Snippet: In international relations, also focus on who are decision makers

The Cabinet table on Downing Street 10

The Cabinet table on Downing Street 10

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 Рsome are much more based on consensus, while in others there is one leader who makes the decision.

Factors which determine the nature of the decision unit

Decision Units, Hermann 2011

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