Recently I have been studying foreign policy decision making – which is the process of the actually coming to decision making – more thoroughly, and I feel that analyses of contemporary political international affairs still focus overly on the state as a unitary actor. The relevance of the decision processes that are at hand in international affairs are underestimated.
An important aspect to consider when analysing a state’s foreign policy, is who is in charge of the foreign policy decision making process. Margaret G. Hermann in a seminal work proposes a “Decision Units Approach”. The elaborate framework she proposes that there are three different types of decision makers in FP – (1) a single leader figure, (2) a single group who shapes policy, (3) decision making on a coalition basis.
While the framework is very elaborate, in this post I would like to draw the attention to only one figure. It forces you to think beyond the idea of the state as a unitary actor. But, more importantly, since that is often recognised already, that the decision making processes in different countries vary greatly – some are much more based on consensus, while in others there is one leader who makes the decision.