A significant and growing literature on international relations (IR) argues that domestic politics is typically an important part of the explanation for states' foreign policies, and seeks to understand its influence more precisely. I argue that what constitutes a “domestic-political” explanation of a state's foreign policy choices has not been clearly elaborated. What counts as a domestic-political explanation is defined by opposition to systemic or structural explanations. But these may be specified in several different ways—I spell out two—each of which implies a different concept of domestic-political explanations. If a systemic IR theory pictures states as unitary, rational actors, then a domestic-political explanation is one in which domestic-political interactions in at least one state yield a suboptimal foreign policy relative to some normative standard. Or, if a systemic IR theory pictures states as unitary, rational actors and also requires that attributes of particular states not enter the explanation, then a domestic-political explanation is any one that involves state characteristics other than relative power. Implications of each approach are developed, and examples from the literature are provided. I also address the question of whether there is a sharp distinction between a “systemic theory of international politics” and a “theory of foreign policy,” arguing that there is an important and natural sense in which they are the same.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Achen CA, Snidal D. 1989. Rational deterrence theory and comparative case studies.. World Polit. 41:143–69 [Google Scholar]
  2. Allison GT. 1971. Essence of Decision. Boston: Little-Brown 338 pp. [Google Scholar]
  3. Arrow K. 1951. Social Choice and Individual Values. New York: Wiley [Google Scholar]
  4. Bendor J, Hammond TH. 1992. Rethinking Allison's models.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 86:301–22 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bueno de Mesquita B, Lalman D. 1992. War and Reason. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press 322 pp. [Google Scholar]
  6. Coase R. 1937. The nature of the firm.. Economica 4:386–405 [Google Scholar]
  7. Conybeare JC. 1987. Trade Wars. New York: Columbia Univ. Press 319 pp. [Google Scholar]
  8. Cowhey PF. 1993. Domestic institutions and the credibility of international commitments: Japan and the United States.. Int. Organ. 47:299–326 [Google Scholar]
  9. Dixit AK, Londregan J. 1995. Redistributive politics and economic efficiency.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 89:856–66 [Google Scholar]
  10. Downs GW, Rocke DM. 1995. Optimal Imperfection? Domestic Uncertainty and Institutions in International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 159 pp. [Google Scholar]
  11. Doyle M. 1986. Liberalism and world politics.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 80:1151–61 [Google Scholar]
  12. Elman C. 1996. Why not neorealist theories of foreign policy.. Secur. Stud. 6:7–53 [Google Scholar]
  13. Evangelista M. 1997. Domestic structure and international change. In New Thinking in International Relations Theory, ed. MW Doyle, GJ Ikenberry 203–28 Boulder, CO: Westview [Google Scholar]
  14. Evans P, Jacobson H, Putnam R. eds 1993. International Bargaining and Domestic Politics. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press 490 pp. [Google Scholar]
  15. Fearon JD. 1994. Ethnic war as a commitment problem.. Presented at Annu. Meet. Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc., 90th, New York
  16. Fearon JD. 1995. Rationalist explanations for war.. Int. Organ. 49:379–414 [Google Scholar]
  17. Fearon JD. 1997. Bargaining over objects that influence future bargaining power.. Presented at Annu. Meet. Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc., 93rd, Washington
  18. Fearon JD. 1998. Bargaining, enforcement, and international cooperation.. Int. Organ. In press [Google Scholar]
  19. Frieden JA. 1991. Invested interests: the politics of national economic policies in a world of global finance.. Int. Organ. 45:425–51 [Google Scholar]
  20. Frieden JA, Rogowski R. 1996. The impact of the international economy on national policies: an analytic overview.. See Keohane & Milner 1996 25–47
  21. Garrett G, Tsebelis G. 1996. An institutional critique of intergovernmentalism.. Int. Organ. 50:269–300 [Google Scholar]
