Roundtable 1-2 on “Politics and Scholarship”119 min read

 Almost without exception, students of security policy are not only analysts and proponents of abstract theories, they are also deeply concerned with issues of contemporary international politics and have strong policy preferences. There are likely to be connections here, and it is by no means obvious that the latter are subservient to the former. With all due respect to Kenneth Waltz, very few of us became drawn to international politics by reading his books. I doubt if I was atypical in becoming interested because of the events that were occurring when I was growing up and in being fairly quick to develop my own opinions, as ill-grounded as they were. By the time I was exposed to serious academic work, let alone starting to publish, my views about American foreign policy and a general political outlook were well established.

H-Diplo | ISSF Roundtable, Volume I, No. 2 (2010)
Diane Labrosse and Thomas Maddux, H-Diplo/ISSF Editors
George Fujii, H-Diplo/ISSF Web and Production Editor
Commissioned for H-Diplo/ISSF by Robert Jervis, Columbia University
H-Diplo | ISSF Roundtable on “Politics and Scholarship”
Published by H-Diplo/ISSF on 1 June 2010
Roundtable Editor: Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Commissioned for H-Diplo/ISSF by Robert Jervis, Columbia University
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Introduction by Robert Jervis, Columbia University

Almost without exception, students of security policy are not only analysts and proponents of abstract theories, they are also deeply concerned with issues of contemporary international politics and have strong policy preferences. There are likely to be connections here, and it is by no means obvious that the latter are subservient to the former. With all due respect to Kenneth Waltz, very few of us became drawn to international politics by reading his books. I doubt if I was atypical in becoming interested because of the events that were occurring when I was growing up and in being fairly quick to develop my own opinions, as ill-grounded as they were. By the time I was exposed to serious academic work, let alone starting to publish, my views about American foreign policy and a general political outlook were well established.

An obvious question then is how our political preferences, beliefs, and ideologies affect our scholarship. Anyone who finds this possibility a shocking slur on our academic integrity should note the research that shows that while referees of journal articles claim to reach judgments based on the logic, evidence, and methodology, often more important is whether the submission confirms or contradicts the person’s substantive views.[1]  Also interesting is the coincidence between researchers’ empirical findings on vouchers and charter schools and their general political attitudes.[2] These questions are not only personal but made more pressing by what I think is the fact that most members of the security studies community are liberal Democrats. Although the community is in many ways heterogeneous and foreign policy issues do not divide neatly along Democratic/Republican lines, my guess is that the overwhelmingly majority would call themselves Democrats and voted for Obama. Furthermore, although the community can be roughly divided into Constructivists, Liberals, and Realists, most share a skepticism that force is appropriate except as a last resort, believe that many things should be tried first, opposed the Iraq war, and as far as I can tell a majority oppose Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan. If our political beliefs do influence our scholarship, individual biases might not be effectively contradicted or even noticed by us because they are widely shared.

Although excessive navel-gazing can be debilitating, some self-reflection may be in order. I organized this roundtable not because I was positive that there was an important effect here, but because I thought the question deserved more attention than it had gotten.  Although of course there is a rich tradition of sociology of knowledge and many scholars have argued that a state’s foreign policy is in part a product of general beliefs rooted in its historical experience and social structure,[3] and some attention has been paid to how the current political issues affect scholarly research, even about the past,[4] less thought has been given to the possible links between our foreign policy preferences and our general IR theories. This is not to say that any of us are mere shills for our favored political candidates or policies. But politics is important to most of us, and the notion that it stops at scholarship’s edge seems to me unlikely. The processes involved do not have to be and indeed are not likely to be conscious. We are not fooling others; rather we are fooling ourselves when we deny these influences. Recent psychology shows that most of our cognitive processing is simply inaccessible to us—i.e., that we often fail to understand how and why we have arrived at our beliefs.[5]

Morton Kaplan’s System and Process in International Politics[6] was one of the most abstract works of its era, providing theoretical foundations for what would later be developed as the distinction between strong and weak states, applying the new approach of game theory, and, most importantly, developing a rigorous systems theory. All this seems quite disconnected from the Cold War. But is it an accident that Kaplan’s theoretical analysis indicated the great vulnerabilities of a weak camp in a bipolar system when confronted by a united one, a view that tracked with Kaplan’s hard-line foreign policy views? Similarly, Waltz’s Theory of International Politics[7] seems entirely divorced from the international politics of its times, and indeed is deservedly still a staple of IR scholarship and education.  But it is interesting that one important implication of his analysis of bipolarity is that the superpowers do not need to fight in the peripheries and that the characteristic error in such systems is overreacting to threats, an argument that tracks nicely with his earlier opposition to the war in Vietnam.[8] My own analysis of The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution was quite theoretical and abstract, but pointed to the conclusion that the U.S. did not need to worry about supposed Soviet nuclear superiority,[9] something that nicely fit with my previous skepticism about the calls for matching the Soviet posture. Of course in these and other cases, policy preferences may have been derived from the scholarship. An understanding of bipolarity can lead to policy prescriptions, and in my own case it was a dissatisfaction with the late 1970s arguments for building new missile systems that led me to think more about the underlying arguments. But I doubt if the causal arrow runs in this direction only, and the political views we develop over years or that come out of immediate issues often pre-date our scholarly analyses. Even when scholarship comes first and affects policy preferences, there can be a reverse flow as well. Thus because most Realists doubt that having a benign domestic regime is either necessary or sufficient for the state to follow a benign foreign policy, they have tended to oppose many recent American military ventures, most obviously the war in Iraq. The rejection of second-image theories clearly predated this opposition, but the latter may also reinforce the former.

It is also possible that scholars whose views are outside the academic mainstream on one issue become skeptical of the consensus in other areas as well. Being an outlier in one’s community could lead to a general propensity to question if not resist majority views. After all, a person who believes that the majority opinion is incorrect in an area she follows closely has good grounds for wondering if the majority has been led astray elsewhere.

The contributions to this roundtable of course cannot settle the arguments, but I think they do contribute to them. Eliot Cohen sees partisan attachments as less potent than general orientations about the degree to which the world is dangerous and thinks that self-conscious efforts can help us separate our politics from our scholarship and teaching. Bruce Cumings points to the inherent limits on objectivity that make a large role for our political views inevitable.  Not only can we not follow the stereotyped view of how research proceeds in the natural sciences, but even in that realm the stereotyped view is inaccurate. Peter Feaver notes that being a Republican and having served in the Bush administration he is more sensitive than many of his colleagues to the attributions of bias to conservatives and the assumption that majority views are normative, in several senses of that term. Charles Glaser notes that political preferences as well as theoretical perspectives help account for the tenacity with which views are held and that the way we make trade-offs may be particularly influenced by politics. Douglas Macdonald points out how especially in their treatments of the Cold War most scholars have downplayed ideology.  This has led them to both underestimate the role of actor’s ideologies and, perhaps even more, to have been insensitive to the influence exercised by our own ideologies as we try to explain the actor’s behavior. Tony Smith focuses on the impact of the liberal values and world view that is so prevalent in the American academic community on scholarship concerning both the advantages of facilitating democracy abroad and the likely success of such efforts.


Eliot Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University and founding director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies there.   A graduate of Harvard College, he received his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard in 1982.   After teaching at Harvard and at the Naval War College (Department of Strategy) he served on the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, coming to SAIS in 1990.   His most recent book is Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (Free Press, 2002): other books include (with John Gooch) Military MisfortunesThe Anatomy of Failure in War.  In 1991-93 he directed the US Air Force’s official multi-volume study of the 1991 Gulf War, the Gulf War Air Power Survey. He has served as an officer in the United States Army Reserve, and as a member of the Defense Policy Advisory Board of the Office of the Secretary of Defense as well as other government advisory bodies.  From 2007 to 2009 he was Counselor of the Department of State, serving as Secretary Condoleeza Rice’s senior adviser on strategic issues.

Bruce Cumings’ research and teaching focus on modern Korean history, 20th century international history, U.S.-East Asian relations, East Asian political economy,and American foreign relations. His first book, The Origins of the Korean War, won the John King Fairbank Book Award of the American Historical Association, and the second volume of this study won the Quincy Wright Book Award of the International Studies Association. He is the editor of the modern volume of the Cambridge History of Korea (forthcoming), and is a frequent contributor to The London Review of Books, The Nation, Current History, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Le Monde Diplomatique. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999, and is the recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation, NEH, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford, and the Abe Fellowship Program of the Social Science Research Council. He was also the principal historical consultant for the Thames Television/PBS 6-hour documentary, Korea: The Unknown War. In 2003 he won the University’s award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching, and in 2007 he won the Kim Dae Jung Prize for Scholarly Contributions to Democracy, Human Rights and Peace. His most recent book is Dominion From Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power (Yale University Press, 2009). He is working on a synoptic single-volume study of the origins of the Korean War, and a book on the Northeast Asian political economy.

