James N. Rosenau "Comparative Foreign Policy: Fad, Fantasy, or Field?"

James N. Rosenau "Comparative Foreign Policy: Fad, Fantasy, or Field?"

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Comparative Foreign Policy: Fad, Fantasy, or Field?

Comparative Foreign Policy: Fad, Fantasy, or Field? Author(s): James N. Rosenau Reviewed work(s): Source: International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 296-329 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The International Studies Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3013508 . Accessed: 28/02/2012 03:17

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Comparative Foreign Policy: Fad, Fantasy, or Field?*


All tlhe signs are pointing in the same direction: as a television commercial might describe it, "Comparative Foreign Policy is com- ing on strong for the 1970s!" A few undergraduate and graduate courses with this title are now being taught.' Several conferences on allied topics have recently been held2 and a couple of these have even resulted in the appearance of publications on the sub- ject.3 Occasionally a paper is delivered4 or book published5 which

* An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Conference Sem- inar of the Committee on Comparative Politics, The University of Michigan, on March 10, 1967. My gratitude to the Research Council of Rutgers Uni- versity and the Center of International Studies of Princeton University for the facilities that made possible the preparation of this paper is exceeded only by my indebtedness to my wife, Norah, who provided substantive suggestions, editorial advice, and moral support under the most trying conditions.

1 For example, at Northwestern University during the 1965-1966 academic year.

2 The most recent being the occasion at the University of Michigan for which this paper was written.

3 Cf. R. Barry Farrell ed. Approaches to Comparative and International Politics (Evanton: Northwestern University Press, 1966); Vernon McKay, ed., African Diplomacy: Studies in the Determinants of Foreign Policy (New York:




are devoted to the subject, and a perusal of recent lists of disser- tations in progress reveals that other research findings along this line are soon to become available." Then there is perhaps the surest sign of all: textbook publishers, those astute students of trends in Academe, have discerned a stirring in this direction and are busily drumming up manuscripts hat can be adopted as texts when the trend achieves discipline-wide acceptance by political scientists.7

In sum, it seems more than likely that in the coming years some- thing called "Comparative Foreign Policy" will occupy a prominent place in the teaching of political science and in the research of political scientists. But is such a development desirable? Is the phrase "comparative foreign policy a contentless ymbol to which students of international politics pay lip service in order to remain au courant with their colleagues elsewhere in the discipline? Does it stand for a scientific mpulse that can never be realized because foreign policy phenomena do not lend themselves to comparative analysis? Or does it designate an important and distinguishable s t of empirical phenomena that can usefully be subjected to extended examination? Is comparative foreign policy, in short, a fad, a fan- tasy, or a field?

In some respects it is all of these and the purpose of this paper is to identify the fad and fantasy dimensions in order to minimize confusion and contradiction as the field evolves. Although the field is barely in its infancy, hopefully an assessment of its inception

Frederick A. Praeger, 1966); and James N. Rosenau, Of Boundaries and Bridges: A Report on a Conference on the Interdependencies of National and International Political Systems (Princeton: Center of International Studies, Research Monograph No. 27, 1967).

4 Cf. the papers prepared for the International Relations panels at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1966.

5 See, for example, Kenneth N. Waltz, Foreign Policy and Democratic Politics: The American and British Experience (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967), and Wolfram F. Hanrieder, "Compatibility and Consensus: A Proposal for the Conceptual Linkage of External and Internal Dimensions of Foreign Policy," American Political Science Review, 59 (1967), pp. 971-82.

6 In the 1966 listing (American Political Science Review, 60, pp. 786-91), nine dissertations carried titles that suggested research on topics involving the comparative study of foreign policy.

7 During a recent two-week period the present writer received such invi- tations from three different publishers, each of whom was unaware of what the others were doing.



and an attempt o identify its boundaries and problems will, even at this early stage, lessen the growing pains that lie ahead.

I. The sources of reorientation That the fad, the fantasy, and the field are all of recent origin

can be readily demonstrated. Traditionally, the analysis of foreign policy phenomena has consisted of a policy-oriented concern with particular situations faced by specific nations. Thus the single case, limited in time by its importance to the relevant actors and in scope by the immediacy of its manifest repercussions, has dominated the literature for decades.8 Attempts to contrast wo or more empirical cases have been distinct exceptions and have been narrowly con- fined to the problem of whether democracies or dictatorships are likely to conduct themselves more effectively in the international arena.9 Even those political scientists in the early postwar era who explicitly sought to render foreign policy analysis more systematic by focusing on decision-making processes did not move in a com- parative direction. The decision-making approach to foreign policy called attention to a host of important variables and greatly dimin- ished the long-standing tendency to posit national actors as abstract entities endowed with human capacities and qualities. But, in de- manding that foreign policy be analyzed from the perspective of concrete and identifiable decision-makers, t-he approach also tended to preclude examination of the possibility that the perspectives of decision-makers in different societies might be similar, or at least comparable. Thus, throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, the newly discovered ecision-making variables served to improve the quality of the case histories rather than to replace them with new modes of analysis.10

To be sure, the immediate postwar period did not lack attempts to generalize about the processes whereby any society formulates and conducts its foreign policy. In addition to the efforts of Richard

8 For an elaboration of this point, see my "Pre-Theories and Theories of Foreign Policy," in R. Barry Farrell, ed., op. cit., pp. 31-37.

9 See, for example, Carl Joachim Friedrich, Foreign Policy in the Making (New York: W. W. Norton Co., 1938) Chaps. 1-4.

10 For an extended attempt to assess the impact of the decision-making approach on the study of foreign policy, see my "The Premises and Promises of Decision-Making Analysis," in James C. Charlesworth (ed.), Contemporary Political Analysis (New York: The Free Press, 1967), Chap. 11.



