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

Robert D. Putnam

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Aug. 2020. Web. 18 Sep. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Diplomacy-and-Domestic-Politics-The-Logic-of-Two-Level-Games/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2020, August 1). Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Diplomacy-and-Domestic-Politics-The-Logic-of-Two-Level-Games/

In text

(Course Hero, 2020)



Course Hero. "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games Study Guide." August 1, 2020. Accessed September 18, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Diplomacy-and-Domestic-Politics-The-Logic-of-Two-Level-Games/.


Course Hero, "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games Study Guide," August 1, 2020, accessed September 18, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Diplomacy-and-Domestic-Politics-The-Logic-of-Two-Level-Games/.

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


It is fruitless to debate whether domestic politics really determine international relations.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam offers a critical analysis of the literature on the topic of the entanglements between domestic and international politics. He approaches the question of the nature of the entanglements from a new angle by asking how and when the two interact. He sets himself apart from other writers on the topic and explains his unique and unprecedented perspective.


... the Bonn accord represented genuine international policy coordination.

Robert D. Putnam

The Bonn accord (1978) is the example that Putnam focuses on most heavily throughout the text. Here he points out why it is that what happened at Bonn in 1978 is so important when thinking about international diplomacy. He also defends his claims regarding the alignment of domestic interests and international coalitions at the time that the agreement happened. Putnam regards this event as truly outstanding because each party benefitted and each also honored the promises it made during the negotiations.


Thus, international pressure was a necessary condition for these policy shifts.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam says that the domestic policies agreed to at the Bonn Summit in 1978 happened as a result of the international talks. Putnam employs counterfactual statements in the form of "if X had happened, then Y" to demonstrate that international diplomacy sometimes realigns domestic politics. Wise negotiators can utilize the realignments to advance their positions in both levels of the game. This essentially delivers a win-win outcome for the negotiators, their international colleagues, and their domestic constituents.


... we must aim instead for 'general equilibrium theories.'

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam again aims to set his theory apart from its predecessors, reiterating his central idea that the entanglement between international diplomacy and domestic politics goes both ways. The conceptual framework that he articulates offers a new lens through which to view the circumstances that led to this reciprocity.


... clever players will spot a move ... that will trigger realignments.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam states that his two-level game theory best explains how and when the domestic situation changes the international one and vice versa. He notes that the negotiators at the Bonn Summit in 1978 were wise enough to utilize opportunities at the international level to realign themselves among domestic coalitions. In a previous analysis of the talks at Bonn, a precise examination of these realignments is missing. This indicates that the conceptual frameworks previously employed are not as comprehensive as the two-level game framework that Putnam introduces.


... any Level I agreement must, in the end, be ratified at Level II.

Robert D. Putnam

Successful agreements negotiated among international representatives must go on to be approved by domestic constituents. Putnam takes a closer look at the international negotiations process by comparing it to a two-level game. He untangles the influences that each has upon the other in a manner that is unprecedented in the existing political science literature.


... larger win-sets make Level I agreement more likely.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam defines a win-set as any set of agreements made at the international level that are likely to be approved at the domestic level. He notes the impact of larger win-sets on the outcome of Level I international negotiations. Negotiators who stand to gain from agreements are more willing to enter into them. Conversely, negotiators with little to gain from agreements are far less likely to enter into those agreements.


... the temptation to defect can be dramatically reduced.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam discusses how and why negotiators leave the game. All parties interested in the agreement suffer when negotiators leave. Negotiators should try to reduce the temptation that others face to defect and quit. Negotiators can agree to meet again to reduce the likelihood of defection. The political costs of dropping out can be steep when future meetings are planned. Putnam credits political theorists Robert Axelrod (b. 1943) and Robert Keohane (b. 1941) with recognizing this trend. Putnam explains how President Carter (b. 1924) faced a temptation to defect after the Bonn Summit of 1978 because his promise to decontrol oil did not have to be fulfilled until 1980. The fact that Carter followed through and achieved decontrol is because the political costs of reneging were too high.


... win-sets may be manipulated.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam discusses the political strategist Thomas C. Schelling's (1921–2016) analysis of conflict. Putnam acknowledges Schelling's point that negotiators can manipulate win-sets. Putnam further explores situations where win-sets are not able to be successfully manipulated. He finds that the negotiators' inability to manipulate win-sets does not prevent them from using win-sets to enhance their position. He goes on to elucidate how disadvantages at the domestic level can turn into advantages in international talks. As an example he cites the domestic problems that Third World leaders often face. These domestic problems can sometimes be helpful as a tool for gaining a better outcome from international agreements.


... a theory about the power and preferences of the major actors at Level II.

Robert D. Putnam

Win-set size varies concerning power imbalances between domestic coalitions. Putnam argues that it would be impossible to discuss international negotiations without a viable theory concerning Level II distributions of power and preferences. Nevertheless Putnam explains that he will sidestep the nuances of Level II politics and instead outline the key principles that influence win-set sizes.


In 1919, some Americans opposed the Versailles Treaty ...

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam explains that American negotiators faced a difficult situation during the negotiations that produced the Versailles Treaty (1919) initiating peace at the end of World War I. Some groups opposed the treaty, while others looked upon it favorably. Putnam cites this example to enter into a more detailed discussion of the unique challenges negotiators face when domestic interests are heterogeneous.


... the negotiator may use the implicit threat ... to maximize his gains.

Robert D. Putnam

The analysis of the strategies negotiators employ to win the Level I game includes Putnam's articulation of some key moves commonly employed to gain advantages. He points to situations where domestic interests are homogenous. This puts negotiators in a position to describe their interests as fixed. This grants the negotiator better play at Level I by offering a rationale for inflexibility and a higher likelihood of increasing the value of the prize.


... he may exploit both conventional side-payments and generic 'goodwill.'

Robert D. Putnam

A negotiator who needs to improve the likelihood that a Level I agreement will be ratified can employ payments and utilize political capital. Putnam mentions this as a way of demonstrating the influence of negotiation strategies on the sizes of win-sets. He uses the example of Carter's public works projects. Carter offered public works projects to motivate the U.S. Senate to ratify the Panama Canal Treaty (1977) that officially relinquished U.S. control of the canal. Presumably without the side payments, ratification would not have occurred. Putnam clarifies the precise manner in which Level I international play came to influence Level II of the game.


'To get along, go along' may be a rational maxim.

Robert D. Putnam

A maxim is any rule that one person follows. A rational maxim is a rule that most people are likely to follow when acting. Here Putnam is pointing out the reasons why dependent nations and interdependent coalitions are inclined to change their interests to match those that are popular. Level I international interests impact the domestic level and a shift in play at both boards can happen simultaneously.


What we need now are concepts.

Robert D. Putnam

Putnam carves out a path forward. He points out the limitations of mere theorizing. Putnam demonstrates how his two-level game framework is best applied and expresses his desire to see the empirical gaps in the political science literature filled.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!