10 Jul

Two-Level Games in Foreign Policy Analysis

Chapter Published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

da Conceição-Heldt, Eugénia and Patrick A. Mello (2017) Two-Level Games in Foreign Policy Analysis, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press (DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.496).

Article Summary: Whether in multilateral negotiations or bilateral meetings, government leaders regularly engage in “two-level games” played simultaneously at the domestic and the international level. From the two-level-games perspective, executives are seen as “chief negotiators” that are involved in some form of international negotiations for which they ultimately need to gain domestic approval at the ratification stage. This ratification requirement provides the critical link between the international and domestic level but it can be based on formal voting requirements (for instance, mandatory legislative approval in a certain policy area) or more informal ways of ratification such as measures of public opinion and public approval ratings.

With its focus on government leaders as “gatekeepers” and central actors in international negotiations, the two-level games perspective constitutes a distinct approach in foreign policy analysis and serves to reintegrate the subfields of comparative politics and international relations. While there are similarities to a liberal perspective, two-level games emphasize that executives hold a certain degree of autonomy in their decision-making, which cannot be purely derived from their constituencies. Unlike realism, however, the approach recognizes the importance of domestic veto players and institutional constraints. Since its inception in the late 1980s, a vast literature on two-level games has evolved including refinements of its theoretical foundation and applications in various policy areas. Against this background, this essay engages with key controversies in two-level games and foreign policy analysis throughout the last three decades. The discussion is organized along six debates concerning the levels of analysis, domestic political institutions, the interaction between the domestic and international level, relevant actors, their interests and preferences, and the relationship between comparative politics and international relations. The essay concludes with some thoughts on possible future research agendas [Read Further]

Keywords: bargaining, domestic politics, two-level games, interests, levels of analysis, negotiation analysis, ratification, veto players, win sets

da Conceição-Heldt, Eugénia and Patrick A. Mello (2017) Two-Level Games in Foreign Policy Analysis, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press (DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.496).