C. Snyder and others who pioneered in decision-making analysis,1' several more eclectic observers ought to specify the variables that operate wherever foreign policy phenomena re found,12 and a few textbook editors also undertook to bring together in one volume analyses of how different countries made and sustained their ex- ternal relations.13 In none of the more abstract formulations, how- ever, was the possibility of engaging in comparative analysis seriously considered. Foreign policy variables were identified and discussed as if they operated in identical ways in all societies and the hypothetical society abstracted therefrom was described in terms of a multiplicity of examples drawn largely from the "lessons" of modern international history.14 The appeasement at Munich, the betrayal at Pearl Harbor, the success of the Marshall Plan-these are but a few of the incidents that served as the em- pirical basis for the traditional model in which nations were posited as serving (or failing to serve) their national interests through foreign policies that balance ends with means and commitments

11 Cf. Karl W. Deutsch, "Mass Communications and the Loss of Freedom in National Decision-Making: A Possible Research Approach to Interstate Conflicts," Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1 (1957), pp. 200-11; Joseph Fran- kel, "Towards a Decision-Making Model in Foreign Policy," Political Studies, 7, (1959), pp. 1-11; Edgar S. Furniss, Jr., The Office of Premier in French Foreign Policy-Making: An Application of Decision-Making Analysis (Prince- ton: Foreign Policy Analysis Project, Princeton University, 1954); Richard C. Snyder, H. W. Bruck, Burton M. Sapin, Decision-Making as an Approach to the Study of International Politics (Princeton: Foreign Policy Analysis Project, Princeton University, 1954).

12 However, the list of works of this nature is not a long one. The main entries are Feliks Gross, Foreign Policy Analysis (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954); Louis J. Hlalle, Civilization and Foreign Policy: An Inquiry for Americans (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952); Kurt London, How Foreign Policy is Made (New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1949); Charles Burton Marshall, The Limits of Foreign Policy (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1954); and George Modelski, A Theoretical Analysis of the Formation of Foreign Policy (London: University of London, 1954), later published as A Theory of Foreign Policy (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962).

13 The only textbooks with such a focus published prior to the 1960s were Roy C. Macridis, ed. Foreign Policy in World Politics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1958), and Philip W. Buck and Martin Travis, Jr., eds., Control of Foreign Relations in Modern Nations (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1957).

14 London also presented separate descriptions of policy-making in Wash- ington, London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, but these were not then subjected to comparative analysis (op. cit., pp. 99-153).



with capabilities. That the lessons of history might be variously experienced by different policymaking systems was not accounted for in the abstract models and thus, to repeat, they were no more oriented toward comparative analysis than were the case histories that constituted the mainstream of foreign policy research.

Nor did the textbook editors take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the accumulation of materials about the external be- havior of different countries and present concluding chapters that attempted to identify the similarities and differences uncovered by the separate, but juxtaposed, analyses of several policymaking systems. Ironically, in fact, the one text that used the word "com- parative" in connection with the study of a foreign policy also explicitly raised doubts about the applicability of this form of analysis: in the first edition of this work the introductory chapter on the "Comparative Study of Foreign Policy" was written by Gabriel A. Almond, who noted the "lack of the most elementary knowledge" about foreign policy phenomena nd concluded that therefore "it will be some time before rigorous and systematic comparison becomes possible."'15 Even more ironically, the com- parable chapter of the second edition of the same text, written four years later by Kenneth W. Thompson and Roy C. Macridis, went even further and rejected the premises of comparative analy- sis on the grounds that foreign policy variables involve a "com- plexity [that] makes a mockery of the few 'scientific' tools we have," thereby rendering any attempt to generalize on the basis of com- parative assessments "a hopeless task."'16

The existence of this attitude of hopelessness and of the tradi- tional inclination toward case histories raises the question of why pronounced signs of a major reorientation have appeared with in- creasing frequency in the mid-1960s? The answer would seemn to be that two unrelated but major trends, one historical and the other intellectual, have converged at this point, and while neither alone would have stimulated the impulse to compare foreign policy phenomena, their coincidence in time has served to generate strong pressures in this direction.

15 Macridis, ed., op. cit., pp. 5-6. 16 Roy C. Macridis, ed., Foreign Policy in World Politics (Englewood

Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962, Second Edition), pp. 26-27.



Let us look first at the intellectual factors. It seems clear, in retrospect, hat the rapid emergence of a heavy emphasis upon comparison in the analysis of domestic politics served as a potent impetus to reorientation i the study of foreign policy. The turning point for the field of comparative politics can be traced to the mid- 1950s, when structural-functional a ysis was first applied to po- litical phenomena,17 an event that in turn led to the formation of the Committee on Comparative Politics of the Social Science Re- search Council18 and tlhe publication of its many pioneering volumes.19 These works highlighted the idea, explicitly set forth in t-he first chapter of the first volume, that certain key functions must be performed if a political system is to persist, and that these functions can be performed by a wide variety of structures.20 What- ever the limitations of structural-functional a ysis-and there are many2l-this central premise provided a way for students of do- mestic processes to compare seemingly dissimilar phenomena. Until structural-functional a lysis was made part of the conceptual equipment of the field, the most salient dimensions of political sys- tems were their unique characteristics and there seemed to be little reason to engage in comparison, except perhaps to show how dif- ferent governmental forms give rise to dissimilar consequences. Indeed, prior to the mid-1950s it was quite commonplace to show

17 Cf. Gabriel A. Almond, "Comparative Political Systems," Joutnal of Politics, 18 (1956), pp. 391-409.

18 Gabriel A. Almond and James S. Coleman (eds.), The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960); Lucian W. Pye, ed., Communications and Political Devolopment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963); Joseph LaPalombara, ed., Bureaucracy and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963); Robert E. Ward and Dankwart A. Rustow, eds., Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), James S. Coleman, ed., Edu- cation and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); Lucian W. Pye and Sidney Verba, eds., Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965); Joseph LaPalom- bara and Myron Weiner, eds., Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).