Peter D. Feaver, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1990, is a professor of political science and public policy and Bass Fellow at Duke University, and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. Feaver was special advisor for strategic planning and institutional reform on the National Security Council staff at the White House from 2005-2007. From 1993-1994, Feaver served as director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council, where his responsibilities included the national security strategy review, counterproliferation policy, regional nuclear arms control, and other defense policy issues. He is coeditor of Shadow Government, a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition. He is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group and comoderates with Bill Arkin of Planet War, a discussion board on In addition to numerous scholarly articles and policy pieces on American foreign policy, nuclear proliferation, information warfare, and U.S. national security, Feaver is also author of Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations (Harvard Press, 2003), and most recently, with Christopher Gelpi and Jason Reifler, a coauthor of Paying the Human Costs of War (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Charles L. Glaser is professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs and the Department of Political Science, and is the Director of the Elliott School’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies.   His research focuses on international relations theory and international security policy. Glaser’s recent book, Rational Theory of International Politics: The Logic of Competition and Cooperation (Princeton University Press, 2010), explores how both states’ motives and the structure of the international system can contribute to competition and cooperation.  His work on American Cold War nuclear weapons policy culminated in his book, Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy (Princeton 1990).  Glaser holds a Ph.D. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He received a BS in Physics from MIT, and an MA in Physics and an MPP from Harvard. Before joining the George Washington University, Glaser was the Emmett Dedmon Professor of Public Policy and Deputy Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He has also taught political science at the University of Michigan; was a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford; served on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon; was a peace fellow at the United States Institute of Peace; and was a research associate at the Center of International Studies at MIT.

Robert Jervis is Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics at Columbia University. He has written a number of books including American Foreign in a New Era (Routledge, 2005) and Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Fall of the Shah and Iraqi WMD (2010), the subject of a forthcoming H-Diplo roundtable.  He was President of the American Political Science Association in 2000-01 and in 2006 received the national Academy of Sciences’ tri-annual award for contributions of behavior science toward avoiding nuclear war.  He is coeditor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs.

Douglas J. Macdonald has taught at Colgate University since 1987, where in the past he has served as the Director of the International Relations Program.  He received his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University.  Macdonald’s doctoral dissertation won the Helen Dwight Reed Award from the American Political Science Association for best dissertation in international relations for 1985-1986.  It was subsequently published by Harvard University Press in 1992 as Adventures in Chaos: American Intervention for Reform in the Third World.  He has also published articles in academic journals such as Security Studies and International Security.  From August, 2005 to August, 2007, he served as Visiting Research Professor in National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.  While there, he published a monograph on Islamist ideology entitled, “The New Totalitarians: Social Identities and Radical Islamist Political Grand Strategy.”  In 2007, he received the U.S. Army’s Outstanding Civilian Employee Award.  Macdonald is currently working on a long term project on ideology and power analysis, consulting for the U.S. Navy, and editing a book on piracy in Southeast Asia.

Tony Smith earned a B.A. at the University of Texas, an M.A. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, 1965, received his doctorate in political science from Harvard University in 1971 and he has been a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard since 1979. He is the Cornelia M. Jackson Professor of Political Science at Tufts University where these days he gives courses on U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of six books, including The French Stake in Algeria (1978), The Pattern of Imperialism (1981), Thinking Like a Communist (1987), America’s Mission: The U.S. and the Global Struggle for Democracy in the 20th Century (1994), Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy (2000), A Pact With The Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (2007), and (with co-authors G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter), The Crisis in American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century (2009). Smith has also published a dozen articles on the history of Wilsonianism, understood as a perspective making the promotion of democratic government abroad a central focus of American foreign policy. Princeton will be publishing a second edition of America’s Mission late in 2011. He is currently working on the political thought of Woodrow Wilson to evaluate the contention that he intuited democratic peace theory, that is that democracy promotion was the center of gravity to his thinking with respect to what it meant to make the world safe for democracy.

Essay by Eliot A. Cohen, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Politics and the Professor

In a political philosophy seminar that I took as a graduate student, Judith (“Dita”) Shklar told us, “you become a political scientist because you’re either fascinated by power or afraid of it.   I’m afraid of it.”  As one of the central Europeans whose life was touched by the Second World War that made sense.  The implied observation – reproof, perhaps? – was that most of her students were fascinated by power, and the implied warning was – “be careful.”

Being a conservative in a largely liberal (in the twenty first century American, not the nineteenth century European) milieu, and spending more time than most in the proximity of power, has made me appreciate Dita’s wisdom.  Being in a minority has the same effect of sharpening observation that being in a position of dependency has.  Just as students have a keener awareness of the hypocrisies of their teachers, and children the foibles of their parents, so too being a conservative in academe makes one more sensitive to scholarly discourse that is thinly disguised politics.

To dwell on such matters, though, is to run the risk of self-pity.  In my case, moreover, I cannot really complain: having taught at two fine universities and at an outstanding military educational institution, how could I?  Nor does whingeing do much good.  Rather, I would like to ask three questions: how have my political proclivities affected my own scholarly interests, how can one mitigate the effects of political bias in one’s scholarship, and what should one do to prevent one’s views from corrupting one’s teaching.

I do not think that I have been a particularly partisan individual: I was a Republican for a while, leaving the party in reaction to what I considered financial irresponsibility as well as the mishandling of some large foreign policy problems.  Having been for years now an independent, I intend to stay that way, although it effectively deprives me of a meaningful vote in Maryland, where the Democratic primaries are what count.  But having served in a Republican administration albeit in a non-political position as Counselor of the Department of State, I know that I am identified with the Republicans.  It would be disingenuous to deny that, by and large, I find more to agree with there than with the Democrats.   In any event, having voted for candidates for both parties, and knowing full well that both parties have their share of crooks and pillars of integrity, hacks and statesmen, demagogues and true patriots, I am wary of all parties or rather, of most partisans.

My interest in politics has always focused most on national security and foreign policy.  I suspect that a certain sympathy for military people and the military way has colored my interest in this field, although my last book, Supreme Command was read, incorrectly, as a call to politicians to slap generals around.  But there can be little doubt that deep-seated, largely à priori, though not unexamined, set of beliefs about the nature of the world and the United States have driven my scholarship.  Those are that the world is a dangerous place; that a simplistic realpolitik will neither succeed nor suit the nature of the American polity; that some times war is a better option than all the rest; that on the whole the United States, to include in its universalistic and most idealistic moments, is, on the whole, a powerful force for good in the world.  I do not think that those are partisan beliefs, since both Republicans and Democrats (traditionally those at the center of both parties) have held them.

Have those beliefs shaped my scholarship?  Only in the sense of propelling me to ask questions like, “how have the ablest democratic statesmen dealt with their generals?” or “why do competent military organizations sometimes fail?”  A deep belief in the power of individual leaders to make important decisions has, again, shaped my inquiry – but I find it hard to imagine that that is political in the sense of partisan.

So to the first question, I would say that partisan politics have not particularly colored my scholarly work, but my deeper political views have. Scholars, however, particularly those like myself, in the policy arena, do not live in a realm of pure research.  We participate, and should, in the debate in the public square, and we teach.  In the former, we do, invariably, take sides, and we deceive ourselves if we think that we do not invoke our scholarly authority to lend force to our arguments.

This is a slippery slope, and as academics we should worry about it.  Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to remind ourselves that our policy judgment is likely to be considerably more fallible than our scholarly expertise. Most intelligent people know this, which is why mass letters to the editor by professors protesting or advocating some policy carry so little weight.  By and large, the policy world does not think of professors as being any wiser than any other class, and they are correct to do so.  The ancient distinction between theoretical and prudential wisdom holds as strongly as ever. Humility is not, alas, a common academic virtue, and someone involved in the hurly burly of political discourse should try to make a clear distinction, at least in his or her own mind, about what he knows as a professor, and what he thinks as a citizen or policymaker.  The most troubling area of pseudo-scholarship is likely to be that kind which nominally deals with policy in a scholarly way, but is, in fact, nothing more than a polemic masquerading as something else.

As someone who has been more involved than most in policy debates and policymaking over the last few years, my remedy has been to distinguish sharply the kinds of writing I do – the short pieces for newspapers or popular magazines or websites, and the books that I write.  And after leaving government in 2009 I deliberately turned to a kind of work as remote as could be from the policy debates of the 21st century – a study of warfare, chiefly in the eighteenth century, along the Lake Champlain corridor, with a view to learning something about the deeper roots of the American way of war.  There will be connections with today’s world, to be sure, but they will be indirect.

Finally, what does one do as a teacher?  One can, and should, make an effort to keep one’s politics out of the classroom.  The better known I have become as a public figure, however, the more I realize that my students have me pegged – or think they do.  (Often they get it wrong in quite amusing ways.) I have tried to avoid partisan politics, but at a school like SAIS, it is hard to dodge, say, a discussion of the origins of the Iraq war, assessment of its conduct and likely outcomes, and the like.  There I have tried as best I can to present opposing views.  How well do I, or any of us, succeed in so doing?  I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone does.  Luckily, I have had students whose political positions have been very different from my own, and we have gotten on very well.   But I worry that others may have been, in the way that students can be, subtly intimidated or deterred from pushing hard against what they conceive, or misconceive, to be my political views.

The scholars I have admired most, and whom I took as role models when starting out, had strong political views and affiliations – I think particularly, but not only, of Sam Huntington.  None of them pretended to Olympian detachment.  But all made an effort to be fair and open-minded, to present views that varied with their own, to prevent political disagreement from becoming personal animus.  At the risk of embarrassing him, I will say that goes for Bob Jervis, who has organized this forum; and the same is true for Dick Betts, with whom I have had many long running disagreements.

To sum up my basic beliefs:  our politics helps shape the first questions that animate our scholarly work; we should participate in the public square but be aware that the essential quality of our arguments there differ in kind and in authority from those of our scholarship; we should balance our policy work with deeper scholarship detached from immediate concerns; we should be particularly careful to make certain that our students hear all sides of a contentious contemporary issue; and above all, we should make an effort to treat colleagues with whom we disagree – barring some gross breach of decency or good manners – with respect.

