Having introduced the global drama in chapter 1 and reviewed its history in chapter 2, it is time to turn our attention to what drives the action on the world stage. Much like the plot of a play, the course of world politics is the story of the motivations and calculations of the actors and how they put those into action. Because states have long been and remain the most powerful actors on the world stage, our focus here will be on how they make and carry out foreign policy. Therefore, most of what occurs in world politics is a dynamic story of states taking actions and other states reacting to them, either directly or indirectly through international organizations. States are certainly not the only global actors, though, and the roles and decision-making processes of individuals (such as Osama bin Laden), transitional groups (such as Greenpeace), and international organizations (such as the UN) are taken up in other chapters.
As this chapter details, the foreign policy process is very complex. Analysts untangle the intricacies by studying foreign policy making from three perspectives termed levels of analysis. These include: (1) individual-level analysis—the impact of people as individuals or as a species on policy; (2) state-level analysis— how the organization and operation of a government affect policy; and (3) system-level analysis—the external realities and pressures that influence a country's policy. Use the activities to the left to help you better understand these levels and how each level tells a different, but equally important, story.
Define individual-level analysis in world politics.
Examine how fundamental human characteristics influence policy.
Show how organizational behavior, including role-playing and group decision making, can influence policy decisions.
Analyze the idiosyncratic or personal characteristics of leaders that influence their decision-making and policy outcomes.
Discuss the major emphases of state-level analysis.
Analyze the foreign policy process, based on the type of government, situation, and policy.
Discuss the importance of political culture on foreign policy.
Describe the structural characteristics of the international system and discuss the actors.
Analyze the power relationships in the international system.
Discuss economic realities in the political system.
Outline the norms of behavior in the international system.