20 Cf. Gabriel A. Almond, "A Functional Approach to Comparative Poli- tics," in Almond and Coleman, op. cit., pp. 3-64.

21 For a succinct review and assessment of these limitations, see Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1961), pp. 520-35. Also see Robert E. Dowse, "A Functionalist's Logic," World Politics, 18 (1966), pp. 607-22.



that even similar governmental forms can give rise to dissimilar consequences: "Look at this Western parliament and contrast it with tlhat non-Western legislature," a student at that time would observe with a sense of satisfaction. "They both go through the same procedures, but how diverse are the resultsl"

Then the breakthrough occurred. Structural-functional a ysis lifted sights to a higher level of generalization and put all political systems on an analytic par. Thereafter, tracing differences was much less exhilarating than probing for functional equivalents, and stu- dents of domestic politics were quick to respond to the challenge and reorient heir efforts. Since the mid-1950s political scientists have turned out a seemingly endless series of articles and books committed to comparative analysis-to a delineation of similarities and differences upon which empirically based models of the politi- cal process could be founded. A spate of comparative materials on governance in underdeveloped polities was the vanguard of this analytic upheaval, but its repercussions were by no means confined to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. No type of system or area of the world was viewed as an inappropriate subject for comparative analysis. Even the two systems which an earlier generation of political scientists viewed as polar extremes, the United States and the Soviet Union, were considered as fit for comparison and as apt subjects to test a "theory of convergence."22 Similarly, while the West non-West distinction had been regarded as representing mu- tually exclusive categories, it was now treated as descriptive of two segments of the same continuum of whatever class of political phenomena was being examined.23 Nor was there any reluctance to break systems down and look at only one of their component parts: political parties were compared,24 and so were political cultures,25 oppositions,26 revolutionary movements,27 Communist

22 Zbigniew Brzezinski and Samuel P. Huntington, Political Power: USAI USSR (New York: The Viking Press, 1964), pp. 3-14 and passim.

23 For example, see Samuel P. Huntington, "Political Development and Political Decay," World Politics, 17 (1965), pp. 386-430.

24 LaPalombara and Weiner, op. cit. 25 Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Atti-

tudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963).

26 Robert A. Dahl (ed.), Political Oppositions in Western Democracies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966).

27 Chalmers Johnson, Revolutionary Change (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1966).



regimes,28 bureaucracies,29 constitutional subsystems,80 military elites,3' and so on, through all the major institutions, processes, and personnel of polities. As the comparative movement gained momen- tum, moreover, it generated efforts to clarify the methodological problems posed by the new orientation32 and, more importantly, to provide comparable data for most or all of the polities extant.88 Like all major movements, the trend toward comparative analysis also evoked protests and denunciations of its legitimacy.34

If the ultimate purpose of political inquiry is the generation of tested and/or testable theory, then this upheaval in comparative politics had already begun to yield solid results by the mid-1960s. One could look only with wonderment upon the progress that had

28 Robert C. Tucker, "On the Comparative Study of Communism," World Politics, 19 (1967), pp. 242-57.

29 LaPalombara, op. cit., and Ferrel Heady, Public Administration: A Com- parative Perspective (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966).

30 Herbert Jacob and Kenneth N. Vines, eds., Politics in the American States: A Comparative Analysis (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965); Frank Munger, ed., American State Politics: Readings for Comparative Analysis (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966); and Lewis A. Froman, Jr., "An Analysis of Public Policies in Cities," Journal of Politics, 29 (1967), pp. 94-108.

31 Morris Janowitz, The Military in the Political Development of New Nations: An Essay in Comparative Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964); John J. Johnson, ed., The Role of the Military in Underdeveloped Countries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962); and Sydney Nettle- ton Fisher, ed., The Military in the Middle East: Problems in Society and Government (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1963).

32 Cf. Richard L. Merritt and Stein Rokkan, eds.), Comparing Nations: The Use of Quantitative Data in Cross-National Research (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), passim; Arthur K. Kalleberg, "The Logic of Com- parison: A Methodological Note on the Comparative Study of Political Sys- tems," World Politics, 19 (1966), pp. 69-82; Sigmund Neumann, "Compara- tive Politics: A Half-Century Appraisal," Journal of Politics, 19 (1957), pp. 369-90; Sigmund Neumann, "The Comparative Study of Politics," Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1 (January 1959), pp. 105-12; Michael Haas, "Comparative Analysis," Western Political Quarterly, 15 (1962), pp. 294-303; and Harry Eckstein, "A Perspective on Comparative Politics, Past and Present," in Harry Eckstein and David E. Apter, eds., Comparative Politics: A Reader (New York: The Free Press, 1964), pp. 3-32.

33 See Arthur S. Banks and Robert B. Textor, A Cross-Polity Survey (Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1963), and Bruce M. Russett, Hayward R. Alker, Jr., Karl W. Deutsch, and Harold D. Lasswell, World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964).

84 Leslie Wolf-Phillips, "Metapolitics: Reflections on a 'Methodological Revolution,"' Political Studies, 12 (1964), pp. 352-69.



occurred in a decade's time: not only were data being gathered and processed in entirely new ways, but a variety of stimulating, broad- gauged, systematic, and empirically based models of domestic political processes in generalized types of polities had made their way into the literature.35 Curiously, however, foreign policy phe- nomena were not caught up in these tides of change. None of the new empirical findings, much less any of the new conceptual for- mulations, dealt with the responses of polities and their institutions, processes, and personnel to international events and trends. For reasons suggested elsewhere,"6 everything was compared but for- eign policy phenomena, and only belatedly have students of com- parative politics even acknowledged the need to make conceptual allowance for the impact of international variables upon domestic processes.37

35 For example, see Gabriel A. Almond and C. Bingham Powell, Jr., Com- parative Politics: A Development Approach (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1966); David E. Apter, The Politics of Modernization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965); Louis Hartz, et al, The Founding of New Societies (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964); Robert T. Holt and John E. Turner, The Political Bases of Economic Development: An Exploration in Comparative Analysis (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1966); and A.F.K. Organski, The Stages of Political Development (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965).