Essay by Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago

Politics and Objectivity in History and Political Science: The Poverty of Our Philosophy

The questions that Bob Jervis put to us are these: (1) How are our academic studies of international security influenced by our political outlooks and preferences? (2) As scholars, we try to explain the policies states have followed and the resulting outcomes. But we also have strong political preferences.  Are these independent? (3) Is our objectivity as scholars compromised by our political beliefs and activities?  (4) How often does our scholarship lead us to change our political views?

A superficial answer to these questions would point out that political bias is typically assumed to be the province of the left or the right, connoted by ubiquitous ad hominem terms (epithets, really) like “leftist,” “revisionist,” or “neo-conservative.” The unstated premise is that the label predicts, explains and cubby-holes most of what the author might have to say, and that the place between left and right – the “middle”? – either has no politics, or occupies a solid terrain called “objective,” “sound,” “well-grounded,” reporting findings that are “robust.” But question 2 states that we all have strong political preferences – which is true. I would like to follow that insight by arguing that all our work is political, and this can be seen not just in our scholarship, but in the fundamental underpinnings of the two disciplines most relevant to security studies, political science and history. Both originated as modern disciplines with claims to be a science, and in both cases those claims organized the hegemonic forces in each field, thus to produce thousands of PhDs who have populated academic departments for roughly the past century. The failing of both disciplines, it seems to me, is to base their methods in 19th-century definitions of science, when they should have incorporated insights from philosophy that would vastly sharpen their epistemologies – how we think we know what we know.

I can claim no special insight into political science and history, except that I am a rare instance of something that used to be quite common: career migration between these two disciplines (Chicago’s Hans Morgenthau was a good example). My doctoral work at Columbia (in the self-consciously “old-fashioned” Department of Public Law and Government) was by equal parts in East Asian history and the typical curriculum of comparative politics. I then briefly joined the Political Science Department at Swarthmore College, spent a decade on the interdisciplinary faculty of the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and have been in the History Department at Chicago since 1987 – except for three years (1994-97) when I was jointly appointed in both disciplines at Northwestern. There, when I would tire of hearing the question, “what’s your dependent variable?”, I would cross Sheridan Road to the History Department, until I hungered for a generalization or a theoretical statement and crossed back again.

History As a Science

The modern study of history began in Germany, conceived as a scientific discipline. The migration of German conceptions of history and objectivity (Objektivität) to the United States was midwifed by, or at least most prominently associated with, the University of Chicago. Today the History Department is still resident in the Social Sciences building, and is the largest department in the Division of Social Sciences. American historians took Leopold von Ranke to be the epitome of a scientific historian, while illustrating their “almost total misunderstanding” of his ideas, in Peter Novick’s words. A philosophical idealist and German nationalist, Ranke became for Americans their “mythic hero” of an empirical scientist – because that’s what they wanted him to be, and because that’s what they wanted to be. Strict presentation of the facts was the route to a science of history, the facts and nothing but the facts, the past “as it actually was.”[10] The proper empirical method even frowned on hypotheses, even on presuppositions, because of a potential a priori bias that might influence the selection of facts. (How then to select some facts rather than others remained opaque.) The historian plunged into the welter of the past, into the ocean of primary documents, and if he did his research well, he came out with a definitive text.

This doctrine reigned supreme among American historians for decades, and remains deeply imbedded in historical practice: a naïve encounter with the facts, a superficial understanding of bias, an unwillingness to plum the depths of one’s own presuppositions, these are still hallmarks of much work in history today. As one prominent historian put it,

Every recognized historical account is a tissue of facts, and if the facts are objectively ascertainable by research, they are not dependent upon the historian’s activity. . . . The truth of a historical work consists in the truth of its statements . . . [it is] implicit in the facts themselves.[11]

During the crisis of world depression in the 1930s Carl Becker and Charles Beard posited a sophisticated critique of empiricism in the profession, a result in part of the reigning doctrine of the “free market” having crashed and burned, with nothing yet to replace it. After Becker’s famous 1931 presidential address to the American Historical Association, a senior historian wrote that “you have killed the notion that facts have any meaning in themselves . . . they are dark objects, invisible and intractable until they shine and effloresce in the rays cast upon them by our ideas.” For Beard, historians were all “influenced in their selection and ordering of materials by their biases, prejudices, beliefs, affections, general upbringing, and experience, particularly social and economic;” this canon applied not just to others, but above all to oneself. Predictably, empiricist historians accused both Becker and Beard of not believing in truth – to which Beard replied, Ranke’s work does contain objective truth: “When Ranke says that some person was born on a certain day of a certain year he states a truth about an objective fact.” But what that birth means, how it is interpreted, will inevitably bear a relationship to “his own personality and the age and circumstances in which he lives.”[12]

After the victory in World War II and the quick onset of the Cold War, the historian whom everyone in the 1930s took to be the dominant figure in the profession, Charles Beard, was endlessly disparaged (especially for his presumed “isolationism”), and the profession returned to its comfortable and self-satisfied median: primary sources, empiricism, the historian as objective weathervane taking the temperature of the facts. Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison took the lead in this calumny, and represented as much as anyone the 1950s-era epitome of how to do proper history (even though he was from time to time an official historian for the U.S. government.) Architects of the academic consensus like Talcott Parsons had no ideology, it seems; “the essential criteria of an ideology,” he wrote, “are deviations from scientific objectivity.”[13] But it was not a violation of objectivity for Parsons to consult secretly with the Central Intelligence Agency.[14] What was most infuriating to the small handful of intellectual critics in the 1950s (like C. Wright Mills), was the combination of claims to objectivity while doing secret contract research with the government. Never were historians and political scientists closer to power than in the 1950s and early 1960s.

It all came tumbling down in the late 1960s, as the struggles of the civil rights movement and the failed war in Vietnam called just about everything into question, particularly on the elite campuses and particularly regarding the professors doing secret research for the government. My “upbringing” in Beard’s sense included being escorted in April 1968 by guards through a student-occupied Columbia campus into the interview for my graduate work, and looking out the window during classes as guerrilla theater unfolded on the campus: a student would don a professorial get-up and his comrades would point at the “professor” and chant, “value-free! value-free!” Younger professors echoed these sentiments by arguing that if one were

a scholar as well as a malcontent, an honest researcher as well as a radical, his very partisanship, bias, call it what you will, gives him a kind of objectivity. Because he stands opposed to established institutions and conventional conceptions, the radical scholar possesses an unconcern for safety or preservation which enables him to carry inquiry along paths where the so-called ‘objective’ conservative or liberal scholar would not dare to tread.[15]

My experiences in the antiwar movement and the radical caucus within Asian studies (the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars) led me to see the virtue of a method like this, which has stayed with me, more or less, ever since. What I cannot understand is colleagues of my generation who lived through the same national crisis and seemed so untouched by it, in their personalities and their scholarly work. This is a bias, a blindness, a failure to put myself in their shoes, that will never leave me. But, this is my answer to question 4: our scholarship is much more likely to reinforce our political views rather than to change them, because our political outlook is inextricably related to the questions we choose to study, and those questions share a strong affinity with our “upbringing.”

Facts Speaking for Themselves

Around that time I sat with a multitude of Columbia students and watched Emile de Antonio’s 1968 documentary on Vietnam, In the Year of the Pig. A self-professed Marxist-Leninist,[16] his method was “to let the facts speak for themselves.” His chosen genre was documentaries, the film type which makes the most powerful claim to be “the facts” of the moving picture domain. He made films with no narration because he hated didactic voice-overs, relying instead on techniques of presentation and editing that juxtaposed, say, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey’s speeches in defense of the Vietnam War with B-52s unloading bombs along the Ho Chi Minh Trail: “I wanted the feature line to be organically contained, unified, without any external noise, without any narration explaining anything. I wanted the thing to be self-explanatory political statement.” If he had left out the word “political,” this would be an acceptable statement of objective presentation, of Rankean history. Yet De Antonio was the opposite of the allegedly unbiased scientist; the point instead is to be self-conscious about one’s prejudice: “I happen to have strong feelings and some dreams and my prejudice is under and in everything I do.”[17] The infuriating genius of our consensual politics, however, is to make De Antonio look like the biased manipulator, and the keepers of the empiricist flame appear as the soul of even-handed judgment. Why infuriating? Because of the pose of objectivity, the conceit which plays to simple notions of a world that exists somewhere out there, in pristine form, waiting for the equally pristine observer to recount its truths for us.

