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Structure and Agency in Foreign Policy Analysis Week 8: Concepts and Approaches in Politics and International Relations.

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Presentation on theme: "Structure and Agency in Foreign Policy Analysis Week 8: Concepts and Approaches in Politics and International Relations."— Presentation transcript:

1 Structure and Agency in Foreign Policy Analysis Week 8: Concepts and Approaches in Politics and International Relations

2 The Agent-Structure Debate What is the agent-structure debate? What is the agent-structure debate? Structure: the sets of factors which make up the multiple environments in which agents operate, and they shape the nature of choices, by setting limits to the possible but also, more profoundly, by determining the nature of the problems which offer there by shaping our very life-worlds. Structure: the sets of factors which make up the multiple environments in which agents operate, and they shape the nature of choices, by setting limits to the possible but also, more profoundly, by determining the nature of the problems which offer there by shaping our very life-worlds.

3 The Agent-Structure Debate What is the agent-structure debate? What is the agent-structure debate? Agency: Agents are the entities capable of decisions and actions in any given context. They may be single individuals or collectives and they may be characterised by conscious intentions or by patterns of behaviour which at least in part do not result from deliberation. Agency: Agents are the entities capable of decisions and actions in any given context. They may be single individuals or collectives and they may be characterised by conscious intentions or by patterns of behaviour which at least in part do not result from deliberation.

4 Implications of the Agency- Structure Debate We can talk about the agent-structure debate in two different ways. We can talk about the agent-structure debate in two different ways. One is the unit of analysis. One is the unit of analysis. Units help us divide the world while actors have independent will and exorcise decision-making. Units help us divide the world while actors have independent will and exorcise decision-making. The other is modes of explanation. The other is modes of explanation. Foreign policy making is a complex process of interaction between many actors, differentially embedded in a wide range of different structures. Thus, a relationship between the two. Foreign policy making is a complex process of interaction between many actors, differentially embedded in a wide range of different structures. Thus, a relationship between the two.

5 Theory and Agency-Structure Neo-realism: Structure determines behaviour Neo-realism: Structure determines behaviour Liberalism/Pluralism: Agency matters Liberalism/Pluralism: Agency matters Constructivism: link between agency and structure, mutually determined Constructivism: link between agency and structure, mutually determined

6 FPA and Agency-Structure Where does FPA sit in this scheme? Where does FPA sit in this scheme? Between positivism and constructivism Between positivism and constructivism On one hand, we can rely on empirical knowledge to explain events and even make predictions at times. On one hand, we can rely on empirical knowledge to explain events and even make predictions at times. On the other hand, we conclude that there is a limit to how much we can generalise from this empirical data. On the other hand, we conclude that there is a limit to how much we can generalise from this empirical data.

7 FPA and Agency-Structure Where does FPA sit in this scheme? Where does FPA sit in this scheme? Freewill and Rationality: two views Freewill and Rationality: two views Choice is illusory given the power of historical forces on the other. Choice is illusory given the power of historical forces on the other. While individuals do originate action, they are limited in their options by their preferences and environment (i.e. Structures) While individuals do originate action, they are limited in their options by their preferences and environment (i.e. Structures)

8 Foreign policy and the State Agency-structure in the international system meet most usually at the level of the state. Agency-structure in the international system meet most usually at the level of the state. Thus, we need to have an idea what we mean by the state because this makes a difference as to where foreign policy starts and stops. Thus, we need to have an idea what we mean by the state because this makes a difference as to where foreign policy starts and stops. Also, International politics is about how the state behaves at the international level and thus understanding how the state behaves at the domestic level is key to linking the domestic with the international. Also, International politics is about how the state behaves at the international level and thus understanding how the state behaves at the domestic level is key to linking the domestic with the international.

9 Foreign policy and the State What is the role of the state in international politics? What is the role of the state in international politics? Issue of Sovereignty Issue of Sovereignty Foreign policy exists in the space created by states existence and by their lack of omnipotence. Foreign policy exists in the space created by states existence and by their lack of omnipotence. The role of the state is to mediate the impact of the external on the domestic and to find ways of projecting a particular set of concerns in a very intractable world. It depends on sovereignty not being extinguished where it already exists, but otherwise is more linked to the existence of a distinguishable set of domestic interests, which vary independently of the given of sovereign statehood. The role of the state is to mediate the impact of the external on the domestic and to find ways of projecting a particular set of concerns in a very intractable world. It depends on sovereignty not being extinguished where it already exists, but otherwise is more linked to the existence of a distinguishable set of domestic interests, which vary independently of the given of sovereign statehood.

10 Approaches to the State Two types of approaches to the state: Two types of approaches to the state: Outside-in: states evolved as part of regional power politics Outside-in: states evolved as part of regional power politics Inside-out: states are essentially the product of a social contract to engage in common cause Inside-out: states are essentially the product of a social contract to engage in common cause No interpretation of the state which fails to bind the domestic and the international aspects together can be very convincing. No interpretation of the state which fails to bind the domestic and the international aspects together can be very convincing.

11 The State and IR The international system is still anarchical and thus states must retain armies to defend the state in a self-help system The international system is still anarchical and thus states must retain armies to defend the state in a self-help system In a complicated international system, we need states to provide identity, direction and agency. In a complicated international system, we need states to provide identity, direction and agency. The state offers protection of private space, that is the capacity to regulate or protect social behaviour and traditions. The state offers protection of private space, that is the capacity to regulate or protect social behaviour and traditions.

12 Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Inherent link between the domestic and international Inherent link between the domestic and international International determinants of foreign policy International determinants of foreign policy Domestic determinants of foreign policy Domestic determinants of foreign policy Robert Putnam: the logic of two-level of games Robert Putnam: the logic of two-level of games Ex: Trade negotiations Ex: Trade negotiations

13 Questions about the State Should we restrict foreign policy to that only done by states or can other units have a foreign policy? Should we restrict foreign policy to that only done by states or can other units have a foreign policy? Should foreign and defence policy be delegated almost wholly to a small elite, on the grounds that dealings with other states requires secrecy, continuity, experience and personal contacts? If so, what does say about democracy or popular sovereignty? Should foreign and defence policy be delegated almost wholly to a small elite, on the grounds that dealings with other states requires secrecy, continuity, experience and personal contacts? If so, what does say about democracy or popular sovereignty? Whose interests are served by a states foreign policy? Whose interests are served by a states foreign policy?

14 Expectation of Foreign Policy Whose interests are served by a states foreign policy? Whose interests are served by a states foreign policy? Protecting citizens abroad Protecting citizens abroad Projecting identity abroad Projecting identity abroad Homeostasis or the maintenance of territorial integrity and social peace against external threats Homeostasis or the maintenance of territorial integrity and social peace against external threats Advancing prosperity Advancing prosperity Making decisions on interventions abroad Making decisions on interventions abroad Negotiating a stable international order Negotiating a stable international order Protecting the global commons (Environmentalism, global security (broadly defined)) Protecting the global commons (Environmentalism, global security (broadly defined))


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