University of Sussex
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Dialectic of foreign policy and international relations: a social theory of a disciplinary gap

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posted on 2023-06-08, 22:06 authored by Can M Cemgil
This thesis problematizes the disciplinary gap between the related fields of International Relations (IR) and Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA). It claims that this gap is generated as a consequence of the deeper ontological and epistemological assumptions of these disciplines. While IR theories are more concerned with macrolevel phenomena and reduce foreign policies of states to structural imperatives, FPA theories are inclined to focus on micro-level determinations and reduce relational phenomena to non-relational and singular behaviours of states and policy makers. This meta-theoretical gap, the thesis argues, can be bridged by a dialectical ontoepistemology that reconstitutes IR and FPA as the aspects of the same disciplinary undertaking by offering an inter-subjective and praxis-oriented view of international politics. Through this onto-epistemology, the thesis contributes to wider debates in social scientific discourse on the so-called agent-structure problem in favour of an agent-based approach by conceptualising macro-level social phenomena not as structures, but as inter-subjective consequences of diverse and contradictory praxes of a multiplicity of diachronically-situated individual and collective agents. The more specific contribution of this thesis to the fields of FPA and IR is that it establishes international relations as the cumulative and contradictory results of the intersubjective praxes of states in making foreign policies and devising foreign policy strategies. To illustrate these onto-epistemological arguments empirically, the thesis demonstrates that the 2003 Iraq War as a major international relations development was the long-term result of the dialectical interplay of the reproductive strategies of a series of states and other agents. Similarly, how the individual states discussed in the empirical chapters contributed to the transformation of the so-called international system through their foreign policy strategies also illustrate the practical bridging of FPA and IR by individual and collective agents.


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  • International Relations Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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