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A Theory of Foreign Policy
Glenn Palmer & T. Clifton Morgan

Paperback | 2010 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691146553
224 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 11 line illus. 19 tables.
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This book presents a general explanation of how states develop their foreign policy. The theory stands in contrast to most approaches--which assume that states want to maximize security--by assuming that states pursue two things, or goods, through their foreign policy: change and maintenance. States, in other words, try both to change aspects of the international status quo that they don't like and maintain those aspects they do like. A state's ability to do so is largely a function of its relative capability, and since national capability is finite, a state must make trade-offs between policies designed to achieve change or maintenance.

Glenn Palmer and Clifton Morgan apply their theory to cases ranging from American foreign policy since World War II to Chinese foreign policy since 1949 to the Suez Canal Crisis. The many implications bear upon specific policies such as conflict initiation, foreign aid allocation, military spending, and alliance formation. Particularly useful are the implications for foreign policy substitutability. The authors also undertake statistical analyses of a wide range of behaviors, and these generally support the theory.

A Theory of Foreign Policy represents a major advance over traditional analyses of international relations. Not only do its empirical implications speak to a broader range of policies but, more importantly, the book illuminates the trade-offs decision makers face in selecting among policies to maximize utility, given a state's goals.


"Political scientists Glenn Palmer and T. Clifton Morgan propose a new theory of foreign policy that challenges theories based on security as the single goal of policy analysts."--Choice

"[Glenn Palmer and T. Clifton Morgan] set an ambitious program to develop a general theory of comparative foreign policy. They rightly criticize the so-called 'realist' and 'neorealist' concepts, which give an overly simplistic explanation of foreign policy behavior as being policy motivated by one central goal: security of the nation . . . [and] offer a few good principles. [In] a clear . . . narrative, the authors present a mathematically formulated and statistically based explanation, and test the theory on several historical cases. . . . The book is an interesting attempt to establish a general theory of foreign policy behavior."--Ivan T. Berend, European Review


"A Theory of Foreign Policy is a major book that advances our knowledge of foreign policy generally and of alliances in particular. Its authors develop an innovative formal theory of foreign policy that goes beyond realism and liberalism and pushes the field toward new and fruitful directions."--John Vasquez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, author of The Power of Power Politics

Table of Contents:

List of Figures ix
List of Tables x
Preface: A Theory of Foreign Policy xi
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: The Two-Good Theory Presented 14
Chapter 3: American Foreign Policy since World War II from the Two-Good Perspective 43
Chapter 4: Three Applications of the Two-Good Theory 69
Chapter 5: The Two-Good Theory Formalized 96
Chapter 6: Tests of the Two-Good Theory 114
Conflict, Foreign Aid, and Military Spending
Chapter 7: Substitutability and Alliances 137
Chapter 8: Conclusion 173
What We Have Learned
Appendix 183
Bibliography 191
Index 207

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