Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) is the contemporary “baseline” social scientific and historiographic theory of regional integration—especially as regards the European Union. It rests on three basic assumptions, which in turn support a three-stage theoretical model of integration and the elaboration of numerous distinctive causal mechanisms. Considerable historical and social scientific evidence supports the LI view, but room also remains for scholars to extend and elaborate its framework in promising ways. Three prominent criticisms of LI exist. Some scholars of “administrative politics” charge that it applies only to treaty-amending decisions and other rare circumstances. “Historical institutionalists” charge that it overlooks endogenous feedback from previous decisions. “Post-functionalists” and “constructivists” revive discredited claims from the 1960s that functional theories neglect the central role of identity claims and ideology in explaining national interests. While each criticism contains some truth, LI possesses rich theoretical resources with which to address them fruitfully and musters compelling evidence to support its empirical claims. This confirms LI’s preeminent role in scholarly debates and suggests a soberly optimistic future for European and regional integration.
Two approaches currently enjoy widespread popularity among foreign policy analysts: Analytical Liberalism and Neoclassical Realism. On the surface, they seem remarkably similar. Both emphasize domestic factors, yet each claims to employ domestic variables in a distinct fashion. How do they differ? To answer that question, it would be helpful to reflect upon examples where scholars applying each approach have addressed the same case, allowing us to contrast their descriptions directly. Few such comparisons exist, however. Instead, as is apparent to even the casual observer, each approach fits neatly into its own niche. Neoclassical Realism appeals to scholars addressing security policy, whereas Analytical Liberalism dominates research in international political economy. Why would both approaches enjoy limited applicability? Here too, a direct comparison of their arguments might illuminate their comparative strengths and weaknesses. A review of how each approach works provides insight into their respective strengths and weaknesses. Under certain conditions, the key traits of the approaches can be revealed. These conditions identify a series of cases deserving closer empirical analysis, which would provide evidence concerning the relative utility of each approach.
The foreign policy of autocratic regimes reflects the research interest in the international behavior and decision making of domestic actors in nondemocratic regimes. The regime type (its nature, structure, leadership constellation, legitimation strategies, relation between leadership and public) thus is presumed to have explanatory power for the foreign policy actions and decisions of autocratic actors.