Coalition Politics and Cabinet Decision Making

A Comparative Analysis of Foreign Policy Choices
Juliet Kaarbo
Kaarbo assesses the nature and quality of coalition decision-making in foreign policy


Every day, coalition cabinets make policy decisions critical to international politics. Juliet Kaarbo examines the dynamics of these multiparty cabinets in parliamentary democracies in order to assess both the quality of coalition decision making and the degree to which coalitions tend to favor peaceful or military solutions. Are coalition cabinets so riddled by conflict that they cannot make foreign policy effectively, or do the multiple voices represented in the cabinet create more legitimate and imaginative responses to the international system? Do political and institutional constraints inherent to coalition cabinets lead to nonaggressive policies? Or do institutional and political forces precipitate more belligerent behavior?

Employing theory from security studies and political psychology as well as a combination of quantitative cross-national analyses and twelve qualitative comparative case studies of foreign policy made by coalition cabinets in Japan, the Netherlands, and Turkey, Kaarbo identifies the factors that generate highly aggressive policies, inconsistency, and other policy outcomes. Her findings have implications not merely for foreign policy but for all types of decision making and policy-making by coalition governments.

"Well done, highly readable, interesting and informative, and makes many important contributions to the literature. Many scholars will find this book to be critically important. Indeed, I suspect some will correctly call it foundational."
—Mark Schafer, University of Central Florida

"Kaarbo challenges the received wisdom and provides compelling evidence for a more nuanced understanding of foreign policy-making by coalition governments."
—Marijke Breuning, University of North Texas

"The choice of countries covered is courageous, the choice of the cases studied within each of the countries is right on the mark. This rich, interdisciplinary analysis of governmental groups sits comfortably with the best work in governmental decision-making analysis done today."
—Paul 't Hart, Utrecht University and the Netherlands School of Public Administration

Juliet Kaarbo is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Praise / Awards

  • "[Kaarbo's] insights into the relationship between coalition governments and foreign policy outcomes add greatly to the understanding of democratic governance. Highly recommended." 
    —T.D. Lancaster, Choice

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
  • 40 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11824-3

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  • $99.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03546-5

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  • $37.95 U.S.

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  • Coalition Politics, Foreign Policy, Coalition cabinets, International Politics, Multiparty Cabinets, Parliamentary Democracies, Decision-making, Security Studies, Political Psychology, Japan, The Netherlands, Turkey, Comparative Politics