13 avr« Perception and Misperception 40 years later: Reputation in IR », Robert Jervis (Columbia University), Lundi 28 Avril 2014

Perception and Misperception 40 years later: Reputation in IR

Robert Jervis (Columbia University)

In the almost 40 years since Perception and Misperception, was published, there has been an enormous amount of relevant research in psychology and political psychology. While I think little of it contradicts what I said, it does move in directions that I didn’t explore or that I implied were dead ends. The most important, I believe, concerns the role–or rather the roles–of emotion. First of all, it is clear that the previous habit of contrasting emotion to reason (and exalting the latter) is badly misleading. It is also clear that perceptions can be driven by psychological needs, and what are called « motivated biases » can be very powerful. Indeed I think it is fair to say that psychological and political needs share pride of place with expectations as the prime determinants of perceptions in the political realm (see my « Understanding Beliefs » in the journal Political Psychology).

Another important development is Prospect Theory, which argues that people are much more risk-acceptant when they are in the realm of losses than they are when they are in the realm of gains, something that may be a part of human nature, as I argued in another Political Psychology article. This means that wars are particularly likely when both sides believe they are in the realm of losses, a danger compounded by the difficulty of understanding that the adversary feels it is in this situation.

Work on the biological roots of perception and behavior in the forms of genetics and the neurobiology of the brain hold promise, but also are in the early stages of development and some skepticism is in order.

For many years, much work in IR and other fields was based on a rational choice theory of reputation. Indeed, this was the approach I used in my first book, The Logic of Images in International Relations. The books by John Mercer and Daryl Press have cast this into doubt, although Gregory Miller’s recent book reasserts the older view with better research. The topic is without doubt extremely important and deserves deeper conceptualization and research. But I think it is clear that there is much to the point made by Snyder and Diesing 40 years ago–leaders are very concerned about their own reputations but pay much less attention to those of others. Contrary to the American preoccupation (shared with other countries?), backing down in one instance does not automatically lead to a reputation for being weak or irresolute.

Discussant: Gloria Origgi (CNRS, ENS-EHESS)

Lundi 28 Avril 17.00-19.00
Lieu: Sciences Po, salle 511, 199 blvd St. Germain (rez-de-chaussée)

30 novMilja Kurki (Aberystwyth), « Causal Analysis », Tuesday November 3rd 2009

Milja Kurki (Aberystwyth University)

‘The normative and political dimensions of causal analysis’

Often the idea of causal analysis is separated from the analysis of normative issues and questions of moral and political responsibility, in IR and also in many circles in philosophy of social sciences. This tendency is generated by an unthinking acceptance and reproduction of a positivist fact-value distinction. When causal analysis is framed in non-positivist terms we can see not only that there is nothing a-normative or a-political about the analysis of causation, but also that complex issues arise concerning the exact relationship between the frameworks of causal analysis we use and our normative and political commitments. I will argue here that engaging in causal analysis is a deeply moral, normatively-loaded, and political matter, and moreover, that important issues are at stake in the kind of meta-theoretical frameworks we apply to causal analysis. Far from dismissing causal analysis as de-politicising, as has been the tendency in the interpretivist end of IR, we should recognise that it is around debates about causality, and frameworks of causal analysis, that much of the interesting moral and political debate in international relations takes place.

CERI, 5-7 pm (salle de conférences rez-de-chaussée)

15 novRichard Price (UBC), « Moral Limit and Possibility in IR », Friday May 15th 2009

Richard Price (University of British Columbia)

Moral Limit and Possibility in IR

At what point, if any, is one to reasonably concede that the ‘realities’ of world politics require compromise from cherished principles or moral ends, and how do we really know we have reached an ethical limit when we seen one? Since social constructivist analyses of the development of moral norms tell us how we get moral change in world politics, that agenda should provide insightful leverage on the ethical question of ‘what to do.’ This talk identifies contributions of the social constructivist research agenda in International Relations for theorizing moral limit and possibility in global political dilemmas, engaging in particular international political theory and critical IR theory, and questions of the relationship of normative and empirical scholarship in IR.

CERI 10 am -12 pm