Interview – James Fearon

Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War
Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War. Photo: Voice of America News: Scott Bob/Wikimedia Commons.

James D. Fearon is Geballe Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow in Stanford’s Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a program member of the Institutions, Organizations, and Growth group of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  Fearon’s research has focused on the causes and correlates of interstate war, civil war, and ethnic conflict.  He has also published on positive theories of democracy, the problem of intervention in “failed” states, and on how states signal intentions in militarized interstate disputes.

In this interview, Professor Fearon discusses responses to the civil war in Syria and offers his thoughts on the passing of Ken Waltz and the academic study of civil wars.

Kenneth Waltz sadly passed away recently. What impact did Prof. Waltz’s writings and teaching have on your intellectual development?

I hadn’t majored in Political Science as an undergraduate, and was pretty clueless about the field when I started as a grad student at Berkeley.  There were a couple of things I read in my first year that essentially decided my path of study, and Waltz’s Theory of International Politics was one of them.  I found his writing and style of thinking really compelling.