Beyond Groupthink

Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy-making
Paul 't Hart, Eric K. Stern, and Bengt Sundelius, Editors
Effects of group dynamics on decision making


Strategic issues and crises in foreign policy are usually managed by relatively small groups of elite policymakers and their closest advisors. Since the pioneering work of Irving Janis in the early 1970s, we have known that the interplay between the members of these groups can have a profound and, indeed, at times a pernicious influence on the content and quality of foreign policy decisions. Janis argued that "groupthink," a term he used to describe a tendency for extreme concurrence-seeking in decision-making groups, was a major cause of a number of U.S. foreign policy fiascoes. And yet not all small groups suffer from groupthink; in fact many high-level bodies are handicapped by an inability to achieve consensus at all.

Beyond Groupthink builds upon and extends Janis's legacy. The contributors develop a richer understanding of group dynamics by drawing on alternate views of small-group dynamics. The relevant literature is reviewed and the different perspectives are explored in detailed case studies. The contributors link the group process to the broader organizational and political context of the policy process and stress the need to develop a multi-level understanding of the collegial policy-making process, combining the insights drawn from micro-level theories with those derived from study of broader political phenomena. The contributors include Alexander George, Sally Riggs Fuller, Paul D. Hoyt, Ramon J. Aldag, Max V. Metselaar, Bertjan Verbeek, J. Thomas Preston, Jean A. Garrison, and Yaacov Y. I. Vertzberger.

This book should appeal to political scienctists and international relations specialists, as well as researchers in social psychology, public administration, and management interested in group decision-making processes.

Paul 't Hart is Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration, Leiden University and Scientific Director of of the Leiden-Rotterdam Crisis Research Center.

Eric Stern is Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University. Bengt Sundelius is Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This sophisticated and conceptually rigorous book is useful not only for scholars of foreign policy decision-making but also for those involved in studying organizational management and social psychology."

Look Inside

Acknowledgments          vii
Part 1. Groupthink and Beyond          1
Chapter 1. Foreign Policy-making at the Top: Political Group Dynamics
Paul 't Hart, Eric K. Stern, and Bengt Sundelius          3
Chapter 2. From Groupthink to Contextual Analysis of Policy-making Groups
Alexander L. George          35
Chapter 3. Challenging the Mindguards: Moving Small Group Analysis beyond Groupthink
Sally Riggs Fuller and Ramon J. Aldag          55
Chapter 4. Beyond Decision Making in Formal and Informal Groups: The Dutch Cabinet and the West New Guinea Conflict
Max V. Metselaar and Bertjan Verbeek          95
Chapter 5. Understanding Small Group Decisions in Foreign Policy: Process Diagnosis and Research Procedure
Eric K. Stern and Bengt Sundelius          123
Part 2. Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy          151
Chapter 6. Probing the Plausibility of Newgroup Syndrome: Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs
Eric K. Stern          153
Chapter 7. "Following the Leader": The Impact of U.S. Presidential Style upon Advisory Group Dynamics, Structure, and Decision
Thomas Preston          191
Chapter 8. Political Manipulation within the Small Group: Foreign Policy Advisers in the Carter Administration
Paul D. Hoyt and Jean A. Garrison          249
Chapter 9. Collective Risk Taking: The Decision-making Group
Yaacov Y. I. Vertzberger          275
Part 3. Implications          309
Chapter 10. From Analysis to Reform of Policy-making Groups
Paul 't Hart          311
Bibliography          337
Contributors          375
Index          377

Product Details

  • 392 pages.
  • 20 figures and tables.
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  • 2010
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