  22. Glaser CL. 1994/1995. Realists as optimists: cooperation as self-help.. Int. Secur. 19:50–90 [Google Scholar]
  23. Goemans H. 1995. The causes of war termination: domestic politics and war aims.. PhD thesis. Univ. Chicago 370 pp.
  24. Goldgeier JM. 1997. US security policy toward the new Europe: how the decision to expand NATO was made.. Presented at Annu. Meet. Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc., 93rd, Washington
  25. Gourevitch P. 1978. The second-image reversed.. Int. Organ. 32:881–912 [Google Scholar]
  26. Grossman GM, Helpman E. 1994. Protection for sale.. Am. Econ. Rev. 84:833–50 [Google Scholar]
  27. Halperin M. 1974. Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy. Washington, DC: Brookings 340 pp. [Google Scholar]
  28. Hart O. 1995. Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press 228 pp. [Google Scholar]
  29. Hess GD, Orphanides A. 1995. War politics: an economic rational-voter framework.. Am. Econ. Rev. 85:828–47 [Google Scholar]
  30. Hirshleifer J. 1995. Anarchy and Its Breakdown.. J. Polit. Econ. 103:26–52 [Google Scholar]
  31. Huth P. 1996. Standing Your Ground: Territorial Disputes and International Conflict. Ann Arbor: Univ. Michigan Press 275 pp. [Google Scholar]
  32. Ikenberry GJ, Lake D, Mastanduno M. eds 1989. The State and American Foreign Economic Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 243 pp. [Google Scholar]
  33. Jervis R. 1976. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 445 pp. [Google Scholar]
  34. Jervis R. 1978. Cooperation under the security dilemma.. World Polit. 30:167–214 [Google Scholar]
  35. Jervis R. 1997. System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 309 pp. [Google Scholar]
  36. Johnston A. 1995. Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 307 pp. [Google Scholar]
  37. Katzenstein P. ed 1978. Between Power and Plenty. Madison: Univ. Wisconsin Press 344 pp. [Google Scholar]
  38. Kauffman WW. 1954. The Requirements of Deterrence. Princeton, NJ: Cent. Int. Stud 23 pp. [Google Scholar]
  39. Keohane RO, Milner HV. eds 1996. Internationalization and Domestic Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press 308 pp. [Google Scholar]
  40. Kier E. 1997. Imagining War: French and British Military Doctrine Between the Wars. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 240 pp. [Google Scholar]
  41. Krasner S. 1976. State power and the structure of international trade.. World Polit. 36:317–43 [Google Scholar]
  42. Krasner S. 1993. Westphalia and all that. In Ideas and Foreign Policy, ed. RO Keohane, J Goldstein 235–64 Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  43. Kydd A. 1997. Game theory and the spiral model.. World Polit. 49:371–400 [Google Scholar]
  44. Lake D. 1992. Powerful pacifists: democratic states and war.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 86:24–37 [Google Scholar]
  45. Lake D. 1995. Anarchy, hierarchy, and the variety of international relations.. Int. Organ. 50:1–34 [Google Scholar]
  46. Larson DW. 1985. Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 380 pp. [Google Scholar]
  47. Lebow RN. 1981. Between Peace and War. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press 350 pp. [Google Scholar]
  48. Legro J. 1995. Cooperation Under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint During World War II. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 255 pp. [Google Scholar]
  49. Lohmann S, O'Halloran S. 1994. Divided government and US trade policy.. Int. Organ. 48:595–632 [Google Scholar]
  50. Mansfield ED, Snyder J. 1995. Democratization and the danger of war.. Int. Secur. 20:5–38 [Google Scholar]
  51. Martin L. 1994. International and domestic institutions in the EMU process.. In The Political Economy of European Integration, ed. J Frieden, B Eichengreen. Boulder, CO: Westview 198 pp.