36 James N. Rosenau (ed.), Linkage Politics: Essays on the Convergence of National and International Systems (New York: Free Press, forthcoming), Chap. 1.

37 The conference that occasioned this paper, along with the one that led to the volume edited by R. Barry Farrell (op. cit.), is one of the few efforts to examine national-international re ationships organized by students of do- mestic political systems. For another belated acknowledgment of the relevance of international variables, see Almond and Powell (op. cit.), pp. 9, 203-04. Actually, in all fairness it should be noted that some years ago Almond did acknowledge that studies of "the functioning of the domestic political system . . .have commonly neglected the importance of the international situation in affecting the form of the political process and the content of domestic public policy . . . . We do not know until this day whether the differences in the functioning of the multiparty systems of the Scandinavian countries and those of France and Italy are to be attributed to internal differences in culture, economics, and political and governmental structure, or whether they are attributable to the differences in the 'loading' of these systems with difficult and costly foreign policy problems, or whether both and in what proportions" (in Macridis, op. cit., 1958, pp. 4-5). In his ensuing pioneering works on domestic systems, however, Almond did not follow the line of his own rea- soning. Not even his highly general structural-functional model of the political process, presented two years later in The Politics of the Developing Areas, made conceptual room for the impact of international variables or the func-



The recent signs of interest in comparative foreign policy, in other words, arise out of the work of students of international poli- tics and foreign policy and not from an extension of the models and inquiries of those who focus on national or subnational phe- nomena. As indicated, however, it seems doubtful whether the former would have become interested in comparative analysis if the latter had not successfully weathered a decade of upheaval. This spillover thus constitutes the prime intellectual source of the reorientation toward comparative foreign policy: in large measure the reorientation stemmed from the desire of students of interna- tional processes to enjoy success similar to that of their colleagues in an adjoining field.38

The other major source of the reorientation is to be found in certain postwar historical circumstances that coincided with the upheaval in the field of comparative politics. At least two trends in world politics would appear to have attracted the attention of stu- dents of foreign policy to the virtues of comparative analysis. Per- haps the most important of these involves the proliferation ofna- tional actors that occurred uring the 1955-1965 decade as a result of the withdrawal of colonial powers from Africa and Asia. Not only did foreign policy phenomena lso proliferate at a comparable rate during this period (there being more actors engaging in for- eign policy actions), but, more importantly, the recurrence of similar patterns was far more discernible and impressive in a world of some 120 nations than it had been when half this number of actors comprised the international system. Conversely, the more the in- ternational system grew in size, the less did concentration upon unique patterns seem likely to unravel the mysteries of international life. Stated differently, as more and more nations acquired indepen- dence and sought to come to terms with neighbors and great pow- ers, the more did contrasts among two or more of them loom as the

tions served by political activities oriented toward a system's external environ- ment.

38 For evidence that the foreign policy field was not the only one to ex- perience the spillover from the comparative movement initiated by students of national and subnational politics, see John Useem and Allen D. Grimshaw, "Comparative Sociology," Items, 20 (December 1966), pp. 46-51, which out- lines developments that have recently culminated in the appointment of a new committee on comparative sociology by the Social Science Research Council.



route to comprehension of world politics. The decolonization of sub-Sahara Africa was especially crucial in this respect. The result- ing national actors were so similar in size, cultural heritage, social composition, political structure, and stage of economic develop- ment, and the problems they faced in the international system were thus so parallel, that the analysis of their foreign policies vir- tually compelled comparison. At least this would seem to be the most logical explanation for the fact that many of the early efforts to derive theoretical propositions about foreign policy from the comparative analysis of empirical materials focused on Africa in particular89 and underdeveloped polities in general.40

The advent of the thermonuclear e a and the emergence of Red China as a budding and recalcitrant superpower are illustrative of another historical trend that has fostered a reorientation i foreign policy analysis, namely, the emergence of problems that are world- wide in scope. As more and more situations have arisen toward which all national actors must necessarily take a position, analysts with a policy-oriented concern have become increasingly inclined to juxtapose and contrast he reactions and policies of nations that they previously treated as single cases. Many analyses of the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty, the continuing problem of nuclear prolifera- tion, and the Chinese acquisition of a nuclear capability are obvious examples. Indeed, the worldwide implications of China's emergence recently resulted in what is probably the first work to focus on an immediate policy problem by analyzing how a number of different national actors are inclined to respond to it.41

II. The study of comparative foreign policy and the comparative study of foreign policy Reorientation of analytic modes never occurs without a period

of transition and adjustment hat is often slow and difficult. Ap- parently the study of foreign policy is not to be an exception. Some

39 See, for example, McKay, op. cit., and Doudou Thiam, The Foreign Policy of African States: Ideological Bases, Present Realities, Future Prospects (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965).

40 For a particularly stimulating effort of this kind, see Henry A. Kissinger, "Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy," Daedalus, 95 (Spring 1966), pp. 503-29.

41 A. M. Halpern, ed., Policies Toward China: Views from Six Continents (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1965).



of the early changes suggest hat the reorientation is based partly upon a headlong and ill-considered rush to get aboard the compara- tive bandwagon. Perhaps because the intellectual and historic factors that have fostered change converged and reinforced each other in such a short span of time, little thought has been given to what comparison entails in relation to foreign policy phenomena. "After all," some students of foreign policy seem to say, "the com- parative people are doing it, why shouldn't we?" What "it" is in this context, however, is rarely examined and is often assumed to in- volve no more than the juxtaposition of the foreign policy phenom- ena of two or more systems. What aspects of foreign policy should be compared, how they should be compared, why they should be compared, whether they can be compared-questions such as these are not raised. Rather, having presumed that simply by juxtaposing such phenomena n endeavor called "comparative foreign policy" is established, many analysts proceed in the accustomed manner and examine each unit of the juxtaposed materials eparately as a case history.

