Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, POLITICS (oxfordre.com/politics). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 19 October 2019

Agency and Structure in Foreign Policy Analysis

Summary and Keywords

For much of the history of the study of international relations, and of foreign policy as a distinctive subfield, scholars have debated the relative weight of agency and structure in shaping the course of international events. Often, the significance of agency versus structure depends on the scope of inquiry. Efforts to identify broad patterns of social interaction tend to play up the significance of structure, while studies of specific events bring agency to the fore. International relations theory is typically associated with the former, and foreign policy analysis (FPA) is more closely linked to the latter. That association suggests that the question of agency versus structure in international outcomes is settled in FPA in favor of agency. An assessment of the literature in FPA shows such a suggestion to be wide of the mark. Not only does FPA struggle with the question of agency versus structure that pervades the study of international relations generally, but also it wrestles with how to reconcile agency and structure in the context of psychological constraints on human cognition. Thus, rather than resolving the debate between agency and structure, the literature on FPA shows that it extends down to the level of individual policymakers. The debate over the role of agency and structure occupies two axes. The first is the engagement of FPA with broader debates over agency and structure in international relations scholarship. The second is the tension between agency and structure in FPA that emerges once psychology is incorporated into the analytical matrix. In both cases, the significance of structure in the actual analysis of foreign policy is far greater than common conception recognizes. This reality means that FPA represents the cutting edge for theoretical and analytical efforts to understand the relationship between structure and agency in international outcomes.

Keywords: agency, structure, psychology, rationalism, constructivism, foreign policy analysis

Introduction

For as long as it has been a distinctive field of inquiry, international relations (IR) has either implicitly or explicitly struggled to resolve the respective roles of agency and structure in international outcomes. In Politics Among Nations, Hans Morgenthau (1949) argued that enlightened policymakers should resist the popular inclination to see the world in moral terms, pursuing instead foreign policies that truly advance the national interest. Although Morgenthau did not frame the problem in terms of agency and structure, he clearly articulated an argument that peace is the product of enlightened agency superseding the constraints of structure. Kenneth Waltz’s discipline-shaping reformulation of political realism elevated structure and diminished agency (1979). The international system, Waltz argued, is defined by its anarchic structure and out of that structure flow the general trends of war and peace in international politics. Some interpretations of Waltz’s work also hold that the anarchic structure directs the specific foreign policies of states (Elman, 1996). Agents, in Waltz’s and most subsequent balance-of-power formulations, fade into theoretical insignificance. If they act in accordance with the mandates of anarchy—pursuing power to ensure survival in a self-help system—then policymakers can hardly be considered to be exercising agency. Rather, they are actors following the script set out for them by the international system. If policymakers do exercise their agency and act in contravention of the mandates of anarchy, the international system will eliminate the state—thus eliminating agency.

Waltz’s Theory of International Politics set the mold for much of subsequent thinking in IR: theory should seek to explain general patterns of behavior by states rather than specific foreign policy outcomes. This approach privileges structure over agency as the basis for understanding patterns of behavior. The focus on general patterns of behavior is important because structural approaches to IR diminish agency by arguing that specific outcomes—in which we might observe the idiosyncratic effects of agency—are largely irrelevant to the fate of states. It is on this point that FPA sets itself apart from the broader field, often focusing on specific foreign policy outcomes and the policymakers who produce them.

While some scholars in FPA explicitly argue the focus is—and should be—on agents and their exercise of agency, the field of FPA as a whole largely elides the questions of agency and structure that have played a prominent role in IR theory. Indeed, one of the few scholarly contributions to address the dialectic of agency and structure dates to the early 1990s (Carlsnaes, 1992). Yet the questions of structure and agency are as important for FPA as they are for IR as a whole. As a consequence, the relative neglect of the agency-structure question has introduced substantial tensions into FPA that erode its distinctive contribution to the study of IR.

Defining Structure and Agency

In 1987, Alexander Wendt posited that all social scientific theories embody an implicit solution to the agent-structure problem (Wendt, 1987, p. 337). The agent-structure problem locates in two “truisms” of social life: humans and human organizations are purposeful actors (agents) that help reproduce their societies, and society is constituted of social relationships (or rules of the game) that structure interactions of actors (Wendt, 1987, p. 338). This dualism requires that theory resolve whether it is the properties of agents or the properties of social structures (or some combination of the two) that drive outcomes. Understood in ideal-typical terms, coming down on the side of agency points to the purposeful manifestation of the unique characteristics of the actor as the basis for explaining outcomes. Conversely, structure points to the manifestation of the characteristics that define relations between actors as the basis for explaining outcomes.

