The Garrison State Project

Grant title: Elite political consensus regarding national security issues: a cross-national, over-time study using a new methodology


Timeline: 2015-2019

Funding organization: Swiss National Science Foundation, grant #159373

Grant summary: It is hypothesized that there is a long-term tendency toward consensus for political elites in various countries on national security issues. Specifically, it is hypothesized that elites will increasingly tend to agree amongst themselves on foreign policy issues regarding national security, whereas there will be no such trend on other foreign policy issues. It is further hypothesized that this tendency toward consensus will be augmented or attenuated for particular countries depending on whether the country in question had an overseas empire and/or is part of a formal military alliance. This research project involves developing a methodology (based on overlapping reasoning claims in political debates) for determining consensus, then applying that methodology to pairs of foreign policy debates (one on national security, one not), at three points in time from the early cold war to the present, for seven countries: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, New Zealand, Japan, and Switzerland.

This proposal is at the intersection of foreign policy analysis and comparative politics, on the one hand, and political psychology, on the other. The core hypothesis on elite consensus was developed from work related to Lasswell's "garrison state" construct; further hypotheses were suggested by scholarship on the "national security state" and on surveillance. The methodology of coding speeches in debates for reasons and looking for covariation in the reasoning in those speeches was developed from work on argumentation and influenced by work in political psychology on ideology, on "framing," and on "motivated reasoning," although each of those latter strands presupposes a stronger notion of covariation than in the project. 

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