A good illustration of the continuing predisposition to settle for juxtaposition without comparison isprovided by the aforementioned work on how more than sixteen different ational actors are inclined to respond to Communist China.42 Despite the abundance of com- parable material made available by the common focus of the various chapters, neither the editor nor the authors aw fit to con- trast systematically the relative potencies of the variables under- lying responses to China. Instead, each of the sixteen substantive chapters deals with the policies of a different country or region toward China, and the editor's introductory and concluding chapters are concerned, respectively, with presenting an overview of China itself and summarizing all the differences that were revealed to underlie policies toward it. In effect, the work consists of sixteen separate studies conveniently brought ogether in one place.43

In short, comparative foreign policy has to some extent become a new label for an old practice. It is in this sense-in the sense that reference ismade to comparative analysis without adherence to the

42 Ibid. 43 For an elaboration of this assessment, see my review of the book in

The Journal of Asian Studies, 26 (1967), pp. 287-88.

VOLUME 12, mnmm 3, SEPTEMBER 1968


procedures it requires-that some of the recent signs of reorienta- tion are essentially no more than a passing fad, an emulation of form rather than of substance. Even worse, to the extent hat the label is more than an empty symbol of modernity, it has been invested with misleading connotations. An unfortunate ndency, perhaps also stemming from ill-considered emulation, has devel- oped whereby comparative foreign policy is viewed as a body of knowledge, as a subject to be explored, as a field of inquiry. Scholars and textbook publishers alike tend to refer to the study of comparative foreign policy as if there existed in the real world a set of phenomena that could be so labeled. Scholars speak of engaging in research on comparative foreign policy and publishers talk of issuing eight or ten paperbacks as their comparative foreign policy series. Such nomenclature is unfortunate b cause the bene- fits of comparative analysis cannot be enjoyed if it is conceived in terms of subject matter ather than in methodological terms. Com- parison is a method, not a body of knowledge. Foreign policy phe- nomena-and not comparative foreign policy phenomena-com- prise the subject matter to be probed and these can be studied in a variety of ways, all of them useful for certain purposes and ir- relevant o other purposes. The comparative method is only one of these ways and it is not necessarily the best method for all pur- poses. It is most useful with respect to the generation and testing of propositions about foreign policy behavior that apply to two or more political systems. Only by identifying similarities and differ- ences in the external behavior of more than one national actor can analysis move beyond the particular case to higher levels of gen- eralization.44 On the other hand, if the researcher is concerned with the processes of only a single system, then the comparative method may not be as valuable as the case history.45

44 For a discussion of the different levels of generalization at which the comparative analysis of political systems can be undertaken, see Tucker, op. cit., pp. 246-54.

45 Under special circumstances, however, it is possible to apply the com- parative method to a single system. If certain conditions remain constant from one point in time to another, then variables pertinent o the one system can be contrasted and assessed in terms of their operation at different his- torical junctures. For an extended discussion and application of this proce- dure, which has been designated as "quantitative historical comparison," see my "Private Preferences and Political Responsibilities: The Relative Potency



Strictly speaking, therefore, it makes a difference whether one defines oneself as engaged in the comparative study of foreign policy or in the study of comparative foreign policy. The former, it is argued here, is a legitimate and worthwhile enterprise that may well lead to the formation of a disciplined field of inquiry, whereas the latter is an ambiguous label that serves to perpetuate a fad rather than to establish a field.

Still another kind of confusion has arisen out of the initial burst of enthusiasm for a more systematic approach to the analysis of foreign policy phenomena, namely, a tendency to posit such phe- nomena as encompassing the entire range of actions and interac- tions through which the interdependence of nations is sustained. Just as this ever-increasing interdependence has stimulated analysts to look more carefully at foreign policy, so has it spurred a greater concern with linkages between national and international political systems. Also referred to as "transnational politics" or "national- international interdependencies," these linkages are seen as com- prising all the ways in which the functioning ofeach type of politi- cal system is a consequence of the other.46 While the foreign policy and linkage approaches overlap in important ways, they are not identical. The latter is broader than the former and can be viewed as subsuming it. Foreign policy phenomena comprise certain kinds of linkages, those in which governments relate themselves to all or part of the international system through the adoption of purpose- ful stances toward it, but there are other major kinds in which the links may be fashioned by nongovernmental actors or by the un- intentional consequences of governmental action. These other kinds of linkages can, of course, be highly relevant to the formulation, conduct, and consequences of foreign policy, but they emanate from and are sustained by a set of processes that are analytically separable from the processes of foreign policy. Yet, impressed by the extent to which national systems have become pervaded by external stimuli, some analysts tend to emphasize the fact that in responding to these stimuli the national system is responding to

of Individual and Role Variables in the Behavior of U.S. Senators," in J. David Singer, ed., Quantitative International Politics: Insights and Evidence (New York: The Free Press, 1968), pp. 17-50.

46 For an elaboration of this conception, see my Linkage Politics, op. cit., Chap. 3.



elements "foreign" to it, an emphasis which leads to the erroneous equation of national-international linkages with foreign policy phenomena.47

III. Tracing the outlines of a field To note that foreign policy phenomena involve governmental

undertakings directed toward the external environment neither justifies treating them as a separate field of inquiry nor indicates where the boundaries of such a field lie. While it is possible to argue that the comparative study of foreign policy is a subfield of political science because many political scientists research such matters and see themselves as engaged in a common enterprise when they do so, plainly a,field must have an intellectual identity apart from the activities of its practitioners. For a field to exist, presumably itmust have its own discipline-its own subject matter, its own point of view, and its own theory. In the absence of a sub- ject matter with an internal coherence of its own, of a viewpoint that structures the subject matter in unique ways, and of a body of theoretical propositions that have not been or cannot be derived from any other way of structuring the subject, researchers can never be sure whether in fact they are engaging in a common enterprise. Under such circumstances, they may actually be working on highly diverse problems that share only tlle labels that are attached to them. What is regarded as "the field" may be no more than a com- posite of several different enterprises that overlap in some respects but that have distinctive subject matters, viewpoints, and proposi- tions of their own.