Within documentary, cinema verité is the direct analogue of empiricist facticity, on the assumption that the camera’s eye is a mere transparent lens taking in its environment. “Cinema verité is first of all a lie, and secondly a childish assumption about the nature of film,” De Antonio said. “It is the empty-headed pretentiousness that gets me. The belief of lack of prejudice. There is no film made without pointing a camera and the pointing of that camera is already, in a sense, a definitive gesture of prejudice, of feeling. You cannot cut a piece of film, you cannot edit film without indicating prejudice.” Likewise filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker insisted that verisimilitude required not the apparent absence of the author/director, but his palpable presence – whether in documentary form or fictive films, thus to connote that truth is dialectical (between the observer and the observed, in a war of movement with each other) and that truth is constructed by human beings (even in pointing a camera or opening an archival box and selecting a document for study). Here de Antonio, “mere” filmmaker, intuited the position of “metahistorians” like Michel de Certeau and Dominick LaCapra, that the historian needs to know himself or herself as a “constructed” subject-historian observing the “constructed” historian’s subject, the “real world,” “the facts.” The historian’s monograph, Hayden White wrote, “is no less ‘shaped’ or constructed than the historical film.”[18]

In effect de Antonio equated the mirror-like pretensions of verité with the “unscrupulous benevolence” Friedrich Nietzsche found in empiricism itself: “the objective man is indeed a mirror,” he wrote; “he is accustomed to submitting before whatever wants to be known, without any other pleasure than that found in knowing and ‘mirroring’; he waits until something comes, and then spreads himself out tenderly lest light footsteps and the quick passage of spiritlike beings should be lost on his plane and skin. Whatever still remains in him of a ‘person’ strikes him as accidental, often arbitrary, still more often disturbing: to such an extent has he become a passageway and reflection of strange forms and events even to himself.”[19]

International Security as a Science

The modern field of international relations in the United States had two scholars at its original core: E. H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau. Both were read by specialists in international security and by historians. Their books were historically informed, indeed based on wide-ranging historical inquiry. But their focus was sharpened by a theoretical concern for realpolitik, leading them to found the reigning doctrine in the American field of international relations: realism. Neither of them claimed to be a scientist, and a particular and subjective world view or sensibility is obvious in their books (what others might call “bias”). In my reading the single most important – or most frequently cited – enunciation of a scientific theory of international relations self-consciously follows in their wake: “neo-realism,” authored by Kenneth Waltz. Here is his understanding of theory and how to test whether that theory is correct or not:

“In order to test a theory, one must do the following:

  1. State the theory being tested.
  2. Infer hypotheses from it.
  3. Subject the hypotheses to experimental or observational tests.
  4. In taking steps 2 and 3, use the definition of terms found in the theory being tested.
  5. Eliminate or control perturbing variables not included in the theory under test.
  6. Devise a number of distinct and demanding tests.
  7. If a test is not passed, ask whether the theory flunks completely, needs repair and restatement, or requires narrowing of the scope of its explanatory claims.” [20]

At a superficial level we instantly recognize ourselves in the presence of something commonly called “the scientific method.” Its procedures are well known, taught in any number of introductory methods courses in political science. State your theory, define your terms and your dependent variable, derive hypotheses, test those hypotheses, make those tests demanding ones, have a control group to hold “all other things equal,” and see how your theory holds up in the light of your tests. But a good theory not only has explanatory and predictive power, it must also have “elegance.” “Elegance in social-science theories means that explanations and predictions will be general,” Waltz wrote:

A theory of international politics will, for example, explain why war recurs, and it will indicate some of the conditions that make war more or less likely; but it will not predict the outbreak of particular wars. Within a system, a theory explains continuities. It tells one what to expect and why to expect it. Within a system, a theory explains recurrences and repetitions, not change. At times one is told that structural approaches have proved disappointing, that from the study of structure not much can be learned. This is supposedly so for two reasons. Structure is said to be largely a static concept and nearly an empty one. Though neither point is quite right, both points are suggestive. Structures appear to be static because they often endure for long periods. Even when structures do not change, they are dynamic, not static, in that they alter the behavior of actors and affect the outcome of their interactions. Given a durable structure, it becomes easy to overlook structural effects because they are repeatedly the same…. A constancy of structure explains the recurrent patterns and features of international-political life. Is structure nevertheless an empty concept? Pretty much so, and because it is it gains in elegance and power. Structure is certainly no good on detail. Structural concepts, although they lack detailed content, help to explain some big, important, and enduring patterns.[21]

A fair reading of this passage, it seems to me, is that it begins with something that would seem to be important, namely an elegant theory of why wars recur, and quickly dissolves that theory into the mere result of some larger structure. That structure is also called a system, the words being used interchangeably; the system also appears to do something, but the minute it does anything (or the author thinks it is about to do something), the passage changes again. Abruptly this passage seems to conjure up its own interlocutor, or to be responsive to some hidden presence, like the off-stage prompter in an opera. At the point where we expect to learn what is it that the theory or the system does (or explains), instead we are told what the critics of that structure or theory say: namely, that it is either “disappointing” or that from it “not much can be learned.”

This criticism appears to have two points: (1) structure is a static concept and/or (2) structure is an empty concept. Neither (1) nor (2) is “quite right” (well then, how right are they?), but both are “suggestive” (of what?). Actually structures only appear to be static, and that is because they often (how often?) endure for long periods (how long?). Even when structures do not change (i.e., are static), they are dynamic, in that they alter the behavior of actors and affect the outcome of their interactions. Subsequently Waltz uses a simile to tell us what “the system’s structure” is all about: “A political structure is akin to a field of forces in physics: Interactions within a field have properties different from those they would have if they occurred outside of it, and as the field affects the objects, so the objects affect the field.”[22] Any kind of political structure – say, a New England town meeting? It would appear so, since “structure designates a set of constraining conditions.” What kind of constraints? Would they include the leader of the town meeting not calling on you when your hand is up? Perhaps:

Such a structure acts as a selector, but it cannot be seen, examined, and observed at work as livers and income taxes can be. Freely formed economic markets and international-political structures are selectors, but they are not agents. Because structures select by rewarding some behaviors and punishing others, outcomes cannot be inferred from intentions and behaviors. This is simple logic that everyone will understand.[23]

I have never seen a liver up close unless it is already inert and ready to be eaten, but I would guess that no scientist could have told us from looking at a functioning liver, what it is that the liver accomplishes. They can measure its weight and its enzymes, but cannot reproduce either the enzymes or the livers; if they could, we would not have patients with non-functioning livers waiting for transplants on a scale of scarcity worth its weight in gold. I surely can see the income tax, however, as April 15th nears.

Waltz seeks to explain what he means on the same page, by giving an example of “the simplest case” of the “socialization” of an individual (which could also be a firm or a state):

A influences B. B, made different by A’s influence, influences A. As Mary Parker Follett, an organization theorist, put it: ‘A’s own activity enters into the stimulus which is causing his activity’ (1941:194). This is an example of the familiar structural-functional logic by which consequences become causes.[24]

In search of further clarifying his point, Waltz writes that “B’s attributes and actions are effected by A, and vice versa. Each is not just influencing the other: both are being influenced by the situation their interaction creates.” That is a good dialectical point, although he does not call it such. But in Waltz’s account this “simplest case” is immediately followed by another, more complex one, which extends the example and “makes the logic clearer.” Which case? This one is not drawn from a field of physics, or from the functions of livers, or the infernal tax collectors, or from organization theory circa 1941, but from a literary example – none other than George and Martha, of Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.[25] A “profound study” of that play by Paul Watlawick and his associates, according to Waltz, shows that George and Martha are part of a system: “each acts and reacts to the other. Stimulus and response are part of the story.” Furthermore, “each is playing a game, and they are playing the game together…. These are descriptions and examples of what we all know and experience.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have never experienced anything like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I have never played a five-person-game with my wife and a junior faculty couple, a drunken one lasting all night long, the young wife herself already a victim of pseudocyesis and the husband already the victim of his inordinate desire for tenure, who heedlessly goes upstairs anyway and beds the wife of the department chair, Martha, a “game” such that after enough drink and male camaraderie he tells George all about it – not just about Martha, but about his wife’s worst secret – and George, being a really nice fellow, tells Martha in front of the young woman that he knows all about it, abruptly shattering her (the young woman, not Martha, who enjoys it) and sending her husband stumbling into the morning mists to vomit, thus ending the evening – except for the unsettling news that there was a fifth player, the unborn or dead son of George and Martha, and even a sixth, Martha’s father, who was perhaps responsible for George getting tenure in the first place. Somehow I think this would be a difficult game to play or to develop a theory about, or at least one that would follow Waltz’s points one through seven.

Maybe the George-and-Martha family trauma is more general, perhaps every person experiences something akin to this malicious game in their personal lives, at different frequencies from all the time to rarely (from daily life to once in a lifetime), although perhaps academics know the neurotic culture that spawns Albee’s type of behavior more than most people; in any case this common human experience explains the gripping authenticity of Albee’s play, in spite of its ostensible exaggeration. But Americans rarely if ever experience the American state in the same arbitrary, vicious, and shattering way, in which state action flows from structure in Waltz’s sense, but the action is not mediated by an assortment of founding-father, Tudor-polity myths by which most (white, middle-class) Americans experience their politics, but can only be explained by arbitrary power or force-majeur.

This account of the method and the epistemology underlying neo-realism could be repeated in a thousand books or articles in political science, but Waltz did us the favor of showing that there is no science of international politics. Instead he is led from the spare, unworkable (in politics) dictums of an obsolescent experimental science to the human-all-too-human catastrophes of a single academic household; he moves from a spurious analogy with the hard sciences to dialectics and metaphor. As it happened, so did the “hard” sciences.
The Hard Sciences Transform, Leaving the Social Sciences….?

The longstanding concern of political scientists and historians with making a science of their work owes, of course, to the preeminence of the “hard sciences,” to the validity, reliability and replicability of their experiments, to the hard-won truths that come to be accepted across generations of scientists. Thomas Kuhn famously illustrated how consensus shapes and distorts scientific conventions, of course, but the hard sciences still have pride of place, because they can convince us that their facts are true – not all of them, not all the time, but enough to provoke envy among social scientists and historians.