  52. Maynard Smith J. 1982. Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press 224 pp. [Google Scholar]
  53. Mercer J. 1996. Reputation and International Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 236 pp. [Google Scholar]
  54. Milner HV. 1988. Resisting Protectionism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 329 pp. [Google Scholar]
  55. Milner HV. 1997. Interests, Institutions, and Information: Domestic Politics and International Relations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 291 pp. [Google Scholar]
  56. Milner HV, Rosendorff BP. 1997. Democratic politics and international trade negotiations.. J. Confl. Resol. 41:117–46 [Google Scholar]
  57. Mo J. 1995. Domestic institutions and international bargaining: the role of agent veto in two-level games.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 89:914–24 [Google Scholar]
  58. Moravscik A. 1993. Introduction: integrating international and domestic theories of international bargaining.. See Evans et al 1993 3–42
  59. Niou E, Ordeshook P, Rose R. 1989. The Balance of Power. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 359 pp. [Google Scholar]
  60. North D. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press 152 pp. [Google Scholar]
  61. O'Halloran S. 1994. Politics, Process, and American Trade Policy. Ann Arbor: Univ. Michigan Press [Google Scholar]
  62. Peterson S. 1996. Crisis Bargaining and the State: Domestic Politics and International Conflict. Ann Arbor: Univ. Michigan Press 208 pp. [Google Scholar]
  63. Posen BR. 1984. The Sources of Military Doctrine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 283 pp. [Google Scholar]
  64. Powell R. 1993. Guns, butter, and anarchy.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 87:115–32 [Google Scholar]
  65. Powell R. 1996. Stability and the distribution of power.. World Polit. 48:239–67 [Google Scholar]
  66. Putnam RD. 1988. Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games.. Int. Organ. 42:427–60 [Google Scholar]
  67. Ray J. 1998. Does democracy cause peace?. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 1:27–46 [Google Scholar]
  68. Rogowski R. 1998. Institutions as constraints on strategic choice.. In Strategic Choice and International Relations, ed. DA Lake, R Powell. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press. In press
  69. Rosecrance R, Stein AA. 1993. The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 230 pp. [Google Scholar]
  70. Rosendorff BP. 1995. Voluntary export restraints, antidumping procedure, and domestic politics.. Am. Econ. Rev. 86:554–61 [Google Scholar]
  71. Ruggie JG. 1993. Territoriality and beyond: problematizing modernity in international relations.. Int. Organ. 47:139–74 [Google Scholar]
  72. Russett B. 1993. Grasping the Democratic Peace. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 173 pp. [Google Scholar]
  73. Schattschneider EE. 1935. Politics, Pressures, and the Tariff. New York: Prentice-Hall 301 pp. [Google Scholar]
  74. Schelling T. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press 309 pp. [Google Scholar]
  75. Schelling T. 1966. Arms and Influence. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press 293 pp. [Google Scholar]
  76. Schweller R. 1996. Neorealism's status quo bias: what security dilemma?. Secur. Stud. 5:90–121 [Google Scholar]
  77. Shepsle K. 1979. Institutional arrangements and equilibria in multidimensional voting models.. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 23:27–59 [Google Scholar]
  78. Simon H. 1957. Models of Man. New York: Wiley 287 pp. [Google Scholar]
  79. Smith A. 1996. Diversionary foreign policy in democratic systems.. Int. Stud. Q. 40:133–53 [Google Scholar]
  80. Snyder J. 1984. The Ideology of the Offensive. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 267 pp. [Google Scholar]
  81. Snyder J. 1991. Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press 330 pp. [Google Scholar]
  82. Spruyt H. 1994. The Sovereign State and Its Competitors. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  83. Stamm A. 1996. Win, Lose, or Draw: Domestic Politics and the Crucible of War. Ann Arbor: Univ. Michigan Press 239 pp. [Google Scholar]
  84. Van Evera S. 1984. Causes of War.. PhD thesis. Univ. Calif., Berkeley 812 pp.
  85. Verdier D. 1994. Democracy and International Trade. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press 387 pp. [Google Scholar]
  86. Wagner RH. 1994. Peace, war, and the balance of power.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 88:593–607 [Google Scholar]
  87. Wagner RH. 1987. The theory of games and the balance of power.. World Polit. 38:546–76 [Google Scholar]
  88. Walter B. 1997. The critical barrier to civil war settlement.. Int. Organ. 51:335–64 [Google Scholar]
  89. Waltz K. 1959. Man, the State, and War. New York: Columbia Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  90. Waltz K. 1967. Foreign Policy and Democratic Politics: The American and British Experience. Boston: Little-Brown 331 pp. [Google Scholar]
  91. Waltz K. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley 251 pp. [Google Scholar]
  92. Waltz K. 1996. International politics is not foreign policy.. Secur. Stud. 6:54–57 [Google Scholar]
  93. Weibull JW. 1996. Evolutionary Game Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 286 pp. [Google Scholar]
  94. Wendt A. 1992. Anarchy is what states make of it.. Int. Organ. 46:391–425 [Google Scholar]
  95. Wendt A. 1993. Collective identity formation and the international state.. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 88:384–96 [Google Scholar]
  96. Williamson O. 1975. Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. New York: Free 286 pp. [Google Scholar]
  97. Wohlstetter R. 1967. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press 424 pp. [Google Scholar]
  98. Zakaria F. 1992. Realism and domestic politics: a review essay.. Int. Secur. 17:177–98 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error