Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games | Study Guide

Robert D. Putnam

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Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games | Context


Early Work on Entanglements

Robert D. Putnam reviews the existing literature on the entanglement between domestic and international politics, noting that much of it "consists either of ad hoc lists of countless 'domestic influences' on foreign policy or of generic observations that national and international affairs are somehow 'linked.'" Putnam specifically references James Rosenau's (1924–2011) taxonomy of "linkage politics"(1973) which motivated the publication of several articles focusing on "conflict behavior" but no assistance in sorting through the tangled web of domestic and international politics.

Putnam finds that theorists such as Karl Deutsch (1912–92) and Ernst Haas (1924–2003), whose work on entanglements and regional integration is captured in The Uniting of Europe: Political, Social, and Economic Forces (1958), have not adequately explored the relationships between domestic groups and international exchanges. Haas had been on the right track when pointing to the idea that interest groups and parties played an important role in European integration. Putnam argues that Haas did not pursue his research far enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. Haas began the discussion of the "spillover" of domestic issues into the international policy arena. Unfortunately Haas's research came to a halt when the push for integrating Europe slowed. Scholars following in Haas's footsteps shifted their focus to transnationalism and disregarded the role of domestic politics in international negotiations.

Bureaucratic Politics

Graham Allison's (b. 1940) pioneering Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971) investigated the role of small networks of actors working strategically to establish policies governing international affairs. Allison shifted the discussion of international politics by introducing the metaphor of games to analyze negotiations between nations. Allison argues that the moves made in the game of negotiating depend on both the interests of the actors and the distribution of power among them. Unlike other approaches to international relations, the bureaucratic politics approach de-emphasizes collective national interests in governing the moves each player makes toward achieving an agreement. The bureaucratic politics approach denies that states act autonomously when entering into transnational associations. Putnam contends that this approach does little to free domestic factors from their complication with international affairs. It does not offer any insight into the nature of the relationship between diplomacy and domestic politics.

Structural Factors and State Strength

In 1978 Peter Katzenstein (b. 1945) published his research into the influence of domestic politics on international economic negotiations. In Between Power and Plenty: Foreign Economic Policies of Advanced Industrial States Katzenstein concludes that "central decision-makers ('the state') must be concerned simultaneously with domestic and international pressures." Putnam says that Katzenstein's approach is similar to the route he takes in "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics." Putnam sees Katzenstein's emphasis on state strength and structural factors as too narrow in focus. Putnam contends that strong states may have more stability than weaker states, but this is only part of the story. What this model fails to capture is the role of "parties, social classes, interest groups (both economic and non-economic), legislators, and even public opinion and elections." State strength is an abstract concept. This makes it somewhat impossible to measure. Putnam calls into question the referent of the term "state." He notes that in some instances, "state" refers to a single actor. In other instances "state" is used to refer to a group. There is an ambiguity built into international relations discussions. Putnam articulates the need for a clearer understanding of the influence of domestic politics upon international negotiations.

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