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A comprehensive understanding of international environmental politics requires attention to foreign policy. In this essay we describe many of the most prominent—and some of the less prominent—theories and approaches to foreign policy and international relations, with emphasis on how they can help us to better understand foreign policy in the environmental issue area. We organize the theories into three categories: systemic theories, which emphasize the influence of the international system, including the distribution of power within it; societal theories, which focus our attention on domestic politics and culture; and state-centric theories, which find answers to questions about foreign policy within the structure of the state and the individuals who promulgate and implement foreign policies in the name of a given country. Within this presentation of various theories, we highlight the influence of power, interests and ideas.


CPPS Working Paper Series No.112

Recommended Citation

Barkdull, J., & Harris, P. G. (2001). Ecology and foreign policy: Theoretical lessons from the literature (CPPS Working Papers Series no.112). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: