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Chapter 6 The Individual. Individual Level of Analysis Do individuals matter in IR/foreign policy decision-making? –Liberalism: Yes. Actions of individuals.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 6 The Individual. Individual Level of Analysis Do individuals matter in IR/foreign policy decision-making? –Liberalism: Yes. Actions of individuals."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 6 The Individual

2 Individual Level of Analysis Do individuals matter in IR/foreign policy decision-making? –Liberalism: Yes. Actions of individuals matter; individual elites can make a difference; they have choices in the kind of foreign policy they pursue, and can affect course of events; need to pay attention to personality characteristics and decision-making processes; mass publics matter, too; they help formulate state’s interests –Realism: No. Does not recognize importance of individual actors in IR; individuals constrained by unitary states seeking to project power in anarchic international system consistent with pursuit of national interest –Radicalism: No. Individuals are member of a class constrained by international capitalist system (capitalist classes and their clients within states; imperatives of capitalist accumulation at the system level)

3 Impact of Elites: External Conditions When are the actions of individuals likely to have an effect? Under what conditions do different actors behave differently? Individual elites most likely to impact events when: –Political institutions are unstable, young, in crisis, collapsed (e.g., Hitler, Gandhi, Lenin, Roosevelt, Obama?) –Few institutional constraints (e.g., dictatorial regimes; policy “openings”) –When the issue is peripheral, unusual, ambiguous (no routine SOP, information unclear; e.g., crisis scenario)

4 Impact of Elites: Personality Hermann (1980): two basic orientations; individual personality influences foreign policy orientation and behavior (personality influences decisions) Independent orientation to foreign affairs –High levels of nationalism –Strong belief in ability to control events’ –Strong need for power –Low levels of conceptual complexity –High levels of distrust of others Participatory orientation to foreign affairs –Low levels of nationalism –Little belief in ability to control events –Need for affiliation –High levels of conceptual complexity –Low levels of distrust of others

5 Individual Decision-making Rational model (individual/state possesses relevant information; stipulates goal; evaluates choices; makes decision that best achieves goal); expectation of Realist theory (especially at state level; unitary, rational actor) In reality, individuals not perfectly rational decision- makers (information is imperfect, incomplete; individuals select, organize, and evaluate incoming information in a less than rational manner) Individuals use existing perceptions, “screens” to process, synthesize, and interpret information selectively –An integrated set of images is called a belief system, or ideology

6 Psychological information- processing mechanisms Cognitive consistency – (individuals) accept information that is compatible with what has previously been accepted (ignore inconsistent information) Evoked set – (individuals) look for details in present situation that are similar to information gained from past situations (leads to similar conclusions, ignoring alternative interpretations) Mirror image – (individuals and groups) view opponent as opposite in character to oneself (leads to misunderstanding; demonization, etc.) Groupthink – (small groups) form consensus and resist criticism of core position (ignore contradictory information) Satisficing – (groups) search for good-enough solution rather than optimal one

7 Public/mass influence Mass publics have similar psychological tendencies as elites and small groups; use perceptions and images; mirror images; similar information-processing mechanisms Influence mass publics have on foreign policy –Think and act the same as elites –Have opinions and attitudes about foreign policy and IR that are different from elites; can cause leaders to adjust (while elites may care about public preferences, do not always incorporate them into policy decisions) –Masses, uncontrolled by formal institutions may occasionally act in ways that profoundly impact IR, regardless of what elites do (leaderless, collective action)

8 Contending Perspectives on the Individual Liberalism RealismRadicalism Foreign-policy elites Significant impact on international relations through choices made and personality factors Constrained by anarchic international system and national interests Constrained by international capitalist system Private individuals Secondary role, but may be involved in two-track diplomacy and may fund important initiatives Actions of private individuals only have effect in aggregate, as reflected in national interest Individual capitalists may be influential Mass publicsMay effect international relations through mass actions that pressure state decision-makers Actions may be reflected in national interest Agents of potential change

9 Discussion questions 1. Do individuals matter in IR? Who do you consider to be among the most important individual leaders in international politics (past or present) based on their “individual” contributions (either positive or negative)? How might IR be different today had these individuals not made the decisions/taken the actions they did? 2. Briefly describe cognitive consistency, the evoked set, mirror images, and groupthink. Which information- processing mechanisms do you consider most important? Are they interrelated? Is any one (or any combination) likely to produce greater political disasters/successes than the others? 3. Do mass publics really matter in IR/foreign policy processes? Provide examples to support your view.


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