Thus it is conceivable that the comparative study of foreign policy is not a field at all. Perhaps the search for its subject matter, viewpoint, and propositions will yield the conclusion that it is best viewed as a composite of national and international politics-as the appropriate concern of two fields, one treating foreign policy phe- nomena as dependent variables in the operation of national political systems and the other as independent variables in the operation of international political systems. Needless to say, it would make mat- ters much easier if a separate field could not be delineated and

47 See Hanrieder, op. cit., and my critique of this article, American Politi- cal Science Review, 59 (1967), pp. 983-88.



comparative studies of foreign policy could be assessed in terms of the concepts and standards of either the national or international politics fields. Much preliminary conceptualization a d argumenta- tion could thereby be avoided and analysts could push on to the main task of gathering data and advancing comprehension.

Tempting as such a conclusion may be, however, it must be rejected. The fact is that the national and international fields do not encompass all the phenomena to which the label of "foreign policy" might be attached. No matter how much the viewpoints of these fields may be stretched, some phenomena remain unexplained. Reflection about the nature of these phenomena, moreover, reveals a subject matter that is internally coherent, that is distinctive in its point of view, and that is at least capable of generating its own unique body of theory.

Stated most succinctly, the phenomena that are not otherwise accounted for, and that we shall henceforth regard as the subject matter of the field of foreign policy, are those that reflect an asso- ciation between variations in the behavior of national actors and variations in their external environments. The distinctive point of view of this field is that inquiry must focus on the association be- tween the two sets of variations and that this association can only be comprehended if it is examined and assessed under a variety of conditions. The theoretical propositions unique to the field are those that predict he association between the two sets of variations rather than only the behavior of the national actor or only the events in its environment.

Let us first look more closely at the subject matter of the field and indicate those aspects which render it internally coherent. Thus far we have loosely referred to foreign policy phenomena s if their nature was self-evident. Obviously, an enumeration of the major phenomena encompassed by this loose terminology is necessary if an assessment is to be made of whether they constitute a coherent body of data. Such an enumeration seems best begun with the premise that at the heart of foreign policy analysis is a concern with sequences of interaction, perceptual or behavioral, which span national boundaries and which unfold in three basic stages. The first, or initiatory, stage involves the activities, conditions, and in- fluences-human and nonhuman-that stimulate national actors to



undertake fforts o modify circumstances intheir external environ- ments. The second, or implementive, stage consists of the activities, conditions, and influences through which the stimuli of the initiatory stage are translated into purposeful actions directed at modifying objects in the external environment. The third, or responsive, stage denotes the activities, conditions, and influences that comprise the reactions of the objects of the modification attempts.48 The three stages so defined encompass, respectively, the independent, inter- vening, and dependent variables of foreign policy analysis.

The independent variables can be usefully divided into two major types, those that are internal to the actor that initiates a foreign policy undertaking49 and those that are external to it. The former include any human or nonhuman activities, conditions, and influences operative on the domestic scene that stimulate govern- mental officials to seek, on behalf of the national actor, to preserve or alter some aspect of the international system. Examples of in- ternal independent variables are elections, group conflicts, depleted oil reserves, geographic insularity, demands for higher tariffs, his- toric value orientations, a lack of societal unity, executive-legislative frictions, and so on, through all the diverse factors that contribute

48 This three-stage formulation of foreign policy sequences derives from a conception, elaborated elsewhere, which posits certain kinds of efforts to modify behavior, together with the modifications that do or do not subse- quently ensue, as the essence of political behavior. Cf. my Calculated Control as a Unifying Concept in the Study of International Politics and Foreign Policy (Princeton: Center of International Studies, Research Monograph No. 15, 1963).

49 The use of the word "undertaking" throughout is intended to empha- size that by "foreign policy" is meant considerably more than mere pronounce- ments indicating present or future lines of action. Such a designation helps to remind us that foreign policy can arise out of complex sources and require the mobilization of complex resources as well as lengthy and continuous ef- forts to bring about modifications of situations and conditions in the external environment. Stated differently, it seems insufficient to describe foreign policy solely in decisional terms. The central unit of action is too multi-dimensional to be seen as merely a choice that officials make among conflicting alternatives. By the time officials have mobilized resources in support of their decisions and coped with the responses of those toward whom the decisions are directed, decision-making is no longer enough to describe the action in which the ana- lyst is interested. For officials to translate the stimuli to external behavior into behavior intended to be effective xternally requires a vast undertaking that encompasses many decisions by many people. Hence it seems desirable to use nomenclature that is descriptive of the complexity and scope of the behavior being examined.



to national life and that can thereby serve as sources of foreign policy. External independent variables also include human and nonhuman activities, conditions, and influences, but these occur abroad and operate as foreign policy stimuli by serving as the objects that officials seek to preserve or alter through their under- takings. Diplomatic incidents, deteriorating economies, crop fail- ures, military buildups, elections, and historic enmities are but a few of the many diverse circumstances abroad that might stimulate official action. Obviously, foreign policy undertakings cannot be completely divorced from either the society out of which they emanate or the circumstances abroad toward which they are di- rected, so that some external and internal independent variables will be present in every undertaking albeit the mix of the two types may vary considerably from one undertaking to the next.