Axis 1: FPA and IR Theory

If, as Wendt argued, every social scientific theory is predicated on a claim about the relationship between structure and agency, then there can be little doubt that much of IR theory has come down on the side of structure. Certainly, there is much variability. Waltz and other so-called structural realists occupy the far end of the spectrum, locating the basis of behavior firmly in the mandates of the anarchic structure of the international system (Mearsheimer, 1994; Walt, 1987; Waltz, 1979). Liberal approaches are less doctrinaire, making room for an element of state agency (Moravcsik, 1997), but on the whole they too look to a substantial degree to structure as a basis for understanding IR (Keohane & Martin, 1995). Marxist and related approaches also point to structure, albeit not anarchy but capitalism (Wallerstein, 2011). Constructivist approaches vary more widely and—in theory—generally take greater account of agency through their reliance on the concept of structuration—the co-constitution of agents and structures (Giddens, 1984). While much constructivist scholarship emphasizes structure through a focus on norms and identity, the rise of approaches like the practice turn have brought renewed focus on agency (Cornut, 2018; Pouliot, 2008).

It is against IR’s broadly structural orientation that FPA is positioned. As Dessler noted, “human agency is the only moving force behind the actions, events, and outcomes of the social world” (Dessler, 1989). It is generally this perspective that provides the point of departure for FPA. Scholars in FPA see the study of foreign policy as laying the empirical and analytical foundations for the study of IR. It does so by directly engaging with the human decision makers whose actions are the basis for all interactions between states (Snyder, Bruck, & Sapin, 2002, p. 35). Indeed, some position a concern with human agency as the defining characteristic of FPA (Hudson, 2005, p. 3). Therefore, FPA serves as a counterweight to IR theory, offering analytical and empirical insights on agency to a discipline far more accomplished in structure (Hudson, 2005, p. 4).

How does FPA bring agency into the analytical matrix? Usually through careful analysis of a particular event, a set of events, or foreign policy with a focus on the processes of decision-making. The subsequent discussion demonstrates, however, that the focus on agency that some scholars in FPA emphasize is not as unambiguous as they claim. Social structure continues to play an important role in foreign policy analysis and empirics.

Great Figures

Occasionally, scholars in IR call for a renewed effort to account for the influence of uniquely significant political leaders (Byman & Pollack, 2001). While the analytical importance of leaders ebbs and flows in IR, in FPA it is a consistent vector of analysis. The great figures approach assesses foreign policy and the resulting international relations through a deep analysis of particularly powerful or prominent political leaders (Dallek, 1995; Walker & Schafer, 2007). Usually, the goal is to identify specific attributes of the leader that resulted in a particular outcome or policy. Analysis might focus on the impact of personality traits, such as perceptual tendencies, the need for power, or difficulty with conceptual complexity (Dyson, 2006; Saunders, 2011), management style (Mitchell & Massoud, 2009), or the personal experience of specific leaders (Saunders, 2017). These investigations assess the impact of great figures at pivotal moments—often crisis or conflict—on foreign policy when the agency of great figures and the consequences of their decision-making are maximized.

Generalized Models of Decision-Making

Studies of specific leaders in times of crisis epitomize the claim that FPA has resolved the agent-structure problem in favor of agency. These studies often rely on theoretical tools have been developed to understand foreign policy decision-making generally. Thus, generalized models of decision-making serve as a complement to the great figures model. Rather than focus in depth on a specific leader, scholarship in this category seeks to make some broad claims about how various factors influence foreign policy agency. The range of this type of scholarship is substantial. Some seek to propose wide-ranging models that look systematically at how personal experiences (gender, military service, or childhood physical abuse, for example) shape personality and beliefs and how these in turn relate to specific foreign policy practices, such as war (Horowitz, Stam, & Ellis, 2015). Others look to more specific factors, such as leadership style (Kaarbo, 1997; Keller, 2005a, 2005b; Shannon & Keller, 2007), how policymakers attained their position (Mukunda, 2012), operational codes (George, 1969), beliefs (Hurwitz & Peffley, 1987; Holsti & Rosenau, 1988), schemas (Larson, 1994), values (Angell, Dunham, & Singer, 1964), or some combination thereof (Hermann, 1980).