We are told by many people – for example by Nobel scientist E. O. Wilson in his best-selling book Consilience – that the hard sciences and the social sciences are coalescing in the use of mathematical modeling, computers, game theory, and various other methods to finally get to the bottom of what makes human beings tick. I would argue the exact opposite: both the hard and soft sciences are in crisis. From my point of view the social sciences should have seen this crisis coming long ago (in fact many did – long ago, but they did not redefine the disciplines), but much more significant is the turn toward uncertainty in the hard sciences, as Newtonian mechanics, empiricism, and the scientific method show themselves incapable of comprehending the complexities of the physical world.

There is much to be said about this, but in the slim space available I want to call attention only to a few facets of recent critiques of how the hard sciences go about their business:

  1. Criticism of the reductionism, essentialism, mechanism and determinism imbedded in modern science, indeed in its conception of causality itself, exemplified in many books by critical scientists – for example John DuPre’s The Disorder of Things and David Locke’s Science as Writing.[26]
  2. The use of metaphors from human behavior to understand the material world, as in Ilya Prigogene’s work where human social behavior becomes the model for chemistry, not vice-versa –chemical systems “behave, choose, perceive, communicate.” [27]
  3. The insistence by Prigogene and others that Newtonian dynamics may be the exception rather than the rule; (“in Prigogine’s rereading of dynamics … fully determined, reversible systems – the pendulum, the universal clock that goes backward as well as forward … are the exceptions to the rule.”)
  4. The new criticism of the concept of equilibrium that is so central to economics and game theory; their assumptions of “balance, precision, an orderly and rationally knowable world derive from Newtonian mechanics, but the real world of dynamics is chaotic and disorderly.”
  5. The difficulty or impossibility of ever specifying the initial conditions of material reality (they are ultimately “unknowable”), and even the possibility that science will never answer the central questions of life and the universe we inhabit.[28]
  6. The recurrent interest in theories of chaos and complexity in the social sciences and philosophy.[29]
  7. The slowly-dawning understanding that all human thought about itself or the “real world” is metaphorical, including science (think of “quarks” and “neutrinos”). For example Stephen Jay Gould told us (in Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle) that “Deep time is so alien that we can really only comprehend it as metaphor.” (deep time meaning the age of the earth, the universe, etc.) The theory of the “initial conditions” in which the universe was formed – the “Big Bang” – is also metaphorical (no one was there to hear it….)

We can now see the emergence of “post-structuralism” everywhere, in the sense that what Michel Foucault and other French thinkers did to undermine the metaphysics of Stalinism and other “totalizing” theories, is now deconstructing the hard sciences themselves. As David Locke put it, “the day of the overarching framework, the prepared ground, the universally acknowledged basis for argument, seems, at least for now, to be behind us.”  Thus critics of the old science are in some instances turning to the humanities to understand the phenomena that science studies.

David Locke, for example, examined Nobel-prize winner H.J. Muller’s paper on the mutant fruit fly. Muller writes of the physical manifestation (or “character” in his terms) of the mutant gene on a chromosome where mutations had not been found before:[30]

The new character is a recessive wing and leg abnormality, the wings being held out from the body but bent backwards near the base…. The character varies somewhat, but there is very rarely any difficulty in distinguishing it from the normal form, unless the flies have been raised in very dry bottles.

Muller doesn’t tell us how things look to him, but “how they are.” He assumes that any scientist examining the same fruit fly will come to the same conclusions. Yet, as Locke points out, the variable “character” of the leg abnormality (held out from the body and bent backwards) is by no means clear, nor is the language Muller uses to describe it, based as it in qualifications like “somewhat.” Muller also assumes a “normal” form, when in fact normal merely means that in his observation more fruit flies lack the backward-bending leg (or is it wing?) than have it. This passage reminded me of the many automobile repair manuals I have puzzled over, where a backward-bending valve in a carburetor requires an expert to find it, or long immersion in skills that James Scott would sum up as mêtis (rules of thumb). Indeed, Michael Polanyi speaks of the “tacit knowing,” almost as an extension of the self, that good scientists have, the “feeling for” the subject of study, “an intimate awareness” of the objects of study – whether corn plants, fruit flies, or chemical crystals.[31] It is no different than the “feeling for,” say, Sri Lanka that an accomplished “area specialist” might have.

In a fascinating account of particle physics,[32] David Lindley wrote that physics has grown to the point that its theories about particles no longer can be tested (an atom smasher the size of the universe might be necessary for the required experiments), and the words and metaphors that they use to describe particles – quarks, neutrinos, strings, 26-dimensional spaces – are literally incomprehensible; “their use of language is as esoteric and baffling as that of the literary deconstructionists.” Faith rests in that tried-and-true crutch, heurism: “The hope of the cosmologists is that, in the fullness of time, observations and theory will come together in one particularly neat arrangement so elegant that it will be persuasive despite the lack of solid evidence.” In their redoubled efforts to find a grand theory of the universe, the real evidence for which is ever-receding, DuPre adds that the physicists have become “scavengers of mathematics.”[33] If heurism and abstract mathematics are the refuge of physicists, what can be said for economists and political scientists?

Contemporary social science remains firmly fixed on precisely the reductionist, determinist, essentialist and mechanistic principles that no longer work in the hard sciences. The reasoning by reference to the hard sciences is really to a 19th-century conception that quantum mechanics, particle physics, microbiology and the study of the heavens (cosmology) have abandoned. Long thought to be the analogue of the methods of the hard sciences, social scientists have not enabled us better to understand the subject of their studies, human beings. That doesn’t mean they don’t produce good work, just that what they do is not science.

Political Man and Sterile Man

From whence comes the rock-solid sense of certainty in explaining past and present that we see in the work of, say, E. O. Wilson, and his oracular vision of the future? The answer is in the mental deformations and emotional certainties of ideology. Scientific and mathematical methods are the social scientist’s point d’honneur, legitimation, baby blanket, cudgel and hammer, in sum, their ideology – with the added virtue of generating propositions that never can truly be tested (and thus refuted): note that the well-turned out “formal theorist” in political science will not simply announce that “the point of their method was to pursue scientific truth” but also that it did not matter if a theory had no real world relevance: “A theory cannot be rejected because of disconfirming facts … it can only be supplanted by a superior theory.”[34] (A mere paraphrase of the particle physicists.)  Or as Foucault put it, “Ideology posits itself both as the only rational and scientific form that philosophy can assume and as the sole philosophic foundation that can be proposed for the sciences in general;” it thus becomes, in a sense, “the knowledge of all knowledge.”[35]

In a passage that informed my thinking in my 1999 book, Parallax Visions, Nietzsche spoke to us all – to the historians, the social scientists, and the hard scientists:

Let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a ‘pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject’; let us guard against the snares of such contradictory concepts as ‘pure reason,’ ‘absolute spirituality,’ ‘knowledge in itself’: these always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective ‘knowing’; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing, our ‘objectivity,’ be.[36]

So, finally: scholarship requires first of all to know one’s self, and to know one’s native land. We need to grind our lenses, not our axes, so that we can retrieve the unseen and the unknown from the past (yesterday or a century ago). Our proper task, as I conceive it, is to work in a self-aware way that “is not superficial and does not become mendacious,” to quote Nietzsche one last time.

Essay by Peter D. Feaver, Duke University

“Do Political Views Shape Security Studies? An Underground Interview” 

The Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project surveys of international relations scholars have documented the wide gap between the academy and the general public on a variety of dimensions, notably including political orientation.[37]  Whereas the American public tends to be spread across the partisan spectrum something like a normal distribution, and across the political spectrum with a marked skew to the right, the IR professoriate is skewed overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic Party and dramatically to the left.

How does this fact affect, if at all, the security studies scholarly enterprise? At the behest of Prof. Jervis, I ventured into the ideological underground and found a source who was willing to be interviewed and quoted, but only under the condition that she/he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Q: Do you confess to holding views that are unpopular and in the absurdist minority of your peers?

A: I do.

Q: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Republican Party?

A: Yes.

Q: What gives? Were you mistreated as a child or are you simply stupid?

A: Neither, so far as I can tell.

Q: Why then are you so ideological?  Why can’t you simply be a seeker of the truth like all of your peers who hold fairly orthodox liberal/Democratic views?

A: There is the rub.  I do not consider myself to be ideological.  I am primarily interested in logic and evidence and the pursuit of the truth, or as close an approximation thereto as we can get.  Sometimes this leads me to conclusions at odds with the reigning orthodoxy.  However, even so I am open to persuasion and argument and I sometimes come down in policy or theoretical debates on the side that is not “purely conservative.”  From my point of view, the chief difference between me and my peers is that I am more ideologically ecumenical, willing to embrace a conservative or a Republican position when it is the best supported one even though that is considered heterodox in the academy.  From my vantage point, the majority position often turns out to be the more ideologically driven one.

Q: Wait, do you seriously mean to imply that your views are just a series of rational, logical, objective assessments of a discrete array of issues and anyone who holds a different assessment – meaning the super-majority of your academic colleagues – are blinkered ideologists?

A: When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound quite right. I am sure the truth is more nuanced and complicated than that. For starters, I don’t mean to suggest that ideology is always corrosive of rigorous thinking.  If one defines ideology as a presumptive commitment to certain first principles which help inform (though not rigidly determine) how one thinks through issues, then I suppose we are all to a certain extent equally “ideological” – even or perhaps especially those who claim that they have no such principle-based points of departure.

Q: So then is there any difference between you and your anti-conservative, anti-Republican colleagues beyond the possibly random fact that you take a different point of departure when you approach an issue?  For that matter, why do you take that different point of departure?

