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Foreign Policy as Public Policy? Exploring Promises and Pitfalls of Public Policy Approaches for Foreign Policy Analysis

Funding: Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung 

Project Leadership: Prof. Dr. Klaus Brummer (Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt), Prof. Dr. Sebastian Harnisch (University of Heidelberg), Dr. Kai Oppermann (University of Sussex), Prof. Dr. Diana Panke (University of Freiburg) 


Historically speaking, the study of foreign policy has largely concerned the analysis of decision making processes, individual decision-makers and the effects of international structural factors, anarchy and institutions, and the interactions between these forces. Over the last decades, the erosion of statehood in many areas of the world and the integration of statehood in some has shifted the gravitational pull between hierarchy as the ordering principle in the domestic realm and anarchy in the international sphere. Although foreign policy analysts have started to address these tectonic currents in various ways, e.g. by examining intermestic politics in foreign trade policy, the consequences of this phenomenon for foreign policy analysis have not been considered systematically. 


The conference will start out from the assumption that in order to capture these shifts and currents, the study of foreign policy can benefit from taking on board more systematically scholarship in public policy. This is the case, in particular, because foreign policy has become more similar to (and intertwined with) “ordinary” public policies. For once, foreign policy is no longer the more or less exclusive domain of the executive branch of government. With the increasing participation and/or influence of a range of actors such as parliaments, courts, non-governmental organizations, interest groups, etc., national governments no longer monopolize foreign policy and are even struggling to maintain their gatekeeping role. In addition to the plurality of actors that now characterizes foreign policy, allegedly “domestic” fields of public policy increasingly have external implications, particularly in a highly integrated region like Europe.  


However, despite this blurring of real-world boundaries between the external and the internal, and hence foreign policy and domestic policies, a divide still persists regarding the analysis of policy-making processes and substantive policies in foreign affairs on the one hand and virtually all other public policies on the other hand. While foreign policy is still predominantly analyzed through the lens of analytical approaches developed in the field of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), “theories of the policy process” are typically used to make sense of developments in all other policy realms. Although public policy scholars dealing with the analysis of domestic policy fields, such as social and economic policy, interior affairs or environmental policy, use a broad array of heuristics, concepts and theories, the possible contribution of such approaches to the analysis of foreign policy has yet to be fully explored. 


Against this background, the conference seeks to bridge the “analytical divide” between FPA and Public Policy (and thus Comparative Politics more generally). The presentations will provide novel insights into how and under which conditions foreign policy analysis can be enriched by ‘domestic realm’ public policy approaches, concepts and theories. By making use of analytical concepts developed in the respective “other” field, the conference aims at contributing to theoretical dialogue, integration and innovation across sub-disciplinary boundaries, thereby enhancing our understanding of policy-making processes and policies across issue areas (see the appendix for abstracts of the contributions). 


With this purpose in mind, the conference will have presentations from leading international scholars as well as mid-career scholars who have already proven their ability to make crucial contributions to the field. In line with the objective of the conference to bring together public policy approaches and the analysis of foreign policy, participants include scholars from both research communities.   


The presentations will cover a selection of the most important domestic public policy approaches and examine their transferability and adaptability to foreign policy analysis. Specifically, the conference will have three parts. The first part of the conference will cover a range of actor-centered approaches (Multiple Streams, Advocacy Coalitions, Veto Players, Punctuated Equilibrium) while the second part will discuss more structural approaches (New Institutionalism, Network Analysis, Policy Diffusion, Policy Learning). The third part will have a summary discussion of the presentations and a dedicated forward planning session to identify promising next steps in bringing public policy and foreign policy research together. Thereby the conference seeks to establish how bridging the intra-disciplinary divide between public policy and foreign policy analysis can enrich foreign policy studies and shows how exactly foreign policy analysis can benefit from broadening its instruments for analysis. The presentations will also discuss under what conditions such a transfer is less promising due to the ‘sui generis’ character of foreign policy.