The intervening variables in foreign policy analysis are hardly less extensive. They include not only any attitudes, procedures, capabilities, and conflicts hat shape the way in which governmental decision-makers and agencies assess the initiatory stimuli and decide how to cope with them, but they also embrace any and all of the resources, techniques, and actions that may affect he way in which the decisions designed to preserve or modify circumstances in the international system are carried out. The priority of values held by officials; their tolerance for ambiguous information; their capacity for admitting past errors; their training and analytic skills; the hierarchical structure of their decision-making practices; the rivalry of agencies for money, power, and prestige; the administra- tive procedures employed in the field; the readiness to threaten the use of military force and the availability of men and material to back up the threats; the appropriateness ofpropaganda techniques; and the flexibility of foreign aid programs are examples of the many intervening variables that can operate in foreign policy un- dertakings.

The dependent variables comprising the responsive stage are equally complex and extensive. They include the activities, atti- tudes, relationships, institutions, capacities, and conditions in the international system that are altered (or not altered) or preserved (or not preserved) as a result of the foreign policy undertakings directed toward them. As in the case of the independent variables,



the dependent variables can be divided into two major types, those that involve an alteration or preservation of behavior internal to the object of the foreign policy undertaking and those that pertain to the object's changed or unchanged external behavior. Again a number of obvious examples can be cited. The readiness of another actor to enter into and/or conclude negotiations, the inclination to comply with or resist demands for support on issues in the United Nations, and the strengthening or weakening of an alliance exem- plify external dependent variables. The ability or inability to put armies into the field as a consequence of military assistance, the continuance or downfall of a hostile government, and the emergence of a new social structure or the persistence of an old one as a result of a multi-faceted foreign aid program are illustrative of circum- stances that would be treated as internal dependent variables when- ever they become the focus of foreign policy undertakings.

The field of foreign policy is thus seen to cover a vast range of phenomena. Circumstances can arise whereby virtually every aspect of local, national, and international politics may be part of the initiatory or responsive stage of the foreign policy process. Indeed, the foregoing examples indicate that students of foreign policy may often be led by their subject matter to move beyond political science to investigate phenomena in the other social sciences. They may even find themselves investigating phenomena in the physical sciences. This might occur, for example, if the foreign policy un- dertakings of interest aim to modify the external environment by compensating for depleted oil reserves. To comprehend the be- havior of the national actor and the resistance or compliance of the actors abroad whose oil deposits make them the objects of modifi- cation attempts, investigators must acquire some familiarity with the geology, technology, and economy of discovering, mining, and transporting oil.50

50 Of course, all of this is not to say that the individual student of foreign policy should or can be so broad-gauged as to be able to handle all the phenomena that fall within his puirview. We have been tracing the outlines of a field to be probed by many persons and not of a research design to be implemented by one. Plainly the diversity and range of materials encom- passed by the field are too great for one analyst to master fully. On the other hand, presumably the individual researcher must be capable of communicating with the many types of specialists to whom he may have to turn for guidance on those aspects of undertakings that lie outside his competence.



Yet, despite its breadth of coverage, the subject matter of the foreign policy field is internally coherent. All the phenomena of interest to foreign policy analysts acquire structure and coherence through their concern with the three stages of the interaction pro- cess through which national actors purposefully relate themselves to the international system. If individual, group, organizational, or societal phenomena are not relevant to one of the stages of a par- ticular foreign policy undertaking, then the analyst does not inves- tigate them. A vast range of phenomena may fall within the scope of his concerns, but they always do so in a specific context-that of whether variations in the initiatory and implementive stages can be related to variations in the responsive stage. Often, to be sure, the analyst may find that the two sets of variations are unrelated to each other. Some, perhaps many, foreign policy undertakings are totally ineffective and thus do not reflect an association in the two sets of variations. However, the internal coherence of the subject matter of a field derives from logical possibilities and not from empirical realities. It is the legitimacy of the search for, not the fact of, association between the two sets of variations that renders foreign policy phenomena internally coherent.

This is not to deny that the subject matter of the foreign policy field overlaps many other fields at many points. As already indi- cated, the phenomena encompassed by the initiatory and imple- mentive stages can be of considerable concern to students of na- tional politics, just as those comprising the responsive stage can be highly relevant to the analysis of international politics. Further- more, variations in any one of the stages may also be related to variations in sequences of behavior that span national boundaries but are not part of either of the other two stages. Foreign policy undertakings do have unintended consequences for social, eco- nomic, and political life, and, to the extent that they do, the phe- nomena of the field become central to these other disciplines. Yet notwithstanding such overlap, the foreign policy analyst structures his subject matter in such a way as to distinguish it from that of any other field. He is interested in the entire relationship that na- tional actors establish with their external environments and not in only a segment of it. None of the three stages has any meaning for him by itself. The characteristics of each stage hold his attention



only insofar as they may be associated with the characteristics of the other two. For him foreign policy becomes intelligible only to the extent hat its sources, contents, and consequences are consid- ered jointly. This is the distinctive viewpoint of the field. No other field concerns itself with the association between variables on both sides of national boundaries. The phenomena embraced by this association are the ones that always remain unexplained even after the fields of national and international politics are stretched to their limits. Students of national (or comparative) politics have no theoretical justification for sustaining an interest in foreign policy once the behavioral sequences it initiates are extended into the ex- ternal environment. Although slow to make theoretical allowance for the point, they do have a vital concern with the internal conse- quences of the processes of foreign policy formulation a d with the feedback effects that may result from the alterations which foreign policy undertakings bring about in the external environment. The responsive stage itself, however, lies outside of the scope of their field. Similarly, nothing in the theoretical foundations of interna- tional politics provides students of that field with justification for probing the sources of foreign policy that are located within na- tional actors or the response to foreign policy undertakings that are confined to the target society and do not become foreign policy initiatives on the part of that society. Theories of international politics focus on the interactions of national actors and not on the sources or consequences of interaction which are not part of prior or subsequent interactions.

