Individuals and Diplomacy
A whole “What if?” literature takes as its branch point the premature death of “great” men, the non-death of others, or someone’s non-election. The most traditional way of approaching international relations is by focusing on great men. History has long chronicled their deeds and portrayed their character. At the same time classical realism, a frequent point of reference in political science emphasizes their responsibilities. And yet, philosophy has questioned the omnipotence of great men in making history: Either they are only a product of deeper forces (class struggle), or they do not understand the history they are making, or their desire to make history produces above all tragedies, or again their power has now been diluted in the flood of actions by millions of anonymous people who vote, produce, communicate, and are increasingly mobile. The “rediscovery” of the individual has occurred within the framework of a challenge to statism, a crisis of Marxism, a standstill in systemism’s ability to explain history’s bifurcations and surprises, and of postmodernism promoting the latter’s indetermination. This chapter offers a study of individuals in diplomacy from three angles: First, focusing on the actor, knowing who he is; second, broadening the focus to the major challenges of decision-making and leadership, in a comparative mode; third, expanding the focus onto various actors engaged in diplomacy.
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