Austrian and Swiss Foreign Policy: A Comparison and Research Agenda


  • Thomas Bernauer



Foreign policy analysis (FPA) appears to have become quite marginal in academic political science research, not only in Austria, but also in other countries, such as neighboring Switzerland or Germany. In this essay I argue that, contrary to conventional wisdom, this is not primarily due to the fact that scholars based in these countries and their research have internationalized, and that Austria and Switzerland are too small to really matter in international politics and thus be of academic interest. Rather, it derives from two conditions: first, continued adherence of many if not most FPA scholars to interpretational (hermeneutical) research methods, which have become rather peripheral in modern political science; and second, limited creativity of political scientists focused on causal explanation and statistical analysis in coming up with new and interesting FPA questions and appropriate study designs. This argument is illustrated with examples from FPA as reflected in two recent books on foreign policy in Austria and Switzerland respectively, and suggestions on several areas where political scientists could add valuable insights that are both academically interesting and policy relevant.