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date: 23 March 2017

Comparative Foreign Policy Analysis

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.

Comparative Foreign Policy Analysis (CFP) is a vibrant and dynamic subfield of international relations. It examines foreign policy decision-making processes related to momentous events as well as patterns in day-to-day foreign interactions of nearly 200 different states (along with thousands of international and nongovernmental organizations). Scholars explore the causes of these behaviors as well as their implications by constructing, testing, and refining theories of foreign policy decision making in comparative perspective. In turn, CFP offers valuable lessons to government leaders.

The evolution of CFP is surveyed as a subfield over time, with special attention to its contributions to academic understanding and policy making. It begins with a review of the characteristics and contributions of CFP, followed by acknowledgment of early works that helped establish this area of study. The next section of the essay reviews major thematic focuses of CFP, including theories of international pressures and factors that may drive state foreign policy as well as strong foundations in studies of domestic politics. Key internal actors and conditions that can influence state foreign policies include individual leaders, institutions and legislatures, bureaucratic organizations and government agencies, and public opinion and nongovernmental organizations. Following this survey of actors and contemporary theories of their role in foreign policy decision making, the essay develops two brief case studies of the power of leadership cognition and political party factions on foreign policy.