Lecture 2 – Theories of the State
U.S. foreign policy is a form a policy, and the main thing that separates public from foreign policy is
mainly that it’s directed towards the external environment; actions of the state are geared towards the
Kenneth Walls – imp. Thinker on I.R.; he suggested that on analyzing foreign policy questions,
there are three different lenses through which to look at the decisions.
o The first image for war and its occurrence focuses on individuals; in the decision to
invade Iraq people argued that George Bush’s personality was a personal trigger.
Therefore the focuses are on the personality of the individual, and thus the decisions that
are made are very important.
o The state itself is also an image of war. There is a basic idea that democracies do not
make war on other democracies; the internal makeup of a state is important to their
foreign policy decisions. Example the military and industrial complex of America could
be a reason for invading Iraq.
o International system – the threats that a nation faces in the international environment puts
forward the hypothesis that this is the most important image and the real cause for war.
Theories of the State
Liberal/Pluralist – Among Liberal thinkers, the Social Contract looms fairly large in explaining what
states are; they tend to view the state as having in effect been created through a kind of agreement b/w the
governed and the governing. This view is strongly influenced by the Anglo-Saxon decision.
The Magna Carta created the foundations of the Modern British State and spells out what the state
can and cannot do. It is a kind of an agreement b/w the people and the governed.
The Constitution in America is also a similar document that expresses the social contract. It spells
out that the gov. purpose is to carry out basic rights, and if the gov. does not follow the rights they
government becomes illegitimate. If this happens then the people have the right to revolution.
o What makes the constitution seem like a social contract was the bill of rights. The state is
a neutral entity affected by the inputs of society that try to influence state policy and in
doing so encounter groups that are doing the same.
o The state for the most part is a dependant variable influenced by outside groups; different
interest groups and policy groups try to change the sets of politics.
Marxist; Instrumentalist and Structuralist:
Instrumentalist; the state is the collective means by which the bourgeoisie manages their own
interests. The capitalist state with the instrumentalist approach was put forward in the context of
Great Britain and North America.
o There is a closes relationship b/w the state and economic elites; they tend to be members
of the same schools, country clubs, there is a regular transfer of vice versa between state
jobs and government jobs. There is a strong tendency for the state to pursue policies that
are in the interest of these businesses.
o This approach focuses very much on the people involved and sees the state as being run
by the top echelons of the capitalist economy.
Structuralist; the personal relationships is beside the point. The role of the state in the Capitalist
economy is not to reflect the interest of the capitalists; what is important is that the state needs to
look towards the long-term interest of the capitalist nation and to do that they need a relative
o If the government officials tends to act too deeply in the interest of the capitalist official
they then illegitimate themselves and their function. Like the pluralist view of the state, the state is still a dependant variable; to understand the decisions of the state you look at
the variables acting on top of the state.
Statist – Max Weber; He really was against Marxist theory over their imagery of the state’s relationship to
the economy. He argued that the defining characteristic of modern societies is their bureaucratic nature;
bureaucracies have become the most important because they are hierarchical in nations, they are
meritocratic, and are politically neutral.
He said that bureaucracy would eventually become oppressive and lock modern societies in its
case. Lenin’s solution to this problem was socialism. He said that this was not the right solution
which will lock us into a blind rationality; he believes that states existed before the rise of
capitalism which undermines the historical context of Marx.
Extraction Origin Cycle – Used mercenaries to pillage towns and expand his territories and then used
more mercenaries to keep doing the same. Eventually there were 30,000 people to be ruled and it was
figured out that pillaging was not the way to govern, but to actually make an extensive system of tax
Charles Tilly argues that in essence states development as forms of protection rackets. States
when approaching their subject population for resources did so when saying that they would
provide protection; ex. states were coercive self-seeking entrepreneurs.
o Plunder and war making
o State -making is elimination or neutralizing their rivals inside their territories over which
their can wield force; they exercise a use of monopoly over the use of force on their
o Protection is eliminating or neutralizing the protection of their clients.
o Extraction is acquiring the means that carries out the last three functions.
Statists believe that the Marxist had it backwards the state is an independent variable which basically
means realism. Realists argue that state actions are crucial to be explained through the international
system through the various threats that exist.
Invasion of Iraq is argued that the U.S. is first and foremost motivated by maintaining its unipolar
dominance in the world system against other threats.
They argue that understanding state action had to state with the recognition that states are socially
constructed entities and as such over repositories of a national identity that in turn determines the
interest that a state is likely to support and thus their policies and that these interests can to some
extent change over time.
We have to understand the political culture of a particular state that determines how they perceive
different states about the world and how they construct their policies through their own
understanding. The U.S. has a very odd political culture based on a set of myths (unifying
themes); the core myth the United States is seen as a city upon a hill.
o First democratic regime and a model of democratization of the world. This dictates that
the U.S. needs to export democracy to other parts of the world. Lecture 3
The general perception that the U.S. state is somehow exceptional in the foreign state is something that
we will pick up in this course. European states have always existed in confrontation of another and U.S.
has developed in the context of a U.S. constitution and democratic system and thus the U.S. foreign
policy is influenced by this context.