The relationship between generalized models of decision-making and the problem of agency versus structure is a mixed one. The generalized models of decision-making offer great insight into how various factors shape the exercise of agency in the foreign policy process. At the same time, however, they also generate questions regarding the causal powers of agency. Scholars have identified elements across individuals that shape decision-making in discernable patterns—e.g., individuals who share the same socially informed belief systems will make similar kinds of foreign policy decisions. The role of beliefs shared across individuals—what constructivists would call intersubjectivity—suggests that systems of meaning-making spanning individuals inform policy outcomes. These findings bear more than a passing similarity to structure as developed in IR theory. This in turn prompts questions regarding the relative weight of agency in shaping foreign policy outcomes—the same kinds of questions that have long occupied IR more broadly. These questions are magnified by work in FPA on the role of domestic politics.

Domestic Politics and Decision-Making

If a thread of study has come to define FPA, the role of domestic politics and its relationship with the agency of decision makers has as great a claim as any. Often, this work has focused on the agency of foreign policy actors as they navigate their domestic political contexts. Indeed, Kaarbo argued that it is in part the focus on the subjective understandings of the world by foreign policy agents that sets FPA apart from efforts in IR theory to incorporate domestic politics into explanatory frameworks (Kaarbo, 2015). Examples of such a focus are plentiful. Bueno de Mesquita held in his 2002 International Studies Association Presidential Address that only a renewed focus on leaders and their domestic politics could produce progress in understanding the behavior of states (De Mesquita, 2002). Robert Putnam famously argued that policymakers play policy games at two levels—the domestic and the international (Putnam, 1988). The intersection of the two allows policymakers to exercise agency by leveraging pressures at one level against interlocutors at the other level. Morgan and Bickers claimed that leaders confronting the erosion of political support in key domestic constituencies purposefully use adventurous foreign policies—including war—to distract from domestic political crisis (Morgan & Bickers, 1992). Saunders held that democratic leaders must manage and maneuver within the policymaking elite to enact policy (Saunders, 2015, p. 137). Baum asserted that political leaders consciously evaluate the chances of success in foreign conflicts in their calculations of whether to make threats publically or privately (Baum, 2004). Subotić argued that policymakers selectively activate narratives to maintain a sense of ontological continuity even as policy changes to confront threats (Subotić, 2015, p. 104), and the list goes on in substantial variety in geographic focus and theoretical argumentation. Central to all these arguments, however, is the claim that political leaders are conscious agents manipulating their circumstances to achieve some desired end.

There can be little doubt that agency plays an important role in how scholars have analyzed the relationship between foreign policy and domestic politics. Somewhat ironically, however, domestic politics also does much to throw into doubt strong claims that FPA is primarily concerned with agency. This happens on two levels. First, political actors are usually constrained by the domestic social relations—or structure—in which they operate.1 This in turn diminishes their agency. In all of the examples provided above, the agents hypothesized by scholars are in one way or another constrained by, or reacting to, structures that limit and may even define agency. The ability of policy leaders to act is defined by the offices they hold, which are in turn defined by the political structures that together comprise the domestic political system. Indeed, it is impossible to talk about the agency of policymakers without making reference to the office that enables that agency. Even in foreign affairs—where leaders often have the greatest freedom of action, they cannot do whatever they wish in whatever manner they choose. Putnam, whose pioneering scholarship on two-level games emphasizes the role of agency as policymakers maneuver between international and domestic political systems, identified political structures as substantially curtailing the agency of policymakers (Putnam, 1988).

The second level is the role of social structures in shaping domestic politics. If, as Baum argued, political leaders actively evaluate the domestic political costs of threats, what is it within domestic politics that creates domestic political costs or benefits? Over more than half a century (Almond, 1950; Caspary, 1970), scholars in FPA have turned to public opinion as the foundation that underpins domestic politics. There has undoubtedly been substantial argument over the significance and influence of public opinion, but it is also undoubtedly the case that public opinion—and contestation over its favor—is an important driver of foreign policy. This is where social structures come into play. When scholars talk about public opinion, they are talking about beliefs, perceptions, and ideas that are shared across individuals. These are elements of broader structures that create identifiable patterns of order within societies and through which societies interpret political events.

Scholars have examined, and found substantial effects from, a range of social structures in shaping foreign policy outcomes. These include identity (Hayes, 2012), general values dispositions—isolationist versus cosmopolitan, for example—(Herrmann, Isernia, & Segatti, 2009), social values of elites (Angell, 1964; Singer, 1964), belief systems as national images (Holsti, 1962), and cultural traditions of political thought (Walker & Schafer, 2007). These factors shape public responses to international political events, but since policy elites are part of society, there is good reason to believe that broadly shared social structures influence foreign policy and diminish agency. Indeed, scholars have found that socioculturally shared personal values structure the foreign policy orientations of individuals (Rathbun, Kertzer, Reifler, Goren, & Scotto, 2016, p. 124). These findings, taken together, suggest that structure plays a substantial role in shaping foreign policy and that agency can often be substantially circumscribed.

