Utopia versus realism in Romania's foreign policy. From World War I to 1975 (UtopiavsReal)
„Grigore Gafencu” Research Center for the History of International Relations and Cultural Studies will assemble on 25-26 April 2014 a seminar dealing with Romania’s foreign policy from World War I to 1975 as seen from the perspective of the dichotomy Realism versus Idealism.
The conference is the outcome of a Romanian national research grant investigating the issue of Romanian foreign policy in the context of its realist and Utopian traits. The research project started from the premises that the previous literature emphasized from an objectivist perceptive the role of the external environment in shaping the Romanian foreign policy. This project argues that not only the external factors determined in Romania’s foreign policy idealist or realist approach, but rather the way in which decision makers perceived and internalized the external environment. While it is a truism that people act on the basis of their perceptions or views of reality, the subject has received no systemic analysis with respect to the foreign policy of Romania.
Until the decision-making approach has been introduced into the IR discipline in the mid-1950s, researchers refrained from approaching foreign policy in terms of perceptions. In 1959, Kenneth E. Boulding argued that decision-makers do not respond, when decide on a matter, to the ‘objective’ facts of the situation, but to their image of the situation. ‘It is what we think the world is like, not what it is really like, what determines our behaviour’, Boulding contended (Kenneth E. Boulding, ‘National images and international systems’, in Journal of Conflict Resolutions, 3-2/1959, 120). In 1961, Harold and Margaret Sprout made a valuable contribution to the perceptual study of foreign policy distinguishing between the psychological environment and the operational environment (Harold Sprout, Margaret Sprout, ‘Environmental factors in the study in the study of international politics’, in J.N.Rosenau (ed.), International politics and foreign policy: a reader in research and theory, New York: The Free Press, 1961). During the 1970s and the 1980s, Ole Holsti, Robert Jervis, Stephen Walker, Deborah Welsh Larson or Erik Beukel made notable contributions to these studies. During the last two decades, momentous developments in perceptual approaches of the international relations and foreign policy occurred with the works of William C. Wohlforth, Thomas J. Christensen or K.P. O’Reilly.
Usually, the scientific literature treats the actors’ perceptions as one variable amongst other variables and argues that the key question is how perceptions could be linked to the political decision. The research method usually used to assess the linkage between actors’ perceptions of the world on one hand and the adoption of a certain foreign policy decision on the other is process tracing. However, according to Henrik Larsen’s thesis, the actors’ beliefs should be treated not as one variable among others, but rather as ‘necessary meaningful references for the actors, the means by which they make sense of the world’.
This research identifies the realist and idealist approaches in Romania’s foreign policy, from two directions, doctrine and practice, but in the same time it addresses the question of the reasons that determined their alternation. Thus, the past changes in Romania’s foreign policy have a broad relevance for both practical political implication and for purposes of academic illumination, but, in spite of this relevance, the subject has received relatively little systemic analysis by now. Answering the question as to why, how and when the Romanian decision makers replaced idealist approaches with realist approaches and vice versa in Romania’s foreign policy, or why the change occurred could offer guidelines for Romania’s current foreign policy. Within the process of structuring or restructuring Romania’s foreign policy and foreign relations, it seems reasonable to return for guidelines to previous cases of transformations or evolution.
Seminar Aims and Themes
The conference starts from the premises that during this period, Romania’s foreign policy has passed through pronounced stages of „idealism” and pronounced stages of „realism” and seeks expertise from IR historians, theorists and analysts in order to tackle these phases, the confluences between Idealist and Realist traits, the points of departure from realism to idealism and from idealism to realism. You may consider subthemes such as practitioners’ realist/ idealist foreign policy approaches in relation to a specific case study, scholars’ realist/idealist foreign policy approaches; you may use realism or idealism as analytical tools to explain the country’s foreign policy etc. Regardless what your case study might be, please set it into the framework of realism vs idealism.
UtopiavsReal welcomes papers, panels and roundtable proposals. Contributions are encouraged from disciplines but not limited to: history, foreign policy history, IR theory.
Paper, panel or roundtable proposals shall be send to the organizers of the conference at office (at) centrulgafencu.ro and must include an abstract of no more than 300 words and a curriculum vitae.
All participants whose papers are accepted for presentation will be offered free conference attendance.
Each presentation at the conference will be allotted 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. The symposium language is English.
Selected papers presented at the conference will be published in a thematic volume to be published with Cambridge Scholars Publishing and in Valahian Journal of Historical Studies.
Seminar Schedule and Deadlines (updated):
- Final paper submissions: June 1, 2014
- Seminar assemble: May 22, 2015
All submissions shall contain an abstract of no more than 2,000 characters and an updated CV and shall be submitted at: https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/UTOPR2013
Chair of the Organizing Committee:
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Silviu Miloiu, Director of „Grigore Gafencu” Research Center for the History of International Relations and Cultural Studies;
Members of the Organizing Committee:
Elena Dragomir, University of Helsinki
Dr. Cezar Stanciu, Valahia University of Targoviste
Secretary of the Organizing Committee:
Dr. Magdalena Ionescu, Valahia University of Targoviste
For further assistance, please contact the organizers of the conference at:
Postal address: Dr. Silviu Miloiu, Valahia University, Lt. Stancu Ion St., No. 34, 130105 Targoviste, Romania
Tel. (004) 0724403094, E-mail: office (at) centrulgafencu.ro
Seminar webpage: http://www.centrulgafencu.ro/utopiavsreal.htm