign policy action, but not a series of actions over time