Latin America and the Caribbean in the International System

By G. Pope Atkins | Go to book overview

emphasizing the centrality of fallible human beings, and have argued that the human element in decision-making not only intrudes on but departs from rational processes. No satisfactory overarching alternative pluralist theory of foreign policy has emerged to explain the behavior of decision makers, and in important ways the designers of competing approaches consider them mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, the theoretical effort has produced models that, when taken together, alert us to other factors that may influence decisional processes.

Cognitive theories rooted in psychological and anthropological concepts address what and how people perceive, think, and know. Particularly important for these theories when they are applied to foreign policy analysis is the response of decision makers to perceptions and images that they hold of the world, their own societies, and themselves, and the way they form foreign policy motivations, aspirations, and expectations in response to stimuli from both intrasocietal and extrasocietal environments. Cognitive analysts distinguish between the decision maker's objective environment (reality) and psychological environment (the perception or image of reality), and they address the difficulty of reconciling the two. Another group of theorists, advocating a bureaucratic and organizational process model of decision- making, focuses on the psychology of group behavior. They contend that foreign policies most often are the result of group dynamics and institutional biases within competing bureaucracies and other organizations central to the policy process. They focus on the roles of governmental subunits or nongovernmental subnational actors with distinct foreign policy interests and perceptions and their own preferred strategies and tactics. Critics of this approach say it aspires to explain too much from a narrow conceptual base, but they acknowledge that it does offer insights about the limitations of groups that make it a useful corollary to more comprehensive models. The political process model assumes that foreign policy decisions are made within the broad context of the overall political system, thus taking into account a wide range of factors (and thus denying the notion of a unitary state-actor model). The model essentially operationalizes the systems perspective on the state level: A variety of influences that arise in the intrasocietal and extrasocietal environments are filtered through the political system and brought to bear on decision makers. These influences are converted through a decision process (which may include some combination of rational, perceptual, bureaucratic-organizational, or other considerations) into policy and action. A political process approach gives due consideration to transnational elements that influence official foreign policy-making. It also accounts for transsocietal actors who, via external linkages, have policy preferences that bypass official political leadership.


NOTES
1.
This point is made by John C. Wahlke and Alex N. Dragnich, eds., Government and Politics ( New York: Random House, 1966), 16-17. They cite, for illustrative purposes, Book V of Aristotle's Politics, which proposes knowledge about the causes of revolution. That knowledge may

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