Foreign policy

Foreign policy is the branch of politics that deals with a state’s relations with other states and diplomatic activity. For many years, domestic and foreign policy were treated as two different and autonomous fields of action, and only in the 20th century it was understood that these two are deeply connected with each other, as the foreign interest of a nation is often derived from its domestic needs, and therefore each state decides its foreign policy based on the national interest. In fact, the international turmoil that characterized the 20th century gave a gigantic boost to the study of international relations, as the world began to be treated as a dense network of states in constant interaction with each other, rather than as a mere composition of states.

In a democracy, the state conducts its foreign policy through specific bodies responsible for formulating and implementing foreign policy strategies. Such a body is often a ministry of foreign affairs (or equivalent), which decides on the international course of action based on discussion with other members of the government cabinet, and later communicates the guidelines to the diplomatic apparatus.

It is important to note that states and governments are not the only actors with a voice in the world system: with globalization, many international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and multinational corporations have also entered the field of foreign policy. All these transnational bodies are important because they also bring to the diplomatic table non-national interests, which can vary from the will for great economic freedoms to social pressure, for example to introduce greater rights in states where they do not exist or are lacking (in fact, such actors are called lobbies or pressure groups).

Today, the international scenario is polarized, which means that the world is divided into different zones of influence, with a strong American hegemony that deeply shapes both the political and economic relations between its allies and enemies, with consequences on the foreign policy of the vast majority of the world’s states. In recent years, however, the general tendency has been towards cooperation, which implies maintaining strong relations with a large number of countries in order to achieve greater international relevance, but above all for economic, social and political interests.

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