A: I think there is one big difference between me and many though by no means all of them, and it speaks directly to your other question: I am less hostile to conservative/Republican insights because I have been exposed to many bright, thoughtful, considerate, expert, and a bunch more positive adjectives-type people who also happen to be conservatives/Republicans.  Many of my colleagues have no close personal conservative/Republican friends who pass a basic smell test (except me, of course, and who knows, perhaps they think I fail the smell test).  They either have no conservative/Republican friends at all, or only know people who seem to be applying for a central casting call for your basic conservative cartoon caricature.  As a consequence, it seems natural for them to dismiss conservative/Republican ideas.  By contrast, my personal Rolodex brims with winsome figures at every point along the ideological spectrum.

Q: How does that affect you?

A: Someone like me, an academic who is pigeon-holed as a conservative and a Republican, is like a bilingualist.  Of necessity, I can converse comfortably in the academic world where the debates are all truncated on the left-wing of the American political spectrum.  But I can also converse comfortably in the broader American political spectrum where conservatives outnumber liberals by a 2-1 ratio.  A conservative academic is less likely to be blinded by the caricatures that cloud the vision of so many otherwise bright people, whether they are caricatures about conservatives or about liberals.

Q: Are you mad?  Are you brandishing this “scarlet C” like it was an advantage instead of being rightly ashamed of it?

A: Well, my peers do consider it a deformity, something like an intellectual disability, but I rather think it gives me an advantage.  My colleagues who stick to an anti-conservative orthodoxy can have remarkably nuanced views, seeing an issue in various shades of black, white, and grey.  But they are still limited by that black-white spectrum.  By contrast, I have access to the rest of the color spectrum, even the reds and the various shades of red that are visible to the millions of Americans who end up doing things that mystify my colleagues – things like voting for President Bush or Senator McCain, or even more perplexing things like thinking that Governor Palin made a few good points.

Q: Does it affect your scholarship?

A: Perhaps.  I think I can see interesting research questions in the penumbra that my colleagues miss.  For instance, I remember reading a serious paper by very distinguished scholars, the gist of which was that Republicans play politics with national security for partisan ends whereas Democrats are only interested in finding the national security policy that best serves the public good.  This argument was presented without irony; it was quite serious and if I recall correctly was even validated with a formal model.  While it may have helped illuminate some Republican chicanery, to my eyes it rather ignored an important an interesting zone of inquiry: the ways in which Democrats play politics with national security for partisan ends.

Q: Well, that is probably an outlier.  This can’t happen very often, can it?

A: Actually, it is quite prevalent.  I have sat through dozens of talks that contained howlers of opinion and sometimes even of fact but that go unremarked upon by the audience because they simply confirm established prejudices.  I notice them not because I am smarter or more knowledgeable than my colleagues.  Rather, I notice them because I do not share their prejudgments and so I am not subject to the confirmation bias of finding inherently plausible any statement that confirms our shared prior and inherently implausible any statement that disconfirms it.

Q: Surely you are not claiming that liberals and Democrats are prone to cognitive traps but conservatives and Republicans, or at least conservatives and Republicans who are academics, are not?

A: No.  I am sure there are examples of ideologically motivated misperceptions by conservative academics, maybe even some by me.  But the structure of the academic marketplace of ideas militates against it and helps make that a more rare occurrence.  If one is open to conservative or Republican notions and one is also a successful academic, than one has had to survive a Darwinian process that is optimized to find and punish your mistakes.  The system is far more benign to liberal or Democratic mistakes and so they can survive and even thrive more easily.  Consider this: I have brought scores of speakers to my campus over the years and I make a point of inviting an ideologically diverse roster.  When I bring liberal and far-left speakers, no conservatives complain to me; when I bring conservatives, frequently I will get complaints and demands that the speaker be publicly denounced (preferably, during the introduction).  It is hard to avoid the obvious inference: conservatives/Republicans expect their ideas to be challenged in the academy but many liberals/Democrats do not, or at least express greater dismay when they are challenged from the right.

Q: Does being in the minority ever annoy you?

A: Yes, some aspects of this minority status are annoying.  For instance, it is annoying that my peers presume that I “have an ideology” whereas they do not.  It is very reminiscent of African-Americans in the academy several decades ago; they were presumed to have “race” and “racially tinged views” whereas Caucasians did not.  For that matter, the racial analogy suggests another curious burden: being assigned the role of token on panels.  Some of my peers believe that a balanced panel on foreign policy is one that has a critique of Democrats from the left along with two shades of Democratic perspective, say center-left and center.  However, most recognize that it would be better if they could find just one person, me, to offer the “whacky conservative view” – here they hope I will represent not just my own actual views but also cover, or be held responsible for, everything to the right.  And this leads to my biggest gripe: feeling obligated to defend, or at least explain, the position of anyone to the right of Joe Biden, because if I don’t then no one will.  Because liberals do not have a monopoly on nonsense, there is plenty of bone-headedness from conservatives and Republicans for my colleagues to highlight and go after.  Often the attacks are legitimate and fair, but when they cross over into caricature and canard I am left with a tough choice: do I inject a clarification or do I let it pass?

Q: Is this a serious problem?

A: Well, as global problems go, the ideological skew in the academy is probably not a Tier 1 concern.  Compared with the policy problems that I and my colleagues study – the causes of war, the conditions for peace, the wielding of coercive power, and so on – the relative susceptibility of my peers to cognitive traps is small beer.  On the other hand, it is an unfortunate problem to have in a profession that has the unfettered pursuit of knowledge as its core value.

Q: So what can be done?

A: I think the 12-step community has it right.  The first and most important step towards fixing any problem like this is recognizing and admitting that the condition exists.  In my experience, once people acknowledge it, whatever their own ideological dispositions – and I have found respected scholars at every point of the ideological spectrum willing to acknowledge it – from that time on they tend increasingly to become part of the solution and less and less part of the problem.  Beyond that, I would not advocate any drastic steps, certainly nothing like quotas or affirmative action for intellectual diversity.  At most, I would recommend admissions and hiring and promotions committees being aware of their own susceptibility to confirmation biases, and doing a self-inventory on this matter when they evaluate candidates and work that reaches a conclusion that differs from theirs.

Q: Perhaps it would help if you went on the record and named names, including your own?

The interview petered out at that point.  My guess is that my source felt she/he had sufficiently probed the boundaries of good sense and good taste and continuing on would be tempting fate.  In any case, there the matter must rest, whether or not Professor Jervis is satisfied.

Essay by Charles L. Glaser, The George Washington University

“Analysis or advocacy?: the role of political preferences”

Do we, as scholars of international relations, do a good job of keeping our political preferences separate from our analysis of past events and of current policy issues?   This question implies that it is a problem not to keep policy preferences and analysis separate.  In fact, the issues raised by this query are more complicated than they might initially appear.

On the one hand, analysis that is designed to support preconceived policy preferences or theoretical interpretations is obviously problematic.  This type of “analysis” will be incomplete and/or biased, and is better characterized as advocacy than analysis.  On the other hand, political and policy preferences should reflect basic beliefs about how the international system works and the conditions that states face.  This is unavoidable because beliefs/understandings about why and how states act and react, and in turn how the international system works, play a necessary role in any policy or historical analysis.  We cannot assert that taking action A will produce reaction B without relying on such causal beliefs.  Although international relations theories do not usually by themselves lead directly to policy recommendations, most policy questions, especially large questions, cannot be analyzed without employing IR theory.  In this important sense, the two are not entirely separable.

One reason that theory alone is insufficient to produce policy recommendations is that many theories/causal beliefs are themselves conditional, depending on the specific empirical situation that a state faces.  Depending on the theory, key conditions can include the type of adversary that a state faces, defined in terms of motives or regime type; the states’ relative power; the military-technical relationship between attacking and defending; and the state’s degree of uncertainty about all of these variables.  Consequently, the specific conditions that a state faces, as well as more general beliefs about international politics, necessarily inform a scholar’s analysis of policy questions and of historical cases.

So far, so good.  But, we still have not gotten to the harder question of whether political/policy preferences have more influence on scholars’ analysis than they should.  These preferences have too much influence when scholars, intentionally or unintentionally, choose to emphasize facts and theories that support their policy preferences (or historical interpretations), while giving to little weight to those that cut in the opposite direction.  Policy preferences also have too much influence when scholars’ assessments of theories are biased toward theories that support their preferences. Assessing the prevalence of these types of analytic bias is complicated because, as experts, scholars should be especially well informed about which theories are strong and which supposed facts are well supported by available evidence.  Scholars, according to this argument, pick the correct inputs to their analysis and no one is well positioned to challenge them.

