In recent years, significant effort has been applied to understanding and empirically testing the concept of policy entrepreneurship in a range of different settings. Despite these efforts, studies to date have tended to focus on policy entrepreneurs in domestic policy settings. Few have articulated the potential role that policy entrepreneurs play in understanding foreign policy decision-making. Coupled with theories and evidence from the field of foreign policy analysis, the concept of policy entrepreneurship lends itself to analyzing how actors in the foreign policy space draw attention to problems, advance workable proposals, and link outcomes to symbolic values. This article introduces and applies a framework for the analysis of policy entrepreneurs seeking to influence foreign policy decision-making. This framework is then used to underpin illustrative case studies of foreign policy entrepreneurs. The variety of recent scholarly contributions regarding policy entrepreneurs and foreign policy suggests that many more opportunities exist for such work to be conducted in the future. This is an exciting prospect. Valuable, generalizable insights are more likely to emerge from such a collective research enterprise if the various individual contributions are informed by greater conceptual coherence.
Michael Mintrom and Joannah Luetjens
The Multiple Streams Approach (MSA) builds on the organizational process tradition by (1) unpacking the organizational process “paradigm,” (2) maintaining emphasis on “governmental action as organizational output,” and (3) stressing the importance of ambiguity and temporal sorting as essential blocks of policy making. Operating at the systemic level, it is an actor-centered approach. It conceptualizes foreign policy choice as being made at the system—government—level and is the result of coupling three streams by policy entrepreneurs—policies, problems, and politics—during open policy windows. It differs from traditional models of foreign policy making by stressing process over outcome and stands between the rational and cognitive schools of foreign policy making. The empirical literature finds the MSA is a good candidate to bridge the divide between domestic and foreign policy, shedding light on debates of small versus large state foreign policy behavior by utilizing both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
James M. Goldgeier
Decision makers, acting singly or in groups, influence the field of international relations by shaping the interactions among nations. It is therefore important to understand how those decision makers are likely to behave. Some scholars have developed elegant formal theories of decision making to demonstrate the utility of rational choice approaches in the study of international relations, while others have chosen to explain the patterns of bias that exist when leaders face the difficult task of making decisions and formulating policy. Among them are Herbert Simon, who introduced “bounded rationality” to allow leaders to short-circuit the decision process, and Elizabeth Kier, who has shown how organizational cultures shaped the development of military doctrine during the interwar period. The literature on foreign policy decision making during the Cold War looked inside the black box to generate analyses of bureaucratic politics and individual mindsets. Because decision making involves consensus seeking among groups, leaders will often avoid making choices so that they will not antagonize key members of the bureaucracy. Scholars have also investigated the role of “policy entrepreneurs” in the decision-making process, bringing individual agents into organizational, diplomatic and political processes. Over time, the field of policy decision making has evolved to help us understand not only why leaders often calculate so poorly but even more importantly, why systematic patterns of behavior are more or less likely under certain conditions.