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Role conceptions could metaphorically be thought of as 'road maps' which facilitate the foreign policy-maker's navigation through a complex political reality. The stability of the European Union EU as a foreign policy actor is dependent on the member states consistently adopting common role conceptions and modifying their behaviour according to each others' roles and expectations. If a Europeanisation of foreign policy is taking place, we would anticipate that member states would be adopting position roles that increase the predictability of foreign policy and stable expectations.

The foreign policy process has become Europeanised, in the sense that in every international issue, there is an exchange of information and an attempt to arrive at a common understanding and a common approach — compared to how things were in the past, where most issues were looked at in isolation without addressing the attitudes of other member states or a European dimension.

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These words of a senior British foreign policy-maker reflect the experience of foreign policy cooperation between member states of the European Union for more than a quarter of a century. This progressive deepening and widening of European integration in foreign policy raises a number of interesting questions, particularly regarding the significance and future role of the state in foreign policy: Are states no longer the most important organisational actors in foreign policy? Is the realist idea that states ultimately seek to preserve their national independence in foreign policy still relevant to international relations in Europe?

The precise implication that the CFSP has for national foreign policy is a matter of contention in the academic literature. How we conceptualise these changes in foreign policy is a major challenge and provokes us to look anew at the theories and categories with which we go about our research on foreign policy in contemporary Europe.

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A central research problem is to explore the relevance of the state and investigate whether the agency of foreign policy is now increasingly conceived on the European level by policy-makers. Culture is here defined as the broad context in which individual and collective identities are linked, producing shared meanings that influence the framing of political action.

The analysis presented here is based on a social constructivist perspective, in the sense that political ideas and perceptions are assumed to be part of cognitive structures that give meaning to the material world cf. Adler b. At the core of the analytical framework presented below stand two key concepts: identity and role. The first is identity. Collective identities express a sense of belonging to membership of a distinct group. As such, they tend to provide a system of orientation for self-reference and action Ross : 2.

Changes in self-conceptions, it is suggested, are intimately bound up with long-term foreign policy change. For its part, the concept of role facilitates a political—cultural approach to foreign policy analysis in two ways. The first is methodological.

Role concepts provide us with an analytical and operational link between identity constructions and patterns of foreign policy behaviour. Role conceptions suggest how cultural norms and values are translated into verbal statements about expected foreign policy behaviour and action orientation. It allows one to bridge the conceptual gap between the general beliefs held in a society and the beliefs of foreign policy decision makers. The second way in which the concept of role facilitates a political—cultural approach to foreign policy analysis is epistemological.

Role concepts provide an essential link between agent and structure, as they incorporate the manner in which foreign policy is both purposeful and shaped by institutional contexts. Foreign policy, in other words, is not just a question of adaptation to structural forces determinism , nor is it simply a function of political will voluntarism. With an emphasis on the interplay between agency and structure, the European foreign policy-maker is considered to be both subject to norm-conforming social structures and involved as an agent in re constructing identities and interests — some of which may be imagined beyond the state.

From this line of thought it follows that the analysis of international institutions, such as the CFSP, should begin with an analysis of the self-understandings of the actors involved. This chapter contains a brief empirical section, which poses the question of whether national and European role conceptions are conflicting or converging. In the international system, membership of a political community has traditionally been institutionalised spatially within territorial states Krasner Foreign policy follows as a consequence of a political community being recognised as a sovereign state and is thus an essential confirmation of its identity by other sovereign actors.

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With all the symbolic trappings of sovereignty and statehood, foreign policy plays a significant role in the socio-political imagination of a collective identity. Key foreign policy speeches frequently contain assertions referring to subjective we-feelings of a cultural group and its specific customs, institutions, territory, myths and rituals. However, in contemporary Europe, many politicians are also increasingly emphasising a European identity:. To be part of Europe is in the British national interest. So far from submerging our identity as a nation in some Eurosceptic parody of a Federal super-state, we believe that by being part of Europe we advance our own self-interest as the British nation.