We have reasons, however, to doubt that this is how scholars as a general rule are analyzing international history and policy.  Scholars with access to the same body of theories and at least most of the same evidence frequently disagree with each other.  From the perspective of rational analysis, this divergence is a puzzle.  If there is uncertainty about facts and theories, why aren’t all scholars building this uncertainty into their analyses, generating a range of possible reactions and outcomes that are weighted by their subjective probabilities, and reaching similar overall assessments?  It is true that under sufficient complexity these divergences might reflect boundedly-rational analyses, not truly flawed analyses.  If this were the case, analysts’ disagreements would reflect simplifications that were necessary to make the analysis tractable and that could be made in more than one reasonable way.  However, this line of argument runs into trouble if we consider individuals’ positions over an extended period, during which choices about facts and theories are made and remade numerous times.  For this longer perspective, we would expect that a scholar’s position would vary, placing her on different sides of the same of issue over time.[38]

Instead of this kind of variation, however, what we typically see is stability both across time and across issues that are at most loosely connected.   For example, during the Cold War, hawks and doves rarely changed their assessment of Soviet motives, which had decisive impacts on their policy prescriptions, with hawks favoring many variations of competitive military and political policies and doves favoring none.  Proponents and opponents of ballistic missile defense have rarely changed their assessments of the feasibility of effective defense: proponents have consistently found significantly greater prospects for technically feasible defenses, which they believe would provide substantial strategic advantages; in contrast, opponents have as regularly found that the prospects for  effective defenses have been poor, and worried that these missile defenses would generate strategic dangers whether or not they were effective.  And Cold War hawks were more likely than doves to believe the effective missile defense were feasible, even though their hawkishness stemmed primarily from assessments of Soviet motives, not technology.  Scholars’ overall assessments of the danger posed by nuclear proliferation appear to be stubbornly constant in the face of evolving circumstances and possibilities, reinforcing their established preferences for adopting more or less costly policies in response.

Although the question of where scholars’ policy preferences and inclinations come from (if not entirely from an even-handed reading of available facts and theories) is fascinating, I don’t have much to offer.  Possible arguments would include those that have been developed for decision-makers: early learning and experiences may create an inclination for scholars to favor certain theories over others, and influence their assessment of opposing states’ motives; and individuals’ personalities may include an inclination toward cooperative or competitive approaches to problem solving that extend to their views of international relations.

Without sorting out the sources of these inclinations, I do think that there are valuable approaches for handling unresolved debates over facts and theories when analyzing international policy.  Compared to requirements for theory testing, approaches for providing effective analysis of international policy questions have received less attention.  This advice will be of little value when a scholar’s goal is in fact advocacy, but can be helpful when the goal is more even-handed analysis that is designed to shed light on which policy is best matched to a state’s goals and means.  To start, setting up a piece of analysis by acknowledging disagreement about facts and theories provides a foundation that clarifies the policy implications of on-going debates.[39]  In contrast, simply adopting one’s own preferred position on these disputes may be more satisfying—because it leads to a clear policy that matches one’s own preferences—but is in the end less helpful.  If these in-coming positions are the key to the conclusions that the analysis produces, then the choice of starting positions is doing most of the policy work, even if there are many steps involved before actually reaching a conclusion.  In contrast, tracing the implications of disputes provides a map of the policy implications.  Consumers of the analysis can then reach their own conclusion, based on their own preferred inputs.  A still more thorough model, which would capture much of the best of both approaches, would add an assessment of the debate over inputs to the mapping of the policy implications of the divergent positions on fact and theory.  This assessment enables the analyst to provide the strongest case for her preferred policy conclusion, while at the same time acknowledging that the assessment does not resolve the debate over inputs and that it will not convince scholars who hold contending positions on fact and theory.

Another approach for confronting the potentially distorting role of an analyst’s policy preferences is to carefully address the tradeoffs that are required to reach a conclusion.  Most analyses identify costs and risks, as well as benefits.  These outputs are often hard to compare because they are so different; for example, costs could be in dollars, risks could be in an increased probability of war, and benefits could be in the enhancement of military deterrent capabilities.  Comparing apples and oranges is always difficult; the comparison can be especially difficult in the national security realm, where war can be extremely costly, the probabilities of it occurring are usually quite small, and the impact of specific policies on the probability of war can be impossible to quantify.

For example, consider an (overly) brief summary of a common assessment against the United States launching a preventive war against Iran’s nuclear program: (1) even if limited to an air campaign, preventive war will generate a variety of costs, including Iranian interference in Iraq, retaliation via the use of regional terrorist groups that Iran supports, and broad damage to the U.S. image in the Islamic world; and (2) deterrence of nuclear attacks works reliably against states, so there is not an urgent requirement for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—that is, the benefits are small.  Okay, but deterrence could fail.  And if it does, the costs resulting from Iran’s use of nuclear weapons could be many orders of magnitude greater than the costs resulting from Iran’s reaction to a preventive air campaign.  To sort this out, we need an estimate of how likely deterrence is to succeed (or fail) and we would need to think through the relevant amount of time, presumably some number of decades.  For example, if nuclear damage would be 3 orders of magnitude more costly, then, if we were using a standard expected utility framework, we would like to know whether the probability of Iran using nuclear weapons is less than .001 over X decades; if the damage would be 5 orders of magnitude more costly, then we would like to know whether this probability is less than .00001.  Given the difficulty (or impossibility) of making these estimates, I would expect conclusions to be difficult to reach.  (This expectation has not been apparent, however, in the highly polarized U.S. debate on this question.)

This analytic configuration suggests two related thoughts about performing the analysis.  First, in important ways the identification and assessment of the cost and benefits of various policy options is often more important than the policy conclusion itself, because the latter will sometimes requires a substantial amount of hand waving.  There may simply be no way to actually nail down the conclusion.  Second, faced with the responsibility for offering policy guidance, the analyst should try to explain how he has sorted out the apples and oranges.  Analytic transparency that provides insight into the analyst’s values and policy inclinations can, once again, be as important as his actual bottom-line conclusion.

Of course, even the most even-handed scholar may be reluctant to provide the thorough, transparent analysis that I have described, if the result is to reduce the potential influence of the analysis.  This reduced influence might result because an analysis that maps the implications of unresolved foundational disputes and addresses complex tradeoffs promises to require substantial effort to consume; more than most readers and audiences are willing to invest.  Probably more important, this type of analysis could appear indecisive and to lack a sharp conclusion, and as a result fail to command attention.  Consequently, analysts who care about the issues they are studying, and therefore want to influence debates, do face incentives to simplify and/or overstate their analysis.  I do not believe there is a single best way to strike this balance been preserving even-handed complexity and trying to reach a range of scholarly and policy audiences.  At a minimum, scholars should be sure to keep track for themselves of how they have struck this balance, thus preserving their ability to appreciate opposing arguments.

Essay by Douglas J. Macdonald, Colgate University

Ideology in Politics and Knowledge

I often ask the students in my “Contemporary American Foreign Policy” course: “A show of hands: How many of you like dictators?” In more than twenty years of teaching I have only received one positive response, and that student immediately made it clear that he was kidding.

I then explain to the students that there is an underlying reason that such near-unanimity exists: they adhere to an ideology that teaches them to dislike dictatorships and the powers they wield over their population.  That ideology, I continue, evolved from a reaction to similarly perceived concentrated governmental powers that they dislike so much, although then emanating from dynastic monarchs, the dominant ideology for the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century.  You are not born with these ideas within you, I tell them, you are taught them through socialization: family, school, media, peers, etc. – all aiming at reinforcing certain fundamental ideological values. This liberal ideology you are socialized into also sustains a unique set of political institutions to re-enforce the political order and adjudicate the rules. From its inception, the United States has been an ideological nation.

With a nod to Louis Hartz[40], I explain that one important explanation of why these beliefs are held so strongly in the United States is that since becoming a country Americans have known nothing else.  By and large, for the vast majority of Americans, liberalism (in the global sense of liberal democracy; according to this standard, in the ideological lexicon of the United States, both “liberals” and “conservatives” are liberals) is the only ideological game in town.[41]

An easy professor’s trick, perhaps, and Hartz’s “consensual” thesis is contested.[42]  But it does get undergraduates thinking about how ideologies are learned and sometimes hidden even from the consciousness of those who hold them.  The beginning of understanding the international world, and their country’s role in it, originates in the understanding of difference in beliefs and the effects this has on one’s perceptions and misperceptions of various nations’ intentions and behaviors.  I note this concept is contested, and they have already been exposed to Realist and alternative views.  In fact, mine is a perspective to which they have generally not been exposed.

As the late sociologist Edward Shils noted, ideologies are fundamentally used a priori in politics to determine “friend-foe” relations.[43]  Once adopted, ideologies often shape one’s view of proper and justified political action, internally and externally, for oneself and for others.  As we shall see, there are many liberals who disagree with this external role for the generally mutually accepted domestic ideology in the United States.

Since the course mentioned is upper level, and has a theoretical prerequisite course, the students are familiar with the “social constructivist” school of International Relations (IR), and the idea that they are socialized into thinking in a certain way does not come as a particular surprise.  What does bother them, sometimes approaching anger, is labeling them ideologists[44] for accepting these beliefs, since they have been taught, implicitly or explicitly, that ideology is a dirty word, equivalent to far leftist fanaticism or far rightist reaction, neither of which they want to be associated with in any way (a nod to Louis Hartz again.)

They appear to believe that supporting a certain political order, liberalism, and the beliefs and institutions needed to sustain it, while rejecting other forms of political order, is somehow non-ideological behavior.  Ideology always concerns beliefs and non-beliefs, normative acceptances and rejections.  But this notion has not been presented to them, by and large, in their earlier education.  In this respect, I find that they are not that much different than their parents.  Thus the cluelessness of Americans, noted by Hartz, of the deeply engrained ideational centrality of their own ideology, even while disparaging the very concept of ideology itself.  Thus one finds the curious contradiction that Hartz argues so well: it is part of the American liberal ideology to claim to eschew ideological thinking and behavior.  Logical consistency is maintained by calling liberal ideology something else: “belief system,” “American Creed,” etc.

