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Robert Jervis - Perception and Level of Analysis

Uploaded by stick_ucsb on Apr 30, 2001

Robert Jervis in Perception and Level of Analysis espouses the notion that in order to fully explain crucial decisions and policies it is essential that one pays heed to the decision-maker’s beliefs about the world and his or her perceptions of others. Rather than attempting to understand foreign policies as directly resulting from the three other levels of analysis, the bureaucratic, the domestic, and the international environment, which he outlines, Jervis contends that examination of a decision-maker’s perceptions, both their causes and effects, can more readily determine and explain behavioral patterns; in such a light, the taxonomy or three other levels of analysis appear devoid of truth value when applied alone, and all related theories are shown as invalid except in extreme cases. Nonetheless, one might more accurately contest that while careful study of a decision-maker’s beliefs is a necessity for comprehension, analysis of such beliefs is in fact an examination of bureaucratic organizations, domestic circumstances, and the international environment; all four are interrelated in the sense that the perceptions of the decision-maker are influenced by the circumstances existent in the three other levels. Likewise the three levels are themselves affected and often altered by the politician’s choices. Therefore, in order to provide the most comprehensive explanations of foreign policy decisions one cannot completely disregard externalities, and conversely one cannot ignore individual perceptions of decision-makers.

One cannot rely solely on the bureaucratic level of analysis, the domestic, the international environment, or even on a combination of the three as adequate. What one might interpret as a clash of bureaucratic interests and stands yielding incoherent and conflicting policies, could in reality be a “clash among values that are widely held in both society and the decision-makers’ own minds” (Jervis 28). Similarly, if domestic situations were the medium upon which politicians base their decisions then changes in leadership would not necessarily produce significant changes in foreign policy; however, the consistency of foreign policy is difficult to measure. For example, some might contend that the Cold War would not have occurred had President Franklin Delano Roosevelt not died; they suggest that his death altered American policy in the sense that President Truman and his anti-Soviet position came to dominate political decision-making. Others contest that FDR would have acted similarly to Truman, as he too was coming to an anti-Soviet stance prior to his death. If the former is seen as accurate the domestic level...

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Uploaded by:   stick_ucsb

Date:   04/30/2001

Category:   Politics

Length:   5 pages (1,072 words)

Views:   2077

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