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Ideas and International Political Change

Ideas and International Political Change: Soviet/Russian Behavior and the End of the Cold War

Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Ideas and International Political Change
    Book Description:

    The remarkable, peaceful end of the Cold War dramatically-and unexpectedly-transformed international politics toward the end of the twentieth century. At the heart of this amazing change was the struggle over new and old ideas. Drawing on rich data from interviews with key Soviet architects of "new thinking" and of Gorbachev-era policy reforms, Jeffrey Checkel offers an absorbing historical narrative of political change in the late Soviet period, along with theoretical insights into the effect of ideas on state behavior.International structure and domestic institutions account for variations from country to country in how ideas influence state policy, Checkel argues. While a changing international political environment creates opportunities for the carriers of new ideas, these entrepreneurs must operate within domestic institutional settings that sharply affect their ability to influence policy. In the late Soviet period, entrenched assumptions about international politics were close to breaking down, creating a rare opportunity for new thinking. Checkel draws on this analysis of policy change in Soviet Moscow at the end of the Cold War, as well as in post-Soviet Russia, to illuminate the role of ideas in international political change.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14606-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Capturing Complexity, Explaining Change
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Part I Ideas and Foreign Policy

    • 1 Ideas and Policy Change
      (pp. 3-17)

      In recent years, a number of works in comparative politics and international relations have studied ideas and knowledge as factors that influence domestic and international political outcomes. This research can be summarized under two headings: ideas and politics in comparative and international political economy, and the new transnationalism in international relations. A brief review sets the theoretical context for my own approach.¹

      The literature on ideas and politics argues that ideas can influence the content and direction of public policy. Of course, to declare that ideas matter is to beg the analytically more interesting question: How and under what conditions...

    • 2 Policymaking in an Authoritarian State
      (pp. 18-28)

      To this point, my approach has been primarily deductive. Using insights from the international political economy, comparative politics, and American politics literatures, I have advanced an argument to explain the processes and mechanisms through which ideas come to shape the foreign policy preferences of national decision makers. My purpose in this chapter is to supplement the deductive argument with a more inductive approach that explores the expected relationship of ideas and foreign policy behavior in an authoritarian state like the former USSR.

      A key source of ideas throughout the Soviet period was the network of research institutes associated with the...

  6. Part II Prom Detente to New Thinking and Beyond

    • 3 Entrepreneurs Looking for a Window
      (pp. 31-62)

      The present chapter has two parts. In the first half, I examine one particularly important source of ideas about international politics during the early Brezhnev years: the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO). I show that by the late 1960s a particular set of ideas on international affairs was well on its way to becoming embedded at IMEMO; it would influence the institute’s behavior in key ways as the Soviet debate over detente unfolded. In examining these ideas, I consider the mechanisms that allowed them to take hold at IMEMO, as well as their content....

    • 4 Windows Opening?
      (pp. 63-76)

      This chapter sets the stage for an exploration of the unexpected and dramatic international political changes that led to the end of the Cold War. Consistent with the book’s theoretical and empirical concerns, my focus is the supply and demand for new foreign policy ideas in the former Soviet Union — in this case, as the Brezhnev era drew to a close. The demand for ideas by the top Soviet elite (Politburo members and members of the C.C. Secretariat) remained low until close to the end of Brezhnev’s tenure in late 1982. This testifies to the staying power of the Leninist...

    • 5 Open Windows, New Ideas, and the End of the Cold War
      (pp. 77-105)

      By the early 1980s, a policy window was ajar in the Soviet Union, but not fully open. That is, although the USSR faced a number of daunting international circumstances and pressures, its ruling elites did not perceive them as such. In the present chapter, I explore the process through which this window opened fully; the incentives this created for entrepreneurs; the political empowerment of a new set of foreign policy ideas; and how the broader structure of the Soviet state facilitated such empowerment. I should thus be able to offer an explanation for the unexpected, dramatic, and peaceful changes that...

    • 6 A Post–Cold War Cold Peace? Ideas and Institutions in the New Russia
      (pp. 106-120)

      These sentiments, while addressing the domestic political scene in post-Soviet Russia, find striking parallels in the foreign policy arena, where many feel that ideas and theory have also moved ahead of practice and power.¹ Indeed, the set of liberal ideas that informed Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev has come under withering attack from a number of quarters. This chapter examines these changes, the causal influence of ideas in the process, and how institutional change has fundamentally altered the role of ideas in shaping the international political behavior of post-Soviet Russia.

      While employing the same explanatory framework, my analysis is different...

  7. Part III Ideas, Institutions, and International Change

    • 7 Ideas and Foreign Policy
      (pp. 123-132)

      The end of the Cold War has been accompanied by profound transformations in the domestic political economies of a growing number of countries throughout Eastern Europe, the former USSR, Latin America, and Africa. If nothing else, these transformations should remind us that international relations theory is not well equipped to conceptualize this domestic context and its impact on foreign and security policy. Indeed, some have argued that international-relations theory more generally needs retooling in the post–Cold War era.

      By exploring the relation of ideas to international political change, I seek to assist in this effort by demonstrating that theorists...

  8. Appendix: Schedule of Interviews
    (pp. 133-134)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 135-184)
  10. Index
    (pp. 185-191)