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levels of analysis in International Relations

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- Foreign policy analysis is the study of the management of external relations and activities of nation-states, as distinguished from their domestic policies. o Involves goals, strategies, measures, methods, guidelines, directives, understandings, agreements, etc. - Governments want to influence the goals and activities of other actors whom they cannot completely control because they exist and operate beyond their sovereignty. - Foreign policies consist of aims and measures that are intended to guide government decisions and actions with regard to external affairs, particularly relations with foreign countries. - Policymaking involves a means-end way of thinking about goals and actions of government. o What is the problem or goal and which solutions or approaches are available to address it? - Foreign policy theorists who are concerned with defense or security issues are likely to take a realist approach, emphasizing the inevitable clash of interests between state actors, the outcomes of which are seen to be determined by relative state power. - On the other hand, those concerned with multilateral questions are likely to take a liberal approach, emphasizing international institutions—such as the United Nations or the World TradeOrganization (WTO)—as a means of reducing international conflict and promoting mutual understanding and common interests. - (1) A traditional approach to foreign policy analysis involves being informed about a government’s external policies: knowing their history or at least their background; comprehending the interests and concerns that drive the policies; and thinking through the various ways of addressing and defending those interests and concerns. - (2) The comparative approach to foreign policy was inspired by the behavioralist turn in political science. The ambition was to build systematic theories and explanations of the foreign policy process in general. This was to be achieved by gathering and amalgamating large bodies of data, and by describing the content and context of the foreign policy of a large number of countries. - (3) The rational actor model (RAM) of foreign policy holds that decisions makers implement rational policies that maximize gains at the minimum cost. This is based on the assumption that actors are rational and have the necessary information to make informed choices. - (4) The bureaucratic structures and processes approach to foreign policy focuses on the organizational context of decision-making, which is seen to be conditioned by the dictates and demands of the bureaucratic settings in which decisions are made. o The strength of the bureaucratic politics approach is its empiricism: its detailed attentionto the concrete way policies are carried out in the bureaucratic milieus within which policymakers work. - (5) The cognitive processes and psychology approach also focused on the individual decision maker, this time with particular attention to the psychological aspects of decision-making, such as perceptions of actors. - (6) The multilevel and multidimensional approach was developed over the last several decades, as it became increasingly clear that there would never be one all-encompassing theory of foreignpolicy, just as there is not one consolidated theory of IR. - (7) A focus on the role of ideas, discourse, and identity is characteristic of a social constructivist approach to foreign policy analysis. - We can study foreign policy (introduced by Kenneth Waltz)at these same three levels of analysis:o The systemic level (e.g., the distribution of power among states in the international system; their political and economic interdependence) Explain policymaking by pointing to conditions in the international system that compel or pressure states towards acting in certain ways- Ex: small states are much more constrained by the international system; indeed, according to realists, their foreign policy must respond to external pressure rather than domestic political concerns. Great powers have more leeway. o The nation-state level (e.g., type of government, democratic or authoritarian; relations between the state apparatus and groups in society; the bureaucratic makeup of the stateapparatus) Ex: examine the relationship between a country’s state apparatus and domestic society. o The level of the individual decision maker (his/her way of thinking, basic beliefs, personal priorities) Ex: every individual acquires during the course of development a set of beliefs and personal constructs about the physical and social environment. These beliefs provide him with a relatively coherent way of organizing and making sense of what would otherwise be a confusing and overwhelming array of signals and cues picked up from the environment… These beliefs and constructs necessarily simplify and structure the external


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