Foreign policy analysis, globalisation and non-state actors: state-centric after all?

Rainer Baumann, Frank A Stengel
  • Journal of International Relations and Development, August 2013, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1057/jird.2013.12

Foreign policy analysis is still too focused on states

What is it about?

Non-state actors like NGOs, business companies or terrorist groups are increasingly important in international politics. This article does three things: First, it discusses non-state actors' involvement in foreign policy. Not only do non-state actors pursue their own goals (which might clash with states' goals) but they are also increasingly involved in the making of states' foreign policies. The article provides a systematic overview, discussing non-states actors' involvement in different stages of the foreign policymaking process. Second, it examines to what extent studies of foreign policy have adapted to the increased importance of non-state actors. Turns out, not so much. As a consequence, third, the article calls for increased attention of foreign policy research to non-state actors and outlines possible avenues for research.

Why is it important?

Foreign policy research should tell us something about how foreign policy is made and what factors influence decision making. Ultimately, we want to learn more about why sometimes less-than-ideal policies are pursued and how decision making can be made better to avoid ineffective or even counterproductive policies. If we want to be able to do that, we need to have a relatively clear idea of how the process actually works. If the way foreign policy is conducted today differs significantly from how it used to be made (because new actors are involved) but we still continue to act as if nothing changed, we risk missing what's important. However, although non-state actors are increasingly important, (many) researchers still continue as if foreign policy was exclusively a matter of states and their agencies. Ignoring non-state actors not only means that we might miss what's really going on (that too), but also that an important part of public policy is made (also) by actors that no one ever voted for.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Frank A Stengel