Choice, Learning, and Foreign Policy

  • Benjamin E. Goldsmith


In 1936, Harold Lasswell published an influential book titled Who Gets What, When, How? In the study of politics, at least in the study of international politics, I believe there is an even more fundamental question analysts should ask: Who wants what, when, and why? In chapter 1 this question was stated as “what shapes actors’ preferences?” The hypothesis driving this book is that preferences are shaped in systematic ways by experience and observation. In much of the international relations literature, preferences are assumed to be either constant and immutable, or idiosyncratic and unpredictable. This convention severely limits our understanding of world politics. As noted, there is increasing interest in what influences preferences in international relations. But, as illustrated with the example of Japan, we still do not have a general framework that explains when and why states “learn,” either directly or vicariously.1


Foreign Policy Rational Choice International Relation World Politics International Politics 
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© Benjamin E. Goldsmith 2005

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  • Benjamin E. Goldsmith

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