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Cover Foreign Policy

5. Discourse analysis, post-structuralism, and foreign policy  

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the use of discourse analysis in the study of foreign policy. In the study of international relations, discourse analysis is associated with post-structuralism, a theoretical approach that shares realism’s concern with states and power, but differs from realism’s assumption that states are driven by self-interest. It also takes a wider view of power than realists normally do. Post-structuralism draws upon, but also challenges, realism’s three core assumptions: groupism, egoism, and power-centrism. The chapter first considers the theoretical principles that inform post-structuralist discourse analysis before discussing the research designs and methodological techniques employed by discourse analysts. It also offers examples and four learning boxes featuring mini-case studies and locates poststructuralist discourse analysis within the field of foreign policy analysis. Finally, it assesses the strengths and weaknesses of post-structuralist discourse analysis.