ASTK15487U SEMINAR: Geopolitics, Democracy Promotion, or Cultural Identity? Explaining Foreign Policy from different theoretical perspectives

Volume 2017/2018

Elective for Security Risk Management

Elective course in the specialization "International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"



How do we explain foreign and security policy? The analysis of states’ external behavior has a long tradition which goes back to the 1950s, when scholars such as James Rosenau and Richard Snyder started theorizing US foreign and security policy under the conditions of the Cold War. But at least since the debate between Kenneth N. Waltz and Colin Elman in the 1990s about whether realism is a theory of international politics or/and about foreign policy, Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) has become a subfield of the IR discipline. FPA is a complex field, with a diverse range of different (realist, liberal, constructivist) theoretical perspectives (and various approaches within each of the traditions such as power balancing and geopolitics, bureaucratic politics and societal group decision-making, or theories focusing on psychological or societal and cultural factors driving and shaping a state’s external behavior). As Stephen Walt has stated in his famous 1998 article, we have “one world, many theories”. The seminar will provide an introduction (this is why the theoretical and case study menu is rather mainstream instead of integrating discourse analysis- or post-structuralist approaches such as post-colonial theory, or the foreign policies of Asian, African or American states) to theoretically informed FPA as a method to analyze the foreign and security policies of different (liberal, authoritarian, revisionist) Western states in times of global power shifts. In the first part of the seminar, we reconstruct the history of FPA and define a theoretical roadmap. In the second part, different theoretical traditions including various approaches within each tradition are introduced. In the third part, we deal with different topics of German, US and Russian foreign and security policy in order to discuss whether states either pursue goals of maximizing security or power (which is the realist core argument), or free markets, democracy promotion and human rights protection (which is the core argument of different liberal approaches), or collective goals such as integration or identity formation (which is in line with constructivist ideas about a state’s self-conception, or role theory causing the state’s behavior as a result of identity, political culture, or norms), or sometimes a mixed agenda. As a major aim of the seminar, we discuss whether neoclassical realism, which offers a multi-level framework integrating systemic, domestic and cognitive factors, is a rather degenerative or progressive approach at the FPA theory market.   


The course is expected to be structured according the following headings:

  1. Introduction
  2. FPA – what is it about
  3. Realist approaches
  4. Neoclassical realist approaches
  5. Liberal approaches
  6. Constructivist approaches
  7. Case Study I: Foreign Policy of Maximizing Security/Power
  8. Case Study II: Foreign Policy of Democracy Promotion
  9. Case Study III: Foreign Policy of Collective Identity Formation
  10. Case Study IV: The Return of Geopolitics and Irredentism
  11. Case Study V: The foreign policies of revisionist states
  12. Case Study VI: The foreign policies of emerging/rising powers
  13. Case Study VII: The Road Ahead: Neoclassical Realism – a Water’s Edge?
  14. Conclusion


This course enhances the student’s ability to

  • understand what Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) is about

  • to distinguish between different theoretical approaches to analyze foreign policy, and thereby deepen knowledge about FPA

  • to use theoretical approaches in order to analyze the foreign policies of particular states

  • to understand the foreign policies of particular states

The course is a good starting point to deepen FPA and IR theories, and it is relevant to students who aim a career in, for example, diplomacy, the government, or public administration in the country or in the EU.


Learning Outcome

Knowledge, skills and competences

  • Students will obtain concrete knowledge on IR and FPA theories and case studies

  • Students will learn to distinguish between different theoretical approaches in IR/FPA

  • Students will be able to use theories in order to analyze specific cases of foreign policies of different states

  • Students will be able to evaluate different theories (pitfalls/shortcomings and opportunities)

  • Students will get an introduction and overview on FPA, and deepen competences in IR


(You find further literature in the Syllabus)


Alden, Chris/Aran, Amnon 2017: Foreign policy analysis, new approaches, 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.


Allison, Graham/Zelikov, Philip 1999: Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York: Longman.


Bentley, Michelle/ Holland, Jack (eds.) 2017: The Obama doctrine: a legacy and continuity in US foreign policy? London/New York: Routledge.


