15.3.3 The State

John Wright

If we drop down to the level of the state, things suddenly look very different. There is no longer a unitary actor speaking with a single voice. Instead, we tend to discuss the state as a set of institutions and interests that come together to create policy. So, where in the international setting we tend to say states have interests, at the domestic level we tend to discuss the various interests that go into forming foreign policy. Considering this, what counts as the state suddenly becomes problematic.

For example: Are the German Chancellor’s interests and Germany’s interests the same thing? One would say obviously not, but then to what extent does German policy reflect the Chancellor’s interests? Which priorities, issues or outcomes are determined by the preferences of the current political leadership, and which are defined more by Germany’s long-standing relationships and geopolitical position? How does the situation of the German Chancellor compare with, say, that of the Brazilian president?

We can see then that the form and structure of the state is important in predicting and predicating policy. How does power flow, and how is it exercised? What type of legal system does a state have? Is it unitary or federal? Is it democratic or authoritarian? Is it a constitutional state or a charismatic one? And, of course, how (much) does the ideological positioning of the leadership affect political developments.

Discussion Questions

  1. Examine the role of the president and the US Congress in the making of American foreign policy
  2. Look at a federal state (for example, India, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, The United States, Belgium) and see what jurisdictions its provinces or states are responsible for


Share This Book