American Foreign Environmental Policy and the Power of the State

By Stephen Hopgood | Go to book overview

6
Continuity and Change in American Foreign Environmental Policy

Having established the value of adopting a more institutional conception of the state, the initial argument presented in Chapter 1 stressed that the central actors in American foreign environmental policy remained state officials. Despite tangible societal constraint in the domestic realm, international environmental politics provide an enhanced opportunity for officials to turn their preferences into policy. The disjuncture therefore holds between domestic and foreign policy.

The various elements at work in both the societal and international spheres feed into this process by creating the context in which this policy is made. These elements serve to bolster or frustrate coalitions within the state itself. They do this, for example, by influencing the international agenda. However, as we have seen, a set of limits, an 'envelope', exists to limit feasible policy options. This is accepted by state officials with a high degree of consensus because it derives from their very similar social experiences, and is then reinforced by the institutional imperatives of holding national office.

In other words, the argument is for a 'state-centric' explanation which accommodates political developments in operation at the societal and international levels. Although these claims relate specifically to US foreign environmental policy, in the conclusion of a recent collected work on the state and American foreign economic policy, one of the editors argues:

Even in the United States, with a political system marked by its fragmentation of political authority and diffusion of power, the shaping and constraining role of state officials and the institutions they inhabit remain considerable. The implication of this conclusion, however, is not that, in a contest of approaches, the state-centred models of foreign economic policy won. The conclusion is not that scholars embracing society and systemcentred perspectives should pack their theoretical tents and steal away into

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