Skip to main content
Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Louis-Philippe Morneau, Political Science

Theory of Strategic Autonomy: U.S. Foreign Policy between 1823 and 1921

Date & time
Thursday, March 14, 2024
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Nadeem Butt


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room 1220

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Resistance to the established world order and the dominant codes of conduct by a plurality of international actors is a repeated but misunderstood occurrence in the international system. Challengers to the status quo, ostracized states in the international system, neutrals looking for peaceful pathways to prosperity, and pivotal states unwilling to commit to a side have all searched for alternative strategies to gain power or maintain stability while maintaining autonomy of action. The theory of strategic autonomy proposes an approach to understanding such behaviour. Alliances in the international system are not always a possibility or desirable. Rather than perceiving those states as problems, I propose that they perceive and respond differently to the stimuli of the international system. This thesis looks at how and why the United States spent over a hundred years avoiding the commitment to formal alliances in the international system. The particular path of the U.S. foreign policy between 1823 and 1921 offers a complex and interesting test to the theory of strategic autonomy. While the United States disposed of an advantageous geostrategic position, European powers displayed interest in intermingling in its affairs and sphere of influence. To keep the European powers at arm’s length, the American administrations used a variety of strategies to deter the involvement of the European powers in its sphere of influence and most of all to avoid the necessity of an alliance to do so. Strategic autonomy bears increasing importance in the international system with the diminution of the relative power of the United States and the emergence of new hubs of powers including China and India. To understand how the United States achieved the status of great power without a formal commitment to the alliance system between the European powers before the Second World War is crucial to understand how China, India, or any other emerging power might be able to repeat a feat comparable to the rise of the United States power.

Back to top

© Concordia University