Jervis, Robert. 1976. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
1. Jervis begins with a distinction “between the ‘psychological milieu (the world as the actor sees it) and the ‘operational milieu’ (the world in which policy will be carried out—
real world)” (1976, p. 13). He argues “that policies and decisions must be mediated by
diplomatic goals, calculations, and perceptions” (Jervis, 1976, p. 13). Jervis suggests it
is useful to operate across multiple levels of analysis—a conceptual taxonomy
developed to help analysts interpret international events.
2. Working in a bottom-up manner, Jervis lists four levels: “One is the level of decision- making, the second is the level of the bureaucracy, the third is that of the nature of
the state and the workings of domestic politics, and the fourth focuses on the
international environment” (1976, p. 13).
3. The way we see the levels of analysis impacts not just our capacity to predict but also to retrospectively evaluate events. For example, the bureaucratic model suggests that
“policy preferences are determined by their positions in the government: ‘Where
you stand is determined by where you sit'” (Jervis, 1976, p. 24). The bureaucratic level
of analysis forwards the idea “that the state’s policies are formed by bureaucratic
bargains and routines” (Jervis, 1976, p. 25). Thus, “different parts of the government
carry out, or fail to carry out, policies in ways that are consistent with their preferences
and routines rather than with the decisions of the national leaders” (Jervis, 1976, p. 27).
4. Robert Jervis forwards the notion that is sometimes difficult to tell what level determines causation. Jervis tells us that “even if a state behavior cannot be explained
by the state’s internal politics and external environment,” it is imperative at the very
least to study “the perceptions and calculations of the top decision-makers” (Jervis, 1976,