This is a patriotic cause. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair We will always associate with Europe the absolute objective of finding common solutions to common problems and of acting with weight behind us in a rapidly changing world, not because we want to give up or level our national identities but rather precisely because we want to preserve these identities and to include them in a more comprehensive European identity. Does this emphasis on a European identity in foreign policy signify a shift away from a singular notion of political identity confined to the nation-state?

This raises a number of intriguing questions about foreign policy in Europe: which social collectivities, interests and values do foreign policy-makers see themselves representing and advancing in foreign policy? The politics of identity refer to a particular set of ideas about political community that policy-makers draw on to mobilise a sense of cohesion and solidarity in order to legitimate the general thrust of foreign policy.

The nation is seen as the source of sovereignty on which the state, in turn, is founded. The state is not, however, a natural, pre-given social construct. This political socialisation has an important security aspect. If the idea of the state fails to be supported in society, the state itself may lack a secure foundation Buzan : Thus, a sense of belonging appears to be closely interrelated with membership of a political community that seems to offer protection from external threat Garcia : It reinforces certain practices and rules of behaviour which explain and legitimise particular identity constructions March and Olsen a : 7; see also Almond, Powell and Mundt : As a consequence of its articulation and institutionalisation in the political culture, national identity may become internalised in the cognitive framework — or prism — through which foreign policy-makers interpret political reality.

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The conceptual lenses through which foreign policy-makers perceive international relations tend to set the norm for what is considered rational foreign policy-making. Yet, despite the fact that self-conceptions tend to be relatively resistant to change, the processes by which they are perpetuated are certainly not static. Just as they evolved in particular historical circumstances, definitions of identity and foreign policy interests may be redefined as a consequence of current transformations internal and external to the state.

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In many states, the end of the Cold War and the deepening of European integration have sparked off soul-searching debates about the meaning of national and, for that matter, European identity Aggestam b : 54— In Britain, the very concept of Britishness has been called into question and resulted in constitutional change. In this context, the argument put forward is that profound changes in the predominant idea of the nation are likely to have significant foreign policy implications. Broader foreign policy approaches, particularly regarding European integration, are bound up with a sense of identity in foreign policy.

This is why, for instance, there tends to be a competition of ideas at the EU intergovernmental conferences, as the position of each member state tends to reflect its own conception of political community Aggestam b : 75— Thus, it could be argued that the more the European Union is moving towards a part-formed polity, the greater the demand for a perceived harmonisation of a national and European identity. Reference to transnational practices and a European supranational identity will be accepted more easily among a broader public if these are in some way framed as compatible with a national identity.

Yet, as public opinion surveys and debates on the European Union have indicated, foreign policy elites face a delicate balancing act in seeking to articulate views of European integration that are seen by the broader public not as a threat to national identity, but an enhancement of multiple identities. Foreign policy-makers are understood in this chapter as agents collectively representing the state as a social actor in foreign policy cf.

Katzenstein This is because role conceptions are considered to have a social origin a point which will be discussed further below. They are formed within a cultural context and their legitimacy and endurance are dependent on their being broadly shared at a particular time. In Europe, the agents of foreign policy are positioned at the intersection of transnational processes and domestic structures.

Although they are primarily national agents of foreign policy, they find themselves in a boundary position from which they must mediate between two worlds of foreign policy-making: one in the national capital, the other centred in Brussels. While foreign policy role conceptions to a great extent are shaped primarily within the broader political culture of a state, one research problem that needs to be addressed is the extent to which the interaction and elite socialisation between EU members affect foreign policy perceptions.

The role perspective developed below is based on the premise that actors learn and are socialised into playing roles through interaction within both domestic and international contexts. The foreign policy-maker is guided by both rules and reasons in foreign policy. Foreign policy action is a mixture of political will and adjustment to structural factors. The analytical framework outlined here thus deviates from a strict interpretation of instrumental rationality that implies that action in foreign policy is simply based on the maximisation of power and security interests.

Rational theory tends to ignore endogenous dynamics and focus on material utility maximisation. A reflective approach, on the other hand, emphasises the impact of cultural practices, norms and values on perceptions of interests Keohane The two approaches reflect different logics of how human behaviour and intentionality are interpreted: rational instrumental action logic of expected consequences and rule-based action logic of appropriateness Checkel : 4. However, the analytical framework offered by role concepts places greater stress on how international interaction and socialisation between policy-makers may affect the way they conceptualise their interests during and after negotiations.

However, the extent to which this process may lead to complex learning a reassessment of fundamental beliefs and values is an empirical question that needs to be explored further, but which is beyond the scope of this chapter. Characteristic of international relations in Europe are the expanding networks of transnational and transgovernmental relations. These appear to be changing the context of foreign policy. They defined a security community as a transnational region in which the positive identification and interaction between the members would lead to a decline in military force and a rise in the expectancy of peaceful relations.

What makes the Deutschian perspective particularly useful is that it recognises that different social-communicative processes between actors may affect and shape their identities and interests. This mutual responsiveness and compatibility of interests may, according to a social constructivist understanding, make possible new repertoires of action and behaviour. This focus has tended to overshadow the equally interesting process in which identities may be reconstructed through cooperative and positive interaction with other actors, leading to intersubjective understandings and shared norms.

The high density of multilateral interactions and the continuous communication and adjustment coordination reflex within CFSP point to certain qualitative new features of solidarity between EU members. Transparency, consultation and compromise are norms underpinning the CFSP framework. However, as we will see below, there are good reasons for questioning a linear view of European integration.

This is because international norms agreed on the European level do not necessarily lead towards intersubjective understandings between states. Role theory was introduced into foreign policy analysis by Holsti a , when he sought to explore the link between social context and foreign policy.

A sociological understanding of role focuses on the nature of agency and its relationship to social structures. Given that role is conceived of in terms of a characteristic behavioural repertoire, it is a concept that captures elements of continuity in foreign policy. However, given a long enough time period, the role concept also captures processes of socialisation and thus provides insights into foreign policy change.

The concept of role can be used in different ways to explain or understand foreign policy. It is a broad concept that carries different connotations. These are closely interlinked yet do not necessarily concur with one another.


First, there is role expectation : this is a role that other actors alter prescribe and expect the role-beholder ego to enact. Second, there is role conception : normative expectations of a certain kind of foreign policy behaviour expressed by the role-beholders themselves. Third, there is role performance : this role refers to the actual foreign policy behaviour in terms of decisions and actions undertaken, and is particularly sensitive to the situational context in which it is enacted.

If we wish to understand how national and European identity influence foreign policy perceptions, the second distinction — role conception — offers a fruitful avenue for exploration.

This definition by Holsti encourages an inductive empirical analysis to take place, in order to reveal how policy-makers themselves perceive and define roles. What Holsti a : 28 found in his study was that the practitioners of foreign policy expressed a multitude of roles, in contrast to the more general and singular roles arrived at deductively by academics. Significantly, this conclusion seems to suggest that roles have multiple sources and are not exclusively generated by the international distribution of power. The aspect of role emphasised in this chapter is its function as a cognitive image; one that simplifies, provides guidance and predisposes an actor towards one intentional behaviour rather than towards another.

As cognitive studies have revealed, most people tend to simplify complexities in the world Gerner : A role conception embodies a mixture of norms, intentions and descriptions of reality, which vary in degree of specificity and manifestation. As noted above, it is important to underline that actors conceive of multiple roles. These vary in overall importance centrality and according to the situation and institutional context salience.

A role conception may become intersubjective and hence relatively stable over time, as policy-makers are socialised into and inter-nalise these role conceptions. Roles have multiple sources and in order not to over- or underestimate the significance of institutions in the formulation of foreign policy, it is important to consider how roles are generated from a combination of structure, interaction and intention.

Structure refers to patterns of social relationships, practices and shared perceptions of reality Lundquist : A structural approach, in other words, brings to our attention how institutions, not actors, determine norms and roles. It is important, however, to emphasise that national and international structures consist not only of normative, but also material elements.