The Impact of Epistemic Communities on U.S.-Soviet Cooperative Space Policy: An analysis of transnational agency and structural transformation from 1972-1992

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Title: The Impact of Epistemic Communities on U.S.-Soviet Cooperative Space Policy: An analysis of transnational agency and structural transformation from 1972-1992
Author: Hendrickson, Steven
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to analyze and reveal the impact of epistemic communities on the formation of international space policy in the United States and Soviet Union following the end of the Apollo era in 1969. It argues that despite the dominant narrative of Cold War space history asserting that the space race and the developments that followed were based upon competitive/realist thinking, there were numerous actors in both countries operating transnationally to transform space policy to embrace cooperation. Furthermore, this cooperation had always been a part of space history, however, various turning points in the structure of the Cold War allowed cooperation to flourish in the 1970s and 1990s, but also attempted to prevent it in the 1980s. The thesis then analyzes the effects of the Soviet collapse on this process of shaping international manned spaceflight policy and its effects on the creation of the International Space Station and use of spaceflight as a means of accomplishing foreign policy goals of the United States in the post-Cold War era. This thesis primarily employs Anthony Giddens’s theory of structuration to describe the process by which agents transformed international space policy from 1972-1992. This theory argues that agents, be they individuals or groups, can enact change to a system or structure by their ability to “act otherwise” meaning “being able to intervene in the world, or to refrain from such intervention, with the effect of influencing a specific process or state of affairs.” This thesis identifies these actors as epistemic communities as described by Peter M. Haas, who defines them as are those which focus on collaboration between groups of scientists or technicians based on a scientific context and can result in the acquiescence of national decision-makers to epistemic communities in the cooperative policy process. Therefore, the primary body of research materials comes from personal correspondence, formal agreements and memoirs generated by the engineers, administrators and other agents involved in the space policy advisement process. The thesis concludes that the historical development of manned spaceflight during the Cold War was not exclusively characterized by competition, but rather cooperation had been an essential component from the beginning. However, while competition and gaining supremacy in space was the dominant approach taken by the United States and Soviet Union, scientists, engineers and actors constituting an epistemic community took it largely upon themselves to allow cooperative projects in manned spaceflight to take place. This process often ran counter to the expressed foreign policy goals of national leaders, but ultimately succeeded thanks to continuous persuasion from the bottom up. This incremental shift towards cooperation finally overcame competition once the Soviet Union collapsed and the physical manifestations of cooperation throughout, in the form of the Mir and Freedom space stations, became the basis on which post-Cold War manned spaceflight was built.
Subject: Epistemic Communities
United States
Soviet Union
Discipline: Poliittinen historia
Political History
Politisk historia

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