The University of Wisconsin Press

Political Science / International Relations


Democracies and Foreign Policy
Public Participation in the United States and the Netherlands
Bernard C. Cohen

Foreign-policy making in democracies is frequently compared with that of more autocratic political systems, where public participation has not been allowed to shape national interests or policy formation.

In Democracies and Foreign Policy, however, Bernard Cohen offers the first detailed comparison of two Western democracies—the United States and the Netherlands—and their patterns of public participation in foreign policy. To assess the influence of citizens on the foreign policies of each nation, he examines the institutions that both shape and express public opinion—national legislative bodies, media of communication, organized interest groups-and searches for the roots of these institutions in the national political systems.

Cohen's thought-provoking results demand a reassessment of aspects of foreign-policy making that have been taken for granted in each of these countries. Cohen finds, for example, that within the United States the media have significant power in setting agendas, while the political parties remain relatively mute on foreign-policy issues. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, the media have a lesser role, with the government instead sampling the opinion of the more outspoken political parties and party members. The Dutch Foreign Ministry, remaining walled off from the public, has a much freer hand in foreign policy. Cohen also finds that the U.S. State Department is much more sensitive to public opinion than its Dutch counterpart but, surprisingly, is less successful in understanding and coping with demands from its public.

Bernard C. Cohen is the Quincy Wright Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of The Press and Foreign Policy, The Public's Impact on Foreign Policy, and The Political Process and Foreign Policy.


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Cohen's book is blue with the title in white and tan

April 1995  
LC: 94-038501 E
208 pp.  6 x 9
Cloth ISBN 978-0-299-14640-5
Paper ISBN 978-0-299-14644-8


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