Freire, Maria Raquel/Kanet, Roger E. (eds.) 2012: Russia and its Near Neighbours: Identity, Interests and Foreign Policy. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Hansel, M./Khan, R./Levaillant, M. (eds.) 2017: Theorizing Indian Foreign Policy. London: Routledge.


Hellmann, G./Fahrmeir, A./Vec, M. (eds.) 2016: The Transformation of Foreign Policy: Drawing and Managing Boundaries from Antiquity to the Present. Oxford: University Press.


Hellmann, Gunther/Jorgensen, Knud Erik (eds.) 2015: Theorizing Foreign Policy in a Globalized World. Basingstoke, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.


Hill, Christopher 2003: The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.  


Hudson, Valerie M. 2007: Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.


Hudson, Valerie M. (ed.) 1997: Culture and Foreign Policy. London: Lynne Rienner.


Jorgensen, K. E./Alejandro, A./Reichwein, A./Rösch, F./Turton, H. 2017: Trends in European IR Theory, Vol. 1: Reappraising European IR Theoretical Traditions. London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Jorgensen, K.E./Aatstad, A.K./Dieskens, E./Laatikainen, K./Tonra, B. (eds.)2015, The SAGE Handbook of European Foreign Policy Vol. 1. London: SAGE Publications.


Kegley, Charles W. (ed.) 1995: Controversies in International Relations Theory: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge. New York: St Martin’s Press.


Larsen, Henrik 1997: Foreign Policy and Discourse Analysis: France, Britain and Germany. London: Routledge.


Lobell, S. E./Ripsman, N. M./Taliaferro, J. W. (eds.) 2009: Neoclassical Realism, The State, and Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Maull, Hanns W./Harnisch, Sebastian (eds.) 2001: Germany as a Civilian Power? The foreign policy of the Berlin Republic. Manchester: University Press.


Maull, Hanns W. (eds.) 2006: Germany's uncertain power: foreign policy of the Berlin Republic. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.


Mouritzen, Hans/Wivel, Anders (eds.) 2007: The Geopolitics of Euro-Atlantic Integration. London: Routledge.


Mouritzen, Hans/Wivel, Anders 2012: Explaining Foreign Policy. International Diplomacy and the Russo-Georgian War. Boulder/Col./London: Lynne Rienner.


Neack, L./Hey, J.A./Haney, P.J. 1995: Foreign Policy Analysis: Continuity and Change in Its Second Generation. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.


Ripsman, N. M./Taliaferro, J. W./Lobell, S. E. (eds.) 2016: Neoclassical realist theory of international politics. Oxford: University Press.


Rittberger, Volker (ed.) 2001: German Foreign Policy since Unification: An Analysis of Foreign Policy Continuity and Change. Manchester: University Press.


Skidmore, David/Hudson, Valerie M. (eds.)1993: The Limits of State Autonomy: Societal Groups and Foreign Policy Formulation. Boulder: Westview Press.


Smith, Karen E./Light, Margot (eds.) 2007: Ethics and Foreign Policy. Cambridge: University Press.


Smith, S./Hadfield, A./Dunne, T. (eds.) 2008: Foreign Policy. Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford: Univ Press.


Snyder, R. C./Bruck, H. W. S./Hudson, V. M./Chollet, D. M./Goldgeier, J. M. (eds.) 2002: Foreign Policy Decision-Making (Revisited). London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Tewes, Henning 2002: Germany, Civilian Power and the New Europe. Enlarging Nato and the EU. Houndmills/Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Toje, Asle/Kunz, Barbara (eds.) 2012: Neoclassical Realism in Europe: Bringing Power Back In. Manchester: University Press.

The prerequisites to attend the course/seminar are
- an interest in international politics, IR theories, and FPA theories
- a basic knowledge of IR theories (BA level)
- an interest in contemporary international politics, e.g. German foreign policy, Russian foreign policy, U.S. foreign policy, or the foreign policies of revisionist states (North-Korea, Iran) and new emerging/rising powers (such as China, India, Russia).
The seminar will consist of a combination of presentations by the teacher (introduction and conclu-sion) and student presentations (to each theoretical approach and case study), group work and group discussion about theoretical perspectives and case studies, and possibly external speakers/guest lectures.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Passed/Not passed