The bureaucratic imperative : Esprit and the making of British foreign policy (1982-1992)
This thesis examines British foreign policy-making in Esprit by applying insights from the Bureaucratic Politics perspective of foreign policy analysis. Esprit was a ten year programme that funded collaborative research and development in information technology between researchers across the European Community. Weaknesses in the Bureaucratic Politics perspective are recognized and ways to strengthen the perspective are suggested. No a priori assumptions about the usefulness of the approach or of the suggested modifications are made. This thesis is as much a test of the applicability of the Bureaucratic Politics perspective to British foreign policy analysis as it is a study of British foreign policy-making itself. While recognizing the ubiquity of competition between bureaucrats in Whitehall, traditional approaches to British foreign policy-making deny that bureaucratic competition affects British policy. Strong Ministers and a large and complex web of Whitehall interdepartmental and Cabinet coordinating committees are said to set Government-wide priorities and resolve bureaucratic conflict before it affects policy. Thus, from this point of view, the Bureaucratic Politics perspective is not applicable to Britain. Following that argument to its logical end, is it possible that bureaucratic competition affects policy in the absence of Ministerial authority or effective Whitehall coordinating committees. This thesis argues that competition between bureaucrats for budgets and responsibilities affected British policy in Esprit when Ministers did not clearly articulate consistent objectives, when Ministers did not maintain control and supervision over the policy issue and when Whitehall coordination and control mechanisms were absent or ineffective. When these conditions prevailed, the Bureaucratic Politics perspective, as modified, was useful in analyzing British foreign policy-making in Esprit. The question remains whether the perspective was useful because Esprit was uniquely qualified to encourage bureaucratic competition or whether other policy issues are similarly qualified and hence conducive to the Bureaucratic Politics approach.