chapter  8
Feminist Approaches to the Study of Political Leadership
ByLaura Sjoberg
Pages 26

In the field of international relations (IR), my primary field of research, theories often describe the world in terms of ‘levels of analysis’, which indicate the unit (individual, state, international system) the scholar feels is primary in understanding global politics (Singer 1961). The level of analysis most commonly studied is what Kenneth Waltz called the ‘third image’, the international system (Waltz 1959). At this level, IR scholars study how the defining characteristics of the international system predict and explain the behavior of the states within that system. The ‘second image’, according to Waltz, is that of the state – another ‘level’ at which many IR theorists study global politics (Waltz 1959). These theories identify statelevel variables, such as form of government, level of economic openness and respect for human rights, as key explanatory variables. The level of analysis most rarely studied in IR is what Waltz terms the ‘first image’, the role of the individual in global politics (Waltz 1959). Even the studies of individual leadership which are performed in international relations generally explain leadership as a result of systemic, or situational, factors. Individuals, as individuals, are rarely the subject of work in IR. As Edinger explains, ‘explanations at both the international and national levels of analysis tend to downgrade the significance of leadership in general and individual leadership in particular’ (Edinger 1990, 511). As such, ‘at most it is examined as a proximate, rather than as a basic, cause of political events, a last but not necessarily essential link in a causal chain’ (1990, 511).