Interpretive sociology of foreign policy: “agent” model of state behavior on the international arena


The article revisits the utility of sociological theories for the students of international relations. The failure of IR scholars to predict Ukrainian crisis revealed the limits of realism, which still remains most influential IR theory. These limits make rethink the prospects of convergence of IR and sociological theories. Pros and cons of holistic constructivist theory are examined. The article results in making an “agent-focused” model composed of the concepts of Max Weber’s interpretive sociology, Graham Allison’s typology of models of decision making and Mark Haas’s model of ideological origins of great powers’ politics. In doing so, it also revisits the concept of identity as a mean to understand “social facts” and their influence on foreign policy. The emphasis on the “agent” though not the “structure” is approached as an alternative to holistic constructivism of Alexander Wendt and his epigones. The “agent” model is supposed to be more capable for studies of great powers’, which play an active role in setting up the “structure’s” parameters. Three different approaches to “agent” are considered - “agent” as a state, as a bureaucratic body or structure within the state and as decision-makers and their staff. The model is designed for further empirical research of the Russian foreign policy.

Ivan Nikolaevich Timofeev
<p>MGIMO (U) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation</p>

Moscow, Russia

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