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Interview – Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

The tread of a shoe imprinted with the word ‘predictions’, courtesy PearlsofJannah اللؤلؤ من الجنة/Flickr

This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 28 March 2016.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University, director of NYU’s Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a Guggenheim Fellow and president of the International Studies Association. He co-wrote The Logic of Political Survival (2003), The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future (2009), The Dictator’s Handbook (2011), and co-authored the selectorate theory with Alastair Smith, Randolph M. Siverson, and James Morrow. He is an expert on international conflict, foreign policy formation, the peace process, and nation building. He received an honorary doctorate in 1999 from the University of Groningen and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

I began as a comparative politics, South Asia specialist with little formal training in international relations. Hence, when I moved into the IR arena I started from the perspective that system-level structural theories were the right way to study the subject. I stopped believing that with a set of papers I wrote in the late 1970s that highlighted the debate in the field over polarity and stability. I contended that the debates really were about how decision-makers respond to uncertainty. That led me to several conclusions that changed how I understood – or did not understand – how the international arena worked. First, since there were plausible arguments that multipolarity; that is, high uncertainty, led to cautious responses and alternatively that it led to miscalculations and misjudgments, I concluded that there was no inherent logical link between polarity and instability. Second, I concluded that variation in how states responded to uncertainty depended on who was in a leadership position and so we needed to study leaders rather than states, treating them as if they were unitary actors. I was particularly influenced by A.F.K. Organski’s Stages of Political Development (1965) in forming a view of how national decision making coalitions formed and William Riker’s Theory of Political Coalitions and his subsequent book with Peter Ordeshook. Their research exposed me to the possibility of rigorous logic as a substitute for opinion and hunches in studying politics. Grad classes with Donald Stokes also reframed how I thought about politics, especially after he exposed me to Von Neumann and Morgenstern.

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Interview – J. Ann Tickner

Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama with the 2012 IWOC Award Winners, Courtesy US Department of State/WikimediaCommons

This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 6 March 2016.

J. Ann Tickner is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American University. She is also a Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California where she taught for fifteen years before coming to American University. Her principle areas of teaching and research include international theory, peace and security, and feminist approaches to international relations. She served as President of the International Studies Association from 2006-2007. Her books include, A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014), Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-Cold War Era (Columbia University Press, 2001), Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving International Security (Columbia University Press, 1992), and Self-Reliance Versus Power Politics: American and Indian Experiences in Building Nation-States (Columbia University Press, 1987).

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in your field?

I think the most exciting research is being done at the margins by scholars who are pushing the disciplinary boundaries of what we think of as IR into areas such as historical sociology, post-colonialism, race and gender. Although the mainstream US discipline is still quite hegemonic, I believe this hegemony is somewhat on the decline and there is more space for critical perspectives.

There are good revisionist histories that tell non-conventional stories about the origins of the discipline. And there is a great deal of exciting critical work being done by scholars in other parts of the world that attempts to construct an IR that reaches beyond geographical and disciplinary boundaries. The Worlding Beyond the West series edited by Ole Waever and Arlene Tickner and by Tickner and David Blaney is a good example. Other examples are recent work on race, empire and gender. It is quite astonishing how IR has erased imperialism and the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century from its historical memory. These are issues that are fueling so many of today’s conflicts.

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The Tale of a ‘Realism’ in International Relations

Image: Flickr.

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 13 June 2014.  

It is a widely held opinion in the discipline of International Relations (IR) that there is a tradition of political thought in Western history which could be labelled ‘realism’. ‘Realism’, as it were, is associated with an outlook on the behaviour of political leaders, political communities, and the ‘structures’ of the relations among political communities (be they modern states, antique poleis, or Renaissance city states). Selfishness, recklessness, mutual mistrust, and power-seeking and survival-securing strategies are thought to produce (and be reproduced by) structures of anarchy among political communities, ‘international’ self-help systems, security dilemmas, the permanent potentiality of war and violence, and unrestricted politics of ‘national interests’. This outlook is associated with several canonical figures of political thought, who are regarded as representatives and founders of these theorems and who have been subsequently heralded as ‘heroic figures’ of IR – namely Thucydides, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Hans J. Morgenthau. » More