The Cultural Impact on Foreign Policymaking in a Multipolar World

National values and cultures play an essential role in foreign policy making and implementation. Yet there is little systematic and comparative study on how, and to what extent, a culture and value system can impact on a nation’s view, strategy and approach towards the outside world despite the erosion of absolutism that asserts either “the end of history” due to the triumph of a homologous value system (Francis Fukuyama, 1992) or “the clash of civilizations” due to the irreconcilable differences between various values (Samuel Huntington, 1996).

This question becomes more relevant and indeed imperative in view of the irrevocable evolution towards a multipolar world. It is increasingly evident that the established IR theories, based on “western values”, can hardly capture the reality in international affairs. In practice the promotion of the “Washington consensus” has met with not only empirical obstacles but also normative rejections. Even within the “West”, there are substantial differences: French or German “thinking”, for example, is different than dominant Anglo-Saxon/American “thinking” on foreign policy. And the differences become even more obvious outside the “West”. Rising powers with long civilizations such as China and India will play increasingly important roles in international governance, and we need to understand the influence of traditional values on foreign policy perspectives and approaches.

As the rising powers are also being seen through the reflection of “western” powers’ self-image, it has been properly asked: what might be the values coming from the “East” to guide their rises? To this end, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair called into awareness that “for the first time in centuries, the West will have to come to terms with the seismic change happening about it. The East is rising. At the least it will demand parity with the West. And perhaps more. But what values will this daunting new world use to guide it?” (Blair, 2008).

The workshop gathers a team of leading scholars from various countries, with different cultural backgrounds, to analyze a number of country case studies. These case studies will include influential countries from different parts of the world, including the United States, China, Russia, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Iran. These case studies will then be assembled in an edited volume, with a lead chapter that discusses national political culture in comparative perspectives, and a concluding chapter that draws implications for foreign policy and international cooperation on shared goals.