Agency/Structure, IR Theory, and FPA

If FPA as a self-conceived field charts a path analytically prior and in contradistinction to IR theory, it remains the case that IR theory influences FPA. This influence is particularly notable in the case of questions of agency and structure. Not surprisingly given IR theory’s preoccupation with the causal force of structures, the contribution of IR theory to FPA emphasizes structure over agency. So-called neoclassical realism, with its efforts to take into account unit or state-level influences, is perhaps the most explicitly foreign policy analytical theory of the realist IR theory stable (Caverley, 2010; Rose, 1998; Taliaferro, 2006). Yet, Colin Elman argued that Waltz’s structural realism can and does function as a theory of foreign policy and thus imported the structural imperatives of Waltz’s theory and its descendants into FPA. Regardless of the flavor, applications of realist IR theory to FPA carry over structural realism’s central claim that the anarchic structure of the international system (and the power dynamics it generates) is the primary causal force driving relations between states (James, 2002, p. 110).

Realism is far from the only IR theoretical approach to make its way into FPA. Constructivism, like realism, developed initially as a structural approach to understand interactions in the international system (Wendt, 1999). Rather than focus on anarchy as a naturalistic phenomenon, as in realism, constructivists study it as a social phenomenon imbued with constructed social relations. This approach has more readily allowed constructivist theoretical approaches to shift focus and to engage with FPA (Houghton, 2007), in the process importing constructivism’s primary concern with social structures. In some cases, authors have focused on how domestic social structures like identity or norms shape the behavior of policy makers and states (Hopf, 2012). Others address the ways in which language in the form of discourses or narratives interacts with domestic social structures to create political and social space for foreign policy (Subotić, 2015)—that is, to make some policies thinkable and others unthinkable (Holland, 2013). Some scholars do attempt to take a more nuanced approach to the question of agency and structure by building theories that account for both (Hayes, 2013). For example, Cantir and Kaarbo argued that roles—social structures that shape expectations of the states that fill them and that are often shared across policy elites as well as the general public—shape the decisions of policymakers and are tools for policymakers to exercise their agency (Cantir & Kaarbo, 2012). These exceptions aside, structure predominates in constructivist approaches to FPA.

Axis 2: The Agent-Structure Tension at the Level of Individuals

The unresolved tension within FPA between agency and structure is evident even when analysis focuses exclusively on the psychology of individuals. Hudson, in her argument that agency is at the heart of FPA (Hudson, 2005, p. 4), noted that agency requires freedom of choice:

Description of an act of agency, or assertion that natural law was operative in a particular case of the use of agency, cannot fully satisfy, for we know that agency means the agent could have acted [emphasis added] otherwise.

This seems a reasonable, and commonsense, conception of agency. An issue arises, however, with the relationship between alternative courses of action and agency. Hudson argued that agency requires only that an actor could have acted differently. In the abstract, very little prevents actors from choosing alternative courses of action. Humans are, after all, not like electrons trapped in a magnetic field. They are not, so far as we can tell, immutably governed in their social context as electrons are in the physical. However, just because an alternative course of action is possible does not mean that the actor herself considers or is even aware of it. Structure often works to foreclose alternative courses of action not by making them impossible but by making them implausible or unimaginable. This tension, between what is possible in theory and what occurs in practice is born out in the foreign policy approaches that deal specifically with individuals. A careful look at the FPA literature reveals ambivalence toward agency as Hudson described it. In short, FPA often relies on theoretical frameworks that at least circumscribe agency and sometimes eliminate it altogether. Three examples, analogical reasoning, prospect theory, and cybernetic theory, make the case.

Take the case of analogical reasoning (Houghton, 2001; Khong, 1992). Authors drawing on analogical reasoning argue that policymakers use personal and shared historical experiences—analogues—to make sense of contemporary problems. For foreign policy, analogies prescribe lessons learned from past experiences. These in turn are translated into the proper course of action for the policymaker facing an analogous situation. On the one hand, this can enable agency by allowing policymakers to think through alternative policy pathways by contrasting analogies against each other while reducing cognitive load and enhancing the ability to persuade others of their preferred policy agenda. On the other hand, the analogies used by policymakers, particularly those based on shared historical experience, can function like structures and limit the agency of policymakers. This is because the purported lessons of history and experience are often seen as self-evident or commonsense (Hopf, 2013)—think, for example, of the commonly accepted lessons emerging from Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler (Record, 2007). The ability of analogies to prescribe commonsense interpretations of the past limits the scope of agency by limiting the scope of action that might be imagined by the policymakers. Once the appeasement analogy is invoked, alternative policy avenues are foreclosed as policymakers implement the commonly understood lessons of history.

