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Information transmission in open and closed political systems : Great Britain and Germany in 1914 Goodall, Robert


This paper is an attempt to research a hypothesis concerning the policy formation processes of an open and of a closed political system. The paper opens with a discussion of the theoretical roots of the project. Particular attention has been paid to J.N. Rosenau's pre-theory of comparative foreign policy, and works by authors such as R.B. Farrell, Raymond Aron, and Alexis de Tocqueville on the differences between open and closed political systems. The hypothesis we tested was derived from the writings of R.B. Farrell. It reads: In a closed polity bureaucrats are less likely to provide information contradicting the leadership's known positions than in an open polity. In the second chapter the method of study, the case study, is introduced and discussed. Great Britain and Germany just prior to the First World War were chosen as examples of an open and a closed system. Their suitability as cases for this research project is critically analysed. Data on size, wealth, and political accountability are presented. In the third chapter four leaders are identified and their policy preferences outlined. The four are Edward Grey in Great Britain, Emperor William II, Chancellor von Bethmann- Hollweg, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs von Jagow in Germany. The fourth chapter discusses the kinds of messages which were being sent to these various leaders. We expected that in the case of Germany the content of these messages would be less contradictory of the positions of the above-mentioned German leaders than in the case of Britain and Sir Edward Grey. The conclusion of the study is that in the particular eases of pre-War Britain and Germany the hypothesis is not supported. In the final chapter explanations of why this might be so are suggested, two new hypotheses are formulated, and the findings are related briefly to the theory from which the paper originated.

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