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Political Mistakes and Policy Failures in International Relations
We all make mistakes. Mistakes are human. Mistakes happen not only in our individual lives, but also in national and international politics. The project is concerned with mistakes in different areas of international relations including the realms of security, economics and finance, health and development, environmental policy and migration, international organization as well as the media and public diplomacy. While mistakes have always been at the center stage of International Relations as a discipline implicitly, due to the fact that events attract far more attention when they are considered to have gone wrong, the conceptualization of mistakes as an explicit analytical concept and focus so far has been neglected. In political science, research on mistakes or rather fiascos has been dominated by scholars in public policy who have examined various failures of governments around the world from both an objectivist perspective which considers failures objectively measurable facts as well as an interpretivist perspective which considers them social constructions determined in a discursive struggle over interpretation.
The project will take insights from these findings in public policy and investigate their merits for i/International r/Relations. It is interested not only in large scale catastrophic failures or fiascos but also in smaller, lesser known blunders and even instances of `successful failure where policy failures paradoxically contributed to the political success of the responsible actors. By starting out from a broad concept of mistakes as something gone wrong in programmatic (policy performance) or political (reputational) terms, the project allows for a comparison of mistakes of different severity and in very different realms of international relations in order to draw out answers to the following guiding questions:
  • How does one identify and research a mistake?
  • Why do mistakes happen?
  • How are actors made responsible?
  • What consequences do mistakes have?
  • When and how do actors learn from mistakes?

Leaning on the research in public policy the volume s epistemological stance is open as it will include both parts which consider mistakes to be objective facts as well as parts which consider mistakes to be social constructions.


Failure, Mistake, Politic

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