Operational Codes in Foreign Policy: A Deconstruction
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Please check back later for the full article.
Codes of conduct exist in many areas of life, where they apply to cultural, ethical, legal, medical, and scientific matters. Those pertaining to politics, and especially to the conduct of foreign policy, are crucial for understanding how decision makers can be effective in dealing with problems involving those who subscribe to different codes. An intellectual history provides the origins of the concept of operational codes in the study of international politics, including the practical importance of the research, the methodological requirements, and the paradigmatic significance. Although some operational code researchers enlighten puzzles in past history, others use the research to advise policy makers. At the same time, operational codes exist within broader cultural and legal frameworks as meta-codes, from which operational codes often deviate to produce specific results. Critiques and problems of operational code research are identified in the process of explaining how what began as a cognitive exercise transformed into a form of psychological analysis of decision makers.