Although the problems posed by the third requirement for the existence of a field, a unique body of theoretical propositions, are discussed at greater length in a later section, it can be seen from the foregoing that the study of foreign policy also meets this con- dition. Propositions about the association between variations in the behavior of national actors and variations in their external environ- ments cannot be derived from any other field of inquiry. Foreign policy theory necessarily borrows from theories of local and na- tional politics in order to manipulate properly the internal inde- pendent variables of the initiatory stage, the intervening variables of the implementive stage, and the internal dependent variables of the responsive stage. It must also rely on theories of international



politics for guidance in manipulating the external independent and dependent variables of the initiatory and responsive stages. Yet, by virtue of combining theory about domestic and international pro- cesses, foreign policy theory is neither domestic nor international theory. It bears the same relationship to these allied fields as social psychological theory does to psychology on the one hand and soci- ology on the other."' Like social psychology, it alone consists of propositions that relate the behavior of an actor both to its own functioning and to its environment. The list of foreign policy theorists i not long and contains no names comparable to Lewin, Hovland, Newcomb, Asch, or Festinger in social psychology, but presumably this is due to the fact that the reorientation toward the comparative analysis of foreign policy has just begun rather than to an inherent inability of the field to support its own unique body of theory.

IV. Some underlying assumptions Having traced in bold strokes the outline of the field, some finer

touches are in order. A number of problems require further dis- cussion. Perhaps the most important of these is the question of why the responsive stage must be part of foreign policy analysis. Why not treat governmental decisions as the dependent variables and bypass the responsive stage? After all, it might be argued, aspects of the international system are being taken into account as external independent variables-why must they also be regarded as de- pendent variables? If the focus is on the national actor in relation to its environment, why is it necessary to investigate the conse- quences of foreign policy undertakings for other actors? Further- more, how is one to know whether the presumed or modified be- havior that constitutes the responsive stage is in fact a response to the foreign policy undertaking being examined? Are there not in- surmountable methodological problems inherent in the task of separating responses to external influences from behavior gener- ated by other factors?

51 For a discussion of how the distinctiveness of social psychology is not diminished espite the large extent to which it borrows from psychology and sociology, see Theodore M. Newcomb, Social Psychology (New York: The Dryden Press, 1950), Chap. 1; and Morton Deutsch and Robert M. Krauss, Theories in Social Psychology (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965), Chap. 1.



A similar line of questioning can be pursued with respect to the initiatory and implementive stages. Since foreign policy under- takings are being treated as purposeful, why not regard the gov- ernmental decisions that launch them as the independent variables and bypass the initiatory stage? Why not focus on the purposeful behavior directly, rather than positing it as an intervening process? If the interaction of national actors and their environments consti- tutes the subject matter of the field, why does not its scope include unplanned actions as well as purposeful ones? How does one assess the relative potencies of all the independent variables that may be operative as a source of a foreign policy undertaking? Indeed, how does one determine whether the undertaking is a consequence of the external and internal independent variables being examined rather than of the decision-making process that launched it?

Another set of problems posed by the suggested outline con- cerns the nature of foreign policy theory. What are the main questions that such theory is designed to answer? Are not all the uninteresting questions answered by other fields? Do not national and international political theory, respectively, cope with the ways in which foreign policy phenomena re functional or dysfunctional for national and international systems? Posed differently, theories of national and international politics deal with the fascinating questions of why systems endure or collapse and how they do or do not achieve equilibria-but what kinds of systemic questions can be asked about foreign policy phenomena? If foreign policy analysis does not pose funtional and systemic questions, what theoretical challenges does it have to offer? To repeat, is it a fantasy to aspire to the construction fgeneralized theories of foreign policy that are viable and relevant? If so, why compare? Why not simply examine the particular elationships that particular national actors establish with their particular environments?

Obviously this is not the place to develop full answers to all these questions. However, an explication of some of the basic as- sumptions underlying our delineation of the foreign policy field should clarify some of these problems and point the way to a more formal and extended attempt o resolve all of them.52

52 For a more detailed discussion of the problems posed by the inde- pendent and dependent variables of the field, see my "Moral Fervor, Syste-



The centrality of the responsive stage is unquestionably the most radical conclusion of our effort o trace the outlines of the foreign policy field. Probably because of the enormous methodolog- ical difficulties they pose, responses to foreign policy are usually examined with much less care than are the variables comprising the initiatory and implementive stages. Ordinarily analysts tend to settle for a brief account of the international environment inwhich the national actor is located, noting any limitations and opportuni- ties that the environment may impose and offer, and then moving on to examine what the actor seeks to accomplish in this environ- ment and why.53 The problem of sorting out the consequences of foreign policy undertakings from the events that would have oc- curred anyway is so awesome that, in effect, the responsive stage is ordinarily viewed as consisting of constants rather than variables. Yet, here we are insisting that it cannot be bypassed, that it is a central aspect of the field, and that the methodological obstacles must be confronted and surmounted.

Several reasons and one assumption underlie this insistence. The assumption-perhaps better called an article of faith-is that the methodological problem is at least theoretically solvable. Dif- ferentiating between responses intended by political actors and those that would have occurred anyway is the central problem of political analysis and haunts research in all areas of the discipline. Yet it has not deterred inquiry into the responses of voters to can- didates, of legislatures to interest groups, of bureaucracies to lead- ers. Why, then, should it block the analysis of attempts to modify

matic Analysis, and Scientific Consciousness in Foreign Policy Research," in Austin Ranney, ed., Political Science and Public Policy (Chicago: Markham, 1968), Chap. 9.

53 Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, works concerned with national actors passing through periods of dynamic readjustment o the international system stand out as exceptions to this general tendency. Recent works on postwar Germany, for example, are notable for the equal attention that they pay to the interaction of all three of the stages comprising the foreign policy field. Cf. Karl W. Deutsch and Lewis J. Edinger, Germany Rejoins the Powers: Mass Opinion, Interest Groups, and Elites in Contemporary German Foreign Policy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1959); James L. Richardson, Germany and the Atlantic Alliance: The Interaction of Strategy and Politics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966); and Wolfram F. Hanrieder, West German Foreign Policy, 1949-1963: International Pressure and Domestic Response (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967).


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