Analogical reasoning is far from unique in struggling to reconcile agency with structure. Prospect theory has found substantial success in FPA (McDermott, 1998). It has done so, however, by proposing theoretical reformulations of expected utility theory—one of the most common forms of rational choice theory in FPA—that abridge the agency of individuals. It does so by holding that decision-making, rather than being a systematic weighing of options to determine which offers the greatest benefit for the least cost, is truncated in regular ways. At the core of prospect theory is the proposition that individuals are sensitive to changes in assets as they relate to a reference point (Levy, 1997). From this, prospect theory works out a series of propositions about how reference dependence systematically shifts decision-making.

One of the most notable of these is the claim that individuals generally treat losses as more significant than gains—that individuals are willing to go to greater lengths to avoid a loss than to achieve a similar gain. This systematic influence on decision-making suggests that decision makers operate within cognitive structures that constrain how they understand and engage with the world. These in turn interact with another structural element of the social world—discourses. How the world is framed through language changes how agents assess risk. A “90 percent chance of success” has effects on decision-making distinct from a “10 percent chance of failure,” even though both framings identify the same situation. The combined effect is one in which, while it remains possible for policymakers to choose between alternative courses of action, the agency of individuals is constrained by the interaction of cognitive tendencies and discursive framings.

Cybernetic approaches to foreign policy take these structural abbreviations of agency a step further (Steinbruner, 2002). On the whole, these approaches hold that agents in international relations confront complex and volatile environments in which the purely agential model proposed by rational choice does not hold. Instead, actors make decisions using cognitive heuristics, or as Ostrom and Job put it, “simple and manageable decision algorithms” (Ostrom & Job, 1986, p. 543). In this context, actors monitor a limited set of key factors and make decisions by simple rules. While it may appear that policymakers exercise agency, in reality their decision-making is highly constrained and structured. This perspective meshes with work on the role of habit, which also points to the cognitive shortcomings of human beings and the role of structure (habit) in allowing actors to navigate complex societal relations (Hopf, 2010).

Conclusion

What is the significance of the question of agency versus structure in FPA? If FPA’s self-conception is taken seriously, a focus on agency allows FPA to position itself against traditional IR theory by counterbalancing the latter’s preoccupation with structure. This position, however, overlooks substantial tensions within FPA over the relationship between structure and agency. It also undermines FPA’s effort to provide the empirical and analytical foundations for IR theory. The concluding paragraphs of this article offer a summary and analysis of these challenges before offering assessment of how FPA can overcome the challenges and embrace a crucial position in the study of IR.

The problem with an analytical and empirical focus on agency is that it provides little foundation for a systematic study of foreign policy decision-making. At its logical extreme, analysis predicated on agency would not assume any constraints on the decision maker: A focus on agency is a focus on the individual (Carlsnaes, 1992). Thus, action would be a product of only the asocial interaction of autonomous individuals. Studies in this mold would not generally look for regularities in behavior because, at any junction, a policymaker could take any decision. An analytical focus on agency is not equivalent to an analytical focus on chaos. Rather, in the context of a pure focus on agency, studies of foreign policy would be largely empirical and thus analytical islands. Studies would be capable of identifying the influences and processes by which a decision or set of decisions came to be made but would offer little understanding beyond that specific context. However, this raises a problem. How can such a field say anything meaningful about foreign policy decision-making? And, more broadly, how can it translate findings into the realm of IR?

Not surprisingly, FPA has avoided a purely agential model of inquiry. Scholars regularly rely on structures to situate agential action. As a consequence, structures—political, social, and psychological—interweave throughout studies of foreign policy. Some of the structures are political—for example, the constraints placed on policymakers by domestic politics. Some of the structures are social, as the work on narratives and their acceptability shows. And some of the structures are patterns of inference and cognition that seem to inhere within the human condition, as exemplified by work on analogical reasoning, poliheuristic theory, and prospect theory. These structures enable analysts and scholars to draw generalized conclusions about the processes of foreign policy decision-making. Indeed, such is the prominence of structure in studies of FPA that, in some cases, structure comes to dominate agency in ways that parallel IR theory, particularly when scholars seek to develop predictive capacity (Alons, 2007).

