Reconceptualizing Grand Strategy: A New Analytic Framework

Foreign Policy Lab Lecture Series 2023 with Thierry Balzacq, Sciences Po

November 6, 2023


Fakultätssitzungssaal, University of Innsbruck, SoWi building, 3rd floor east, Universitätsstraße 15, 6020 Innsbruck (A)


Wednesday, November 8th, 2023

5:30-7:00 pm CET

Grand strategy is a thriving field. Yet the foundational assumptions of most contemporary scholarship are both theoretically and empirically limiting. As currently constituted, work on grand strategy focuses on the United States and a few other great powers. Scholars debate definitions and offer prescriptions. They alternatively treat grand strategies as architectures or subject to constant revision; they largely favor a systemic approach that focuses on structural factors as determinative, understating the significance of domestic politics; and they consistently fail to appreciate the essentially relational character of any grand strategy. Fundamentally, the field lacks a framework for the systematic study of grand strategy. We modestly attempt to begin to address this problem. The presentation has two interrelated components. First, we identify a new, contrasting set of assumptions. Second, we employ them to construct a framework that will potentially allow scholars to systematically, relationally study national grand strategies. Initiating work on such a framework, we argue, may subsequently help develop an understanding of underlying causative relations, expand the universe of cases, acknowledge the relational and interactive character of grand strategies.