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Centralisation and Foreign Policy

Thomas Risse-Kappen "Public Opinion, Domestic structure, and foreign policy in liberal democracies"


How is it to be explained that similarly powerful states more often than not respond differently to the same international conditions and constraints?


3 things that determine a country’s response to conflict : balance of power in favor of the state or the society ?

  • Social mobilization
  • policy network
  • level of centralization

Centralized system

Decentralized system

  • all of the power concentrated in a single individual or a small group of individuals.
  • top-down communication

  • control and power are distributed
  • lots more communication and less lack of information telling

  • Decentralized state
  • Highly mobilized society
  • Strong political network


Weak states

Strong states

  • Centralized political insitutions
  • Fragmented social movements
  • Are able to resist public demands and to preserve a high degree of autonomy vis à vis society

The United States


  • decentralized foreign and security policy-making structure.
  • bottom-up communication
  • society dominated policy network
  • public opinion has an ample opportunity to affect policy outcomes

  • Centralized foreign and security policy-making structure
  • top-down communication
  • fragmented societal structure
  • public opinion plays a marginal role in the foreign policy making process

Domestic structures

The United States