If structure plays an important role in enabling FPA to make general claims about foreign policy, it also provides tools that allow FPA to translate findings into the more structurally oriented realm of IR theory. This is a crucially important linkage that FPA scholars have too often overlooked (Houghton, 2007). If FPA is to provide the analytical and empirical foundations for IR, it must overcome the levels-of-analysis problem—the ability of scholars studying individuals to say something about social collectives or general patterns of behavior among the collectives. A purely agential approach provides little to make such a translation. Incorporating structure into the explanatory matrix enables FPA to link work focused on individuals to contribute to understandings of how states as social collectives behave.

If structure is so central to FPA, why keep agency in the mix? That is, why not just adopt the structural predisposition of IR theory, albeit at a lower—i.e., individual—level of analysis? There are several interrelated reasons why agency should remain at the heart of FPA. First, agency is a major source of the unpredictability of international relations. The largely unpredicted end of the Cold War, for example, cannot be understood apart from the particular ideas held by the Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev (English, 2000). A related point lies in the particular nature of IR, dominated as it is by unpredictable but relatively rare events in which effects of agency are magnified vis-à-vis structure. For example, major-power war occurs rarely, but when it does, it has outsized effects on the subsequent patterns of relations among states—as demonstrated by the 20th century. In cases like great-power war, the agency of key decision makers comes to the forefront—would World War II have occurred as it did if Chamberlain held more Churchillian beliefs about Hitler? Thus, events crucial for explaining the ebb and flow of IR cannot be understood apart from agency.

Second, the presence and enacting of agency define human systems. Agency and related phenomena, such as learning and self-reflection, are what enable the distinction of human systems from natural systems, the latter of which are purely structural. While philosophers and scientists do not quite understand why (Wendt, 2015), humans are not just electrons trapped in magnetic fields, all behaving the same way because the same structural forces govern them all. Human consciousness and the resulting agency enter the system at some point and change it fundamentally. Thus, FPA’s focus on agency keeps IR grounded in the reality that social systems are human systems.

Third, agency provides an analytical mechanism though which FPA and IR more broadly can account for the influence of context (unique conditions) and contingency (the relationship between context and outcomes). There can be little doubt that IR and the foreign policies that interweave to create it are massively complex. Even from a purely structural perspective, scholars are incapable of identifying, much less developing a unified model of, all of the structural forces that shape international outcomes. Were they able to develop such a model, perhaps context and contingency would simply be integrated into structural models as initial or environmental conditions, but such an approach is not possible now or for the foreseeable future. Consequently, scholars need some way of accounting for the role of context and contingency in foreign policy and IR. Agency is one important mechanism for this. Take, for example, Mukunda’s argument that how leaders come to their position—through normal channels (filtered) or as outsiders (unfiltered)—plays an important role in their success or failure (Mukunda, 2012). In moments of crisis, when radical change is often required, outsiders can be crucial to charting a new path. But in times of stability, outsiders often fail as their novel approaches run up against systems that do not need—or are functioning well enough to resist—change. Thus, agency and its successful (or not) exercise depends—or is contingent on—context.

Agency and structure play central roles in FPA, and both are crucial to FPA’s intellectual agenda. However, FPA has neglected questions of the relationship between agency and structure even as they have persisted in the broader study of IR. For FPA to claim its foundational place within IR, these questions must be confronted directly in an ongoing discussion. While not every scholar need delve into a philosophical treatment of the agency-structure problématique, it should be incumbent on every scholar offering an analysis of foreign policy to specify how their argument addresses this crucial analytical axis. Doing so will bring important intellectual clarity to FPA and allow its crucially important contributions to IR to be fully realized.

References

Almond, G. A. (1950). The American people and foreign policy (1st ed.). New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace.Find this resource:

    Alons, G. C. (2007). Predicting a state’s foreign policy: State preferences between domestic and international constraints. Foreign Policy Analysis, 3, 211–232.Find this resource:

      Angell, R. C. (1964). Soviet and American foreign policy attitudes: Content analysis of elite media. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 8, 330–385.Find this resource:

        Angell, R. C., Dunham, V. S., & Singer, J. D. (1964). Social values and foreign policy attitudes of Soviet and American elites. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 8, 329–519.Find this resource:

          Baum, M. A. (2004). Going private: Public opinion, presidential rhetoric, and the domestic politics of audience costs in U.S. foreign policy crises. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 48, 603–631.Find this resource:

            Byman, D. L., & Pollack, K. M. (2001). Let us now praise great men: Bringing the statesman back in. International Security, 25, 107–146.Find this resource:

