Australia’s Strategic Culture: An investigation of the concept of strategic culture and its application to the Australian case

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Bloomfield, Alan Brian
International Relations Theory , History of Australian Strategic Policy , Strategic Culture
The notion that each state in the international system approaches matters of war and peace somewhat differently because they each possess a unique strategic culture is not a new or obscure one – but it nevertheless remains controversial. While some scholars dismiss the utility or practicality of examining states’ cultures when seeking to explain or predict those states’ patterns of strategic decision-making, even amongst those who accept that we should pay attention to cultural differences between states when carrying out strategic analysis there remains a frustratingly eclectic range of offerings from scholars regarding how best to do so. In short, significant uncertainty remains regarding both whether strategic culture should be used as an analytical tool and, if it is so utilized, how one should go about doing so. This thesis therefore explores the concept of strategic culture in great detail, both theoretical and empirical. The opening three chapters examine why the more traditional rationalist/materialistic theories should not exclusively dominate strategic analysis, then the various existing strategic cultural offerings are considered and critiqued and, finally, a new conceptual model for strategic cultural analysis is proposed which draws from the hitherto largely neglected psychological and sociological literature. Both of these fields, it is submitted in Chapter 3, have spent more time and effort developing ways of understanding and analyzing culture than the field of IR has to date, and therefore the models and methods debated and developed in these fields should, it is argued, be ‘imported’ into IR to drive further strategic cultural research. The thesis then moves in the following six chapters to consider Australia’s strategic culture. The purpose of this part of the thesis is two-fold: first, it illustrates how the model offered in Chapter 3 works and, by implication, suggests how scholars may go about applying it to other cases. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the latter six chapters explore the twists and turns of Australia’s substantive strategic decision-making over the course of the last century or more, thereby explaining how Australia’s strategic history can be understood from a cultural perspective.
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