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Institutional Actors in Foreign Policy Analysis

Ralph Carter and James M. Scott

Subject International Studies » Foreign Policy Analysis

Key-Topics head of government/state, institutions, policy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   Foreign policy is made and implemented by individuals acting within structured institutions of the state, and their foreign policy behavior is affected by the nature of those institutional structures and the roles they generate. As others have observed, “Although we recognize that numerous domestic and international factors can and do influence foreign policy behavior, these influences must be channeled through the political apparatus of a government which identifies, decides and implements foreign policy” ( Hermann et al. 1987 :309). Moreover, because institutions tend to change only slowly, they exert policy making influence that can be compared across regimes or across time within the same regime. Not surprisingly, such institutions have long been an important focus of foreign policy analysis. At the heart of any institutional approach is the intersection of agency and structure. Within international relations, the agency/structure “debate” involves fundamental philosophical and ontological questions about which entities comprise the field of study (e.g., Friedman and Starr 1997 ). Discerning which entities are the agents – those entities which act – and which are the structures – those sets of interrelated factors that comprise the environments in which agents act – involves contending theoretical approaches to the subject and thus the “debate” ( ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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