              Cantir, C., & Kaarbo, J. (2012). Contested roles and domestic politics: Reflections on role theory in foreign policy analysis and IR theory. Foreign Policy Analysis, 8, 5–24.Find this resource:

                Carlsnaes, W. (1992). The agency-structure problem in foreign policy analysis. International Studies Quarterly, 36, 245–270.Find this resource:

                  Caspary, W. R. (1970). The mood theory: A study of public opinion and foreign policy. The American Political Science Review, 64, 536–547.Find this resource:

                    Caverley, J. D. (2010). Power and democratic weakness. Millennium, 38, 593–614.Find this resource:

                      Cornut, J. (2018). New wine into (not so) old bottle? Constructivism and the practice turn. In M. Bertucci, J. Hayes, & P. James (Eds.), Constructivism reconsidered: Past, present and future (pp. 137–154). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Find this resource:

                        Dallek, R. (1995). Franklin D. Roosevelt and American foreign policy, 1932–1945 with a new afterword. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                          De Mesquita, B. B. (2002). Domestic politics and international relations. International Studies Quarterly, 46, 1–9.Find this resource:

                            Dessler, D. (1989). What’s at stake in the agent-structure debate? International Organization, 43, 441–473.Find this resource:

                              Dyson, S. B. (2006). Personality and foreign policy: Tony Blair’s Iraq decisions. Foreign Policy Analysis, 2, 289–306.Find this resource:

                                Elman, C. (1996). Horses for courses: Why not neorealist theories of foreign policy? Security Studies, 6, 7–53.Find this resource:

                                  English, R. (2000). Russia and the idea of the West: Gorbachev, intellectuals, and the end of the Cold War. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Find this resource:

                                    George, A. L. (1969). The operational code: A neglected approach to the study of political leaders and decision-making. International Studies Quarterly, 13, 190–222.Find this resource:

                                      Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Find this resource:

                                        Hayes, J. (2012). Securitization, social identity, and democratic security: Nixon, India, and the ties that bind. International Organization, 66, 63–93.Find this resource:

                                          Hayes, J. (2013). Constructing national security: U.S. relations with India and China. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

                                            Hermann, M. G. (1980). Explaining foreign policy behavior using the personal characteristics of political leaders. International Studies Quarterly, 24, 7–46.Find this resource:

                                              Herrmann, R. K., Isernia, P., & Segatti, P. (2009). Attachment to the nation and international relations: Dimensions of identity and their relationship to war and peace. Political Psychology, 30, 721–754.Find this resource:

                                                Holland, J. (2013). Foreign policy and political possibility. European Journal of International Relations, 19, 49–68.Find this resource:

                                                  Holsti, O. R. (1962). The belief system and national images: A case study. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 6, 244–252.Find this resource:

                                                    Holsti, O. R., & Rosenau, J. N. (1988). The domestic and foreign policy beliefs of American leaders. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32, 248–294.Find this resource:

                                                      Hopf, T. (2010). The logic of habit in international relations. European Journal of International Relations, 16, 539–561.Find this resource:

                                                        Hopf, T. (2012). Reconstructing the Cold War: The early years, 1945–1958. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                                                          Hopf, T. (2013). Common-sense constructivism and hegemony in world politics. International Organization, 67, 317–354.Find this resource:

                                                            Horowitz, M., Stam, A. C., & Ellis, C. M. (2015). Why leaders fight. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

                                                              Houghton, D. P. (2001). US foreign policy and the Iran hostage crisis. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                Houghton, D. P. (2007). Reinvigorating the study of foreign policy decision making: Toward a constructivist approach. Foreign Policy Analysis, 3, 24–45.Find this resource:

                                                                  Hudson, V. M. (2005). Foreign policy analysis: Actor-specific theory and the ground of international relations. Foreign Policy Analysis, 1, 1–30.Find this resource:

                                                                    Hurwitz, J., & Peffley, M. (1987). How are foreign policy attitudes structured? A hierarchical model. The American Political Science Review, 81, 1099–1120.Find this resource:

                                                                      James, P. (2002). International Relations and Scientific Progress: Structural Realism Reconsidered. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                        Kaarbo, J. (1997). Prime minister leadership styles in foreign policy decision-making: A framework for research. Political Psychology, 18, 553–581.Find this resource:

                                                                          Kaarbo, J. (2015). A foreign policy analysis perspective on the domestic politics turn in IR theory. International Studies Review, 17, 189–216.Find this resource:

                                                                            Keller, J. W. (2005a). Constraint respecters, constraint challengers, and crisis decision making in democracies: A case study analysis of Kennedy versus Reagan. Political Psychology, 26, 835–867.Find this resource:

