The Epistemological Function of Foreign Policy Analysis in the Empirical Research Program

  • Gunnar FermannEmail author


The distinction Imre Lakatos make between “hard core” and “auxiliary hypotheses” is used as a heuristic device to explain the epistemological function of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) in the empirical research program. The approach of FPA constitutes the “hard core” of the research program in that it gives direction to the choice of bodies of middle-range theory and methods for empirical research. However, FPA lacks the precise ontological assumptions about system structure, agency, and relationship between actors necessary for the deduction of hypotheses on the explanation of caveats. For this purpose, FPA requires the support of relevant middle-range theories, so-called “auxiliary hypotheses,” at several levels of analyses. This line of reasoning is an answer to James N. Rosenau’s objection that FPA is merely a “pre-theory.” Even if FPA only qualifies as a “pre-theory,” such an approach still constitutes a cohesive analytical kick-off plank for the further theorizing on the politics of caveats.


Analytical framework Scientific research program Imre lakatos “hard core” of ontological assumptions “protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses” Middle-range theory Foreign policy analysis “pre-theory” 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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