What explains major foreign policy changes? Why and when does the state change its foreign policy? Despite the importance of foreign policy change, which can (re)shape the nature of a given state's international relations vis-à-vis other states and international systems, explanations of foreign policy change have received only sporadic attention in foreign policy analysis literature. Against this backdrop, I offer in this article a new framework designed to capture both motivational and processual aspects of foreign policy change. I develop the framework by critically examining and synthesising two recent systematic explorations of foreign policy change: one framework within the tradition of rationalism (broadly defined) – David Welch's Painful Choice: A Theory of Foreign Policy Change (2005) – and the other within constructivism – Jeffrey Legro's Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order (2006). For the motivational analysis, I link the role of crisis-defining ideas to threat perception to sharpen prospect theory. I illustrate this reformulated synthesis with an example of Japan's policy shift toward East Asian financial regionalism.
(Online publication May 12 2011)
Yong Wook Lee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Korea University, Seoul. His research examines how identities and norms are both affected by and affect states and their practices within domestic and international contexts. Before coming to Korea University, Lee previously taught at Brown University and the University of Oklahoma. His first book, entitled The Japanese Challenge to the American Neoliberal World Order: Identity, Meaning, and Foreign Policy was published by Stanford University Press (2008). Lee is working on a book-length project on East Asian financial regionalism.
* This work was supported by the Korea Research Foundation Grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (KRF-2008-362-A00001). An earlier draft of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, New York (February 15–18, 2009). I thank Vincent Wang for his constructive comments and criticisms. I am also grateful to the RIS editors and three anonymous reviewers for their insights and suggestions.