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Foreign Policy Analysis: Actor-Specific Theory and the Ground of International Relations


  • Author's note: Hudson would like to thank Douglas Van Belle for his invaluable suggestions.This article contains excerpts from previously published and forthcoming works, used by permission, including “Foreign Policy Analysis Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” (with Christopher Vore; Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 39, Supplement 2, 1995, 209–239), “Foreign Policy Decision-Making: A Touchstone for International Relations Theory in the Twenty-first Century,” in Richard C. Snyder, H W. Bruck, and Burton Sapin (eds.), Foreign Policy Decision-Making (Revisited) (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002, 1–20), and Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory, forthcoming by Rowman and Littlefield.


Examining the history, conceptual breadth, and recent trends in the study of foreign policy analysis, it is clear that this subfield provides what may be the best conceptual connection to the empirical ground upon which all international relations (IR) theory is based. Foreign policy analysis is characterized by an actor-specific focus, based upon the argument that all that occurs between nations and across nations is grounded in human decision makers acting singly or in groups. FPA offers significant contributions to IR—theoretical, substantive, and methodological—and is situated at the intersection of all social science and policy fields as they relate to international affairs. A renewed emphasis on actor-specific theory will allow IR to more fully reclaim its ability to manifest human agency, with its attendant change, creativity, accountability, and meaning.