The U.S. constitution is a very old document, well over 200 years old and constructed in a context very
different from today’s context which poses a problem. How could the constitution that was created in a
state that was relatively insignificant then have adapted overtime to such completely different
circumstance where the U.S. is the dominant industrial economy and unipolar hegemon today?
Many Americans see the U.S. constitution as a largely non-political document and certainly not
one that’s flawed. The constitution contains within it a greatly flaw of the fundamental
compromise over the issue of slavery; the northern states and southern citizens fought over the
question of slavery. Slaves were to be considered as 3/5’s of a person as someone to be
represented in the parliament.
The Tea Party – Sarah Palin was asked who was her favourite founding father, and answered all
of them. The constitution was created as a unifying document of the U.S. political committee and
to have a proper understanding of the document we must distance ourselves from this perception.
First of all the constitution currently is not the first U.S. constitution. The first constitution is the
Articles of Confederation created in the aftermath of the U.S. gaining freedom in the 16 C. It
created a very weak central government leaving most of the executive and central powers in the
hands of the individual states.
Constitutional convention produced the current document. The most important component of the crises
that arose was that in particular the aftermath of the rev. saw a population that was deeply divided; all
revolutions are accurately described as rebellions, and an example is Canada created on the people who
did not quite rebel against the dominant social structure, i.e. the British.
The states soon were of the opinion that a stronger central government needed to be established to
stop rebellions and create order.
Britain appeared in the 1780’s to be exploring the possibility of playing a divide and reconquer
strategy. For this not to occur it was necessary to create a stronger central government.
The constitution was compromise;
New Jersey plan supported by the smaller states and Virginia plan supported larger states. This
essentially called for a system of gov. dominated by a legislature by which each state was
represented equally. The larger states blv’d that they should get a greater representation based on
the population of the states. Eventually what emerged was the Connecticut compromise that
created a bicameral legislature, with the HofC would consist of the representatives of the
population of the country. The Senate would be represented equally with two representatives
from either state that was appointed by the state government.
The constitution was based on the distrust of majorities; what the framers of the constitution
sought to create was as inefficient of a gov. as they possibly could b/e gov. efficiency would lead
to tyranny. Thus diffusing power as much as possible b/w different institutions so that these
institutions would act as a check on each other, and therefore a tyranny was not possible. The
executive and legislative functions were separated; the legislature merely rights the laws and the
execution of the laws depends upon the executive or the President.
Both branches would be kept in check by the judiciary whose main function was basically to keep
both of these branches in check. The most important institution of the judiciary is the supreme
court who are permanently appointed for life and cannot be removed from their office and they in effect have the power to protect the constitution. It’s made up of nine judges which brings forth a
sort of elitism into the gov., and is not particularly democratic.
The greatest cause of faction is the unequal development of wealth and since the core of the rights to be
protected is life, liberty and property, property was one of the core rights to be protected.
1. Calculated ambiguity – the constitution is full of deliberately calculated ambiguity which allows
for individuals to interpret the document in very different ways. Sovereignty – where did it
reside? It resided with the states; the constitution shows this ambiguity in that in the beginning of
the document it states, ‘We the people…’ thus the authority of the constitution is that the people
have also passed this document; thus the federal government was not quite responsible. This
problem was resolved through the civil war.
2. Judicial power – Marbury vs. Madison; the case rose essentially out of the problem that political
parties emerged after the constitutions, i.e. the Federalists vs. the Anti-federalists. Essentially in
the elections of 1802 the Federalists lost the elections, and thus they created a whole slew of
judgeships and appointed staunch federalist to the Supreme Court, through the Senate which was
federalist senators. Dread Scott Case research.
How the constitution has affected foreign policy;
The separation of powers is a misleading in that the powers are not neatly separated. Instead a
more accurate description is that it is a system of institutions sharing power which leads to
permanent struggle. The Senate was a smaller chamber and thus issues could be debated
indefinitely and furthermore the institution of the filibuster. This allowed the Senator to stop the
passage of a vote in protection of a small minority. Filibusters take up a lot of time and thus other
problem of legislation cannot come up thus forcing a compromise towards the filibusters.
Congress is responsible for the defence and general welfare for the population of the American
population, has the power to define and punish piracy, to suppress civil war, to declare war, to
declare the support of the army and navy, given the power to provide the advice and consent to
the President. The congress has the lion’s share of power over the foreign policy; it collects taxes
and is the only part that can spend the gov’s. money.
Article 2: Powers of the Executive Branch – general the presidency was not seen by the framers
of the constitution as a particularly important branch. The President just sees that the laws of the
land are faithfully executed; the role was just the one that implement and forces the laws, seen as
a kind of a head bureaucrat. However, it is also clear that congress cannot be in charge of running
a war because it is not possible and consequently the president has the power of the commander
in chief of the armed forces. He also is resp. for making treaties with the advice and consent of
2/3 of the Senate, and appointments of ambassadorships. He is the person that will receive
ambassadors which gives him the power to recognize foreign governments. Ex. Nixon recognized
the governments of China and Beijing and just not the government of Taiwan. The recognition if
the State of Georgia leads to implying that the government might need the to aid the government
if it is under attack.
Also has the power to veto legislation that he finds objectionable. The basic framework of this
overall system needs both congress and president to be a part of the U.S. foreign policy. Congres