Call It Anything But Ideology[45]

It is the contention of this essay that in this regard the students are not that different from their professors or the books they are assigned.  Social scientists, for example, are notoriously reluctant to apply their analytical concepts to their own work.  It is always the other guy who suffers cognitive dissonance.  IR and security scholars in particular have four main objections to the use of ideology as an analytical framework for understanding international politics (there is far less controversy over domestic politics):

  1. no one actually acts that way in the real international political world, but only rationalizes, with ideological boilerplate, actions taken for other reasons based on empirical observation (realists and many liberals);
  2. ideological (or even human) action does not have much of an effect on material reality over time (structuralists);
  3. the philosophical belief that things will be made worse by projecting values because a priori schemes never work as planned and demand authoritarian or totalitarian means to implement them (Burkean-style conservatives and realists); and,
  4. I am too complicated to have ideological analysis applied to myself and my work (just about everybody.)[46]

The first three deal with the behavior of the “observed,” while the last refers to the behavior of the “observer.”  Ideological behavior, to the degree it is seen as existing in reality at all, rates so low as an analytical category for understanding international politics because its observers see themselves as beyond all that.  They therefore find it difficult to believe that others (a Wilson, a Lenin, a Mao) do accept the importance of ideologies for understanding the real political world, at least while they are in power, and they replace that notion with often unstated materialist assumptions about behavior wrapped in the concept of anarchy.  This has disparaged the use of ideology for analysis more generally and unnecessarily narrowed the range of concepts useful for analyzing international politics.

Even some self-proclaimed ideologists project such labels on to others, and in fact that can be an important function of ideological thinking, while denying their own such proclivities.  As Israeli political theorist Martin Seliger argues, in what I consider the best book on ideology: “[Many] [a]dherents of Marxism, liberalism, conservatism and fascism tend to consider all these ‘isms’, except their own, as ideologies.”  This is not just true of ideologist politicians.  As he also notes, there exists “the habit of intellectuals and scholars who apply the concept pejoratively to the approaches of colleagues with whom they disagree.”[47]  Americans are not the only ones who try to avoid the ideological label.  Even notable European social theorists whose work largely relies directly on the concept of ideology, such as Weber, Pareto, Sorel, Lukacs, and Gramsci, largely avoid the word, preferring cognates such as “political myths,” “systems of thought,” “social imaginary” and the like.[48]

Particularly in the Anglo-American intellectual world,[49] however, the word ideology has an almost universally negative connotation.  In the United States, this leads to periodical scholarly attempts to argue that – finally! – ideology is withering away, never again to raise its ugly head and the concomitant “irrational” conflict it brings.  The creation of Pragmatism as a system of thought in the nineteenth century, the triumph of Deweyist “social engineering” in the early twentieth century, the dominance of “Realism” in IR in the decades following World War II, the “End of Ideology” school in the early 1960s (immediately followed, it might be noted, by one of the most ideological periods in recent American and European history,) Francis Fukuyama’s more recent “End of History?” (with “History” largely being implicitly defined in ideological terms,) or some of the more breathless Globalization advocates, all represent attempts by American scholars to finally bury this particular “devil.”[50]  With the end of the Cold War, similar questions have also been raised.[51]

The Post-Modernist school also can be seen as yet another attempt to demonize ideology, as it is erroneously equated with mere self-interested support, consciously or sub-consciously, for the existing order, and therefore inimical to change.  Yet many ideologies are based on promoting change, reformist or revolutionary, and the concept is much richer than these critics maintain.  In this view, ideology becomes a synonym for vested interests, a practice far from historical or common usage.

An analysis of these attempts at dissuasion suggests that something more is going on here than a simple aversion to dogmatic, strongly held beliefs, since the critics can hold to their critiques with as much dogmatism as they condemn in others, much the same way some militant atheists can mirror the dogmatism they condemn in some religious believers.

The scholarly critics’ stance is predicated on a crucial, often unacknowledged, assumption (shared by my American students and their parents): that they themselves are non-ideological, personally and in their analysis of events, though they may hold personal ideological beliefs.   This is even true of many self-identified orthodox Marxists, liberals, socialists, political religionists, realists, and other believers with universalist truth claims or political goals: they personally are not ideologists because what they believe is true, not some metaphysical scheme that only the foolish or the dangerous could believe.

It is my contention that this assumption of non-ideological pragmatism, or presumed normative detachment, in the critics’ point of view is not sustainable upon examination.  Scholars have found that even in the natural sciences certain beliefs can be held or supported largely because they are congruent with ideological norms, e.g., in liberal societies the assumed symmetrical, random distribution of human intelligence.[52]

Definitions Matter

The critics of the ubiquity of ideological beliefs and actions tend to define ideology in a restricted way that renders the concept largely useless for analytical purposes, though not for “debunking” purposes, and makes their abandonment of the construct compelling to any “reasonable” person because ideology is portrayed as inherently distorting and “irrational.”[53]   But while ideology can distort comprehension of the material world, it does not necessarily do so.  The same thing can be said of any a priori belief system, including Realism, or other self-claimed “non-ideological” systems of thought that have any prescriptive political elements in their thinking.

Ideology can, in fact, offer a thoroughly rational way of understanding the world if one sees the analysis within a chosen value structure.[54]  Giovanni Sartori has made a useful distinction in the analysis of ideology between ideology in knowledge and ideology in politics.[55]   What may appear to be “irrational” behavior to an external observer may be rational behavior in the pursuit of alternative values to the observed.  What is often really at issue is that the observer does not share the observed’s value system, or perhaps its intensity.

In his theory of ideology, Martin Seliger gives as his “core definition” the following inclusive version:

An ideology is a belief system by virtue of being designed to serve on a relatively permanent basis a group of people to justify in reliance on moral norms and a modicum of factual evidence and self-consciously rational coherence the legitimacy of the implements and technical prescriptions which are to ensure concerted action for the preservation, reform, destruction or reconstruction of a given order.[56]  [Emphasis added.]

He goes on to note: “According to this core-definition of ideology, politics is inseparable from ideology since all political action is in the last resort directed towards one of these objectives.”[57]

In this view, agency and structures are dialectically interconnected, not dichotomously separated, in the political world and therefore should also be in the analytical world.  Politics is necessarily teleological behavior, that is, purposive and goal-seeking.  Applying this inclusive conceptualization of ideology suggests that all relevant (i.e., action-oriented) political thinking is to some degree ideological; that its role as the ideational basis for political action (which separates it from philosophy) is embedded in any political action that must be explained to others; and, that the pursuit of particular political institutions constituting a political “order”, or its promotion (including “schools of thought,” factions, parties, states, etc.), without which truly political action is impossible, are both initially created and then sustained by ideological principles and beliefs.

Though Seliger is writing almost exclusively about domestic political orders, his insights are useful in understanding the political contention over the international order also.[58]  His theory, when applied internationally, changes the dominant value pursued from the “material interests defined as power” of Realism to a definition of “ideal and material interests defined as order” that is closer to the work of Max Weber.

One could argue that Kenneth Waltz’s structural approach also centers on an international political order, but Waltz denies almost all human agency in being able to shape this order in a desired direction.[59]  Seliger’s theory denies this is the case, and maps out a more inclusive interactive model for understanding international politics that includes normative, teleological behavior.  Indeed, Seliger also implicitly argues that the international order – even if it is anarchical, since anarchy is also a political order that people will fight over; it is simply a radically decentralized one – has no real meaning unless human values are brought to bear, and this moral meaning is fundamental to the nature of politics.  This valuational project is attempted in the observed political world through the adoption and pursuit of ideologically-defined political orders.

IR realist theorists, and especially those in security studies, by and large exclude ideology in analyzing political behavior, or treat it with extreme prejudice.  Yet, E.H. Carr, a historian but also widely considered an important figure in the realist pantheon, noted this weakness in Realism as an intellectual construct for understanding the real political world: “Consistent realism excludes four things which appear to be essential ingredients of all effective political thinking: a finite goal, an emotional appeal, a right of moral judgment and a ground for action.”[60]

Realists leave such “moralism” out of the study of international politics, for prescriptive and theoretical reasons.[61]  Yet the analytical removal of moral values from politics does not obviate the real world political need for them, and leaving out “first image” and “second image”  analyses, it seems to me, leaves their theories problematical in trying to understand political behavior.[62]

Moreover, subjective political behavior can be evaluated empirically and theoretically.  Not only political theorists such as Martin Seliger or IR scholars such as Alexander George do so,[63] but sociologists and anthropologists have large and rich literatures on the subject, as do political scientists who deal in the domestic political realm.   The acceptance of ideology’s valuational role in driving political action, although varying widely according to its material and cultural contexts, is crucial for understanding political thinking and its policy consequences in Seliger’s theory.  That theory suggests that one can usefully theorize about normative concerns in policy-making.

As Bob Jervis noted in his recent essay on H-Diplo, many IR theorists disagree. [64] Indeed, as noted here, to many realists, especially in its structural variant, the motivations of political or social actors do not matter very much anyway.  As John Mearsheimer, in expressed agreement with Kenneth Waltz, puts it: “I agree with Waltz, that structure determines how states behave.[65]  In other words, it’s the structure of the international system that causes states to compete for power.”  He added in the same 2002 interview: “Pretty much everything that states do is connected to how the behavior that they’re taking at any particular time will affect their position in the balance of power.”[66]

This materialism dominates the study of both IR and security studies.  If one largely removes agency from the analytical mix, then it is not surprising that material factors appear to hold sway.  Within the context of Cartesian dualism, the Constructivist says, “I think, therefore I am.”  The Materialