TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2012: Levels of Analysis- Domestic
Domestic Level (Second Image)
Liberal theory often works at this level, neo-liberalism (institutionalism) is
systemic. Liberal scholars expect we cant understand how the system impacts
countries and the conditions under which it holds, until without first
understanding their domestic politicswhereas the systemic view is the reversal
of this logic and looks at systemic level variables and later see if the domestic
level doesnt fit into something.
The basic foundation of this level is the intuition that if we want to explain state
behaviour in the international system and their foreign policy, we have to look at
basic sources of their policies, and we look for them within each states domestic
The billiard balling of states renders those kind of theories less useful because
they cant explain states domestic policy behaviour
Causal variables lie within states, not outside them (opposite of the systemic
argument view who feels you can abstract away from domestic politics because
the system and structure defines the behavioursystemic model uses domestic
politics only to explain why a country does not fit into the model)
Liberal theory is defined not in terms of optimism for liberal politics, but based
on the level of analysis it is placed on.
Why do scholars choose to focus on this level? This level is differentiated from
the systemic level by their configuration of preferences, not capabilities. For
realists/systemic level analysts, how capabilities are distributed in the
international system is what matters (how power is distributed, polarity, etc.).
The domestic level argues that what matters is the configuration of preferences
or interests. We cant assume interests or preferences, and we need to
understand the sources of the interests and preferences of states. You cant
assume survival is the primary interest, because states may be pursuing other
interests more aggressively.
They think the primary actors are individuals and groups within domestic society
who are rational, risk adverse, and have their own specific ideas and interests
(opposite of the system top-down argument). They are socially differentiated
and define interests of states independently of politics. There could be some
groups involving in activities that are globally competitive, and others could be
seeking protectionism. The idea is that there are various individuals and groups
in society who define their interest and wellbeing differently. These groups are
competing with each other in the ring of domestic politics, so that their
preferences in domestic and international politics can be carried out. This
means states are just representative of a particular interest in society. It is
according to those interests that the interests of the state are defined. What
matters in understanding state preferences is finding out who determines stateinterests. States are therefore not actors in and of themselves because they
dont do anything.
ex) Communist thinkers say in a capitalist society, the ruling classes (a group)
have incentives to hold onto the means of production, while the proletariat
(another group) have the opposite interests.
States arent actors; they are transmission belts for the interests of who wins
out domestically. In democracy, it could represent many people or groups, or a
dictator could be representing the interests of only one group. States, contrary
to realists, are functionally differentiated and do not pursue one particular
interest. They all pursue different goals at different times and these goals can
basically be traced to the domestic politics.
Once the interests of states have been established (the interests of the dominant
group/individual), international interactions come at the last step of the theory
(bottom-up method). The interdependence of state interests (or configuration
of interests) determines outcomes and policies. States cant do whatever they
want to do at the international level, and their policies and actions are
determined by how their own preferences interact with those of other states.
They say the constraints on their actions come as the last step in policy. They
are constrained from pursuing their interests as they define them by the
preferences of other states.
This level can account for not just broad systemic action, but for actual foreign