Bureaucratic Determinants of Foreign Policy: Some Empirical Evidence

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Linda P. Brady, Chancellor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: A recent development in the study of foreign policy is the growing attention being given to bureaucratic politics explanations of national foreign policy behavior.' In fact, it would be no exaggeration to characterize the bureaucratic politics approach or bureaucratic paradigm as a major research thrust in contemporary international relations theory. Foreign policy behavior, the bureaucratic perspective contends, can be accounted for best in terms of the bargaining dynamics among representatives of large-scale organizations. More specifically, the approach assumes that a nation's behavior is derived primarily from the organizations and individuals comprising the foreign policy elite who act to maximize their diverse interests and goals; thus, rather than interpreting national actions as reactions to foreign stimuli or systemic factors (Singer, 1961), advocates of the bureaucratic politics paradigm view foreign policy behavior as the consequence of decision-makers' efforts to enhance their parochial interests. Thus a researcher adopting this approach would agree with Kissinger's view "that if one wants to understand what the government is likely to do, one has to understand the bureaucratics of the problems" (Kissinger, 1973: 84). Such an explanatory framework analyzes a particular nation's foreign policy by "holding constant" domestic politics and international contextual variables as sources of national behavior and by concentrating instead on the activities of those individuals responsible for formulating the external policies of the nation. According to this perspective foreign policy decisions are not made; rather policy develops as the outcomes of bureaucratic interaction. Participating bureaucrats act to protect their personal and organizational interests, and identify national interests with these interests. Popularized by Graham Allison, the bureaucratic paradigm's influence on international relations theory can be assessed as well by the emergence of numerous critiques of that approach (Allison, 1971; Art, 1973; Allison and Halperin, 1972; Halperin and Kanter, 1973; Krasner, 1972). In short, the objectives of the present study are (1) to confront a major analytic framework with data in order to estimate its ability to explain the external behavior of nations, (2) to develop several prescriptions concerning appropriate research strategies for the construction of positive foreign policy theory, and (3) to raise some methodological questions regarding the use of event/interaction data in comparative foreign policy research.

Additional Information

International Interactions, Vol. 3, 1977
Language: English
Date: 1977
Foreign Policy

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