                                                                              Keller, J. W. (2005b). Leadership style, regime type, and foreign policy crisis behavior: A contingent monadic peace? International Studies Quarterly, 49, 205–232.Find this resource:

                                                                                Keohane, R. O., & Martin, L. L. (1995). The promise of institutionalist theory. International Security, 20, 39–51.Find this resource:

                                                                                  Khong, Y. F. (1992). Analogies at war: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam decisions of 1965. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                    Larson, D. W. (1994). The role of belief systems and schemas in foreign policy decision-making. Political Psychology, 15, 17–33.Find this resource:

                                                                                      Levy, J. S. (1997). Prospect theory, rational choice, and international relations. International Studies Quarterly, 41, 87–112.Find this resource:

                                                                                        McDermott, R. (1998). Risk-taking in international politics: Prospect theory in American foreign policy. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                          Mearsheimer, J. J. (1994). The false promise of international institutions. International Security, 19, 5–49.Find this resource:

                                                                                            Mitchell, D., & Massoud, T. G. (2009). Anatomy of failure: Bush’s decision-making process and the Iraq war. Foreign Policy Analysis, 5, 265–286.Find this resource:

                                                                                              Moravcsik, A. (1997). Taking preferences seriously: A liberal theory of international politics. International Organization, 51, 513–553.Find this resource:

                                                                                                Morgan, T. C., & Bickers, K. N. (1992). Domestic discontent and the external use of force. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 36, 25–52.Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Morgenthau, H. J. (1949). Politics among nations: The struggle for power and peace. New York, NY: Knopf.Find this resource:

                                                                                                    Mukunda, G. (2012). Indispensable: When leaders really matter. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                      Ostrom, C. W., Jr., & Job, B. L. (1986). The president and the political use of force. The American Political Science Review, 80, 541–566.Find this resource:

                                                                                                        Pouliot, V. (2008). The logic of practicality: A theory of practice of security communities. International Organization, 62, 257–288.Find this resource:

                                                                                                          Putnam, R. D. (1988). Diplomacy and domestic politics: The logic of two-level games. International Organization, 42, 427–460.Find this resource:

                                                                                                            Rathbun, B. C., Kertzer, J. D., Reifler, J., Goren, P., & Scotto, T. J. (2016). Taking foreign policy personally: Personal values and foreign policy attitudes. International Studies Quarterly, 60, 124–137.Find this resource:

                                                                                                              Record, J. (2007). The specter of Munich: Reconsidering the lessons of appeasing Hitler. Washington, DC: Potomac.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                Rose, G. (1998). Review: Neoclassical realism and theories of foreign policy. World Politics, 51, 144–172.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  Saunders, E. N. (2011). Leaders at war: How presidents shape military interventions. Cornell studies in security affairs. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    Saunders, E. N. (2017). No substitute for experience: Presidents, advisers, and information in group decision making. International Organization, 71, S219–S247.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      Saunders, E. N. (2015). War and the Inner Circle: Democratic Elites and the Politics of Using Force. Security Studies, 24(3), 466-501.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        Shannon, V. P., & Keller, J. W. (2007). Leadership style and international norm violation: The case of the Iraq war. Foreign Policy Analysis, 3, 79–104.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          Singer, J. D. (1964). Soviet and American foreign policy attitudes: Content analysis of elite articulations. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 8, 424–485.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            Snyder, R. C., Bruck, H. W., & Sapin, B. M. (2002). Foreign policy decision-making (revisited). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              Steinbruner, J. D. (2002). The cybernetic theory of decision: New dimensions of political analysis (2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                Subotić, J. (2015). Narrative, ontological security, and foreign policy change. Foreign Policy Analysis, 12, 610–627.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  Taliaferro, J. W. (2006). State building for future wars: Neoclassical realism and the resource-extractive state. Security Studies, 15, 464–495.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    Walker, S. G., & Schafer, M. (2007). Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as cultural icons of U.S. foreign policy. Political Psychology, 28, 747–776.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      Wallerstein, I. M. (2011). The modern world-system. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        Walt, S. M. (1987). The origins of alliances. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          Waltz, K. N. (1979). Theory of international politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            Wendt, A. (1999). Social theory of international politics. Cambridge studies in international relations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              Wendt, A. (2015). Quantum mind and social science: Unifying physical and social ontology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                Wendt, A. E. (1987). The agent-structure problem in international relations theory. International Organization, 41, 335–370.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  Notes:

                                                                                                                                                  (1.) Although it is also possible that domestic politics can enable agency by facilitating certain foreign policy actions (Hayes, 2013).