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Beyond Groupthink

Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy-making

Paul 't Hart, Eric K. Stern, and Bengt Sundelius, Editors

Publication Year: 1997

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.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The Small Group Initiative (SGI) was launched in 1993 as an international network of scholars interested in studying the dynamics of political decision making in small, high-level groups. The three editors of this volume founded SGI, but its momentum has since been maintained through the active participation of many colleagues across three continents. ...

Part 1. Groupthink and Beyond

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1. Foreign Policy-making at the Top: Political Group Dynamics

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pp. 3-34

Thursday, November 19, 1992, was a hectic day in Stockholm as well as in the international money markets around the world.1 Just two months before, several European currencies were under pressure from waves of speculation. The British pound, the Italian lira, the Spanish peseta, and the Finnish mark all suffered heavily. ...

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2. From Groupthink to Contextual Analysis of Policy-making Groups

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pp. 35-53

Before going "Beyond Groupthink" and arguing in favor of an alternative approach to studying the role of small groups in foreign policy decision making, as this and the other essays in this volume do, I believe it is appropriate to make an attempt to clarify as best I can what Irving Janis meant by "groupthink" and to identify some of the novel and striking ideas he advanced...

3. Challenging the Mindguards: Moving Small Group Analysis beyond Groupthink

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pp. 55-94

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4. Beyond Decision Making in Formal and Informal Groups: The Dutch Cabinet and the West New Guinea Conflict

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pp. 95-122

Things are not always as they appear. This banal yet fundamental observation applies to historical analysis as to other life situations. Even a case which at first sight seems a clear example of groupthink leaves unanswered several questions which point to deficiencies in Irving Janis's original groupthink conceptualization.1 ...

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5. Understanding the Small Group Decisions in Foreign Policy: Process Diagnosis and Research Procedure

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pp. 123-150

Before outlining our own research strategy for taking small group analysis a step beyond groupthink, let us pause for a moment to take stock of the main thrust of the preceding chapters of this volume. Despite the differing disciplinary backgrounds and empirical domains represented, there is considerable agreement on a fundamental, empirical point. ...

Part 2. Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy

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6. Probing the Plausibility of Newgroup Syndrome: Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs

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pp. 153-189

Still flushed with the thrill of victory in the November 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy and his advisors committed the United States to an abortive attempt to overthrow covertly the Castro regime in Cuba making use of an invasion force of Cuban exiles trained by the CIA. The name of the landing site chosen for the operation that took place in April of 1961, the Bay...

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7. "Following the Leader": The Impact of U.S. Presidential Style upon Advisory Group Dynamics, Structure, and Decision

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pp. 191-248

In September of 1950, President Harry S. Truman and his advisers made the decision to cross the Thirty-eighth Parallel and occupy North Korea. Although the situation was "framed" by Truman and his staff as an opportunity to reunify Korea, end the threat of further aggression from the North, and answer domestic critics of the Administration's foreign policy, within three months...

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8. Political Manipulation within the Small Group: Foreign Policy Advisers in the Carter Administration

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pp. 249-274

Individuals operating in a group context are often driven to alter the group's structure and processes in an effort to enhance the strength of a preferred policy option. Such political manipulation has been defined as "an attempt by one or more individuals to structure a group choice situation in a manner that maximizes the chances of a favorable outcome or minimizes the chances of an...

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9. Collective Risk Taking: The Decision-making Group

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pp. 275-307

Some decisions are made by individuals, but more often decision making is a collective enterprise that involves a small group and is carried out by organizations. In nonroutine, convention-breaking risky cases, such as foreign military intervention decisions, it is unlikely that final decisions will be made through organizational SOPs. ...

Part 3. Implications

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10. From Analysis to Reform of Policy-making Groups

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pp. 311-336

In his modem version of Machiavelli's classic treatise on how to run a government, Arnold MeItsner presents an important rationale for the kind of work presented in this volume. He reminds us that "those who seek improvement in the decision making of rulers should expand their appreciation of the social factors of advising" (1990, 13). ...


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pp. 337-373


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pp. 375-376


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pp. 377-384

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022779
E-ISBN-10: 0472022776
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472066537
Print-ISBN-10: 0472066536

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 20 figures and tables
Publication Year: 1997