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Foreign Policy Analysis and Rational Choice Models

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Subject International Studies » Foreign Policy Analysis

Key-Topics aid, peace, power (political), rational choice

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   The study of foreign policy as a rational choice process is undergoing a sea change in its focus and in its impact on policy choices. At least since the end of World War II, foreign policy thinking has been dominated by a realist (or neorealist) perspective in which states are taken as the relevant unit of analysis. There has been a shift away from that orientation within the rational choice community concerned with foreign policy. This has resulted both in the development of game theory models, of direct use in helping to inform foreign policy choices, and in the uncovering of new insights that are reshaping thinking about crucial foreign policy questions. Here I review the relevant literature in terms of its analytic contributions and its place in helping to shape policy decisions. Before doing so, however, I digress briefly to explain the fundamentals behind rational choice models. Although the rational actor perspective on foreign policy has been around for several decades (some early examples include Russett 1967 ; Brams 1975 ; Zagare 1977 ; Altfeld and Bueno de Mesquita 1979 ; Wittman 1979 ), misunderstandings and misplaced critiques of the approach persist, hindering thoughtful and informed discussion. With that in mind, I begin with what the rational actor model is not before explaining briefly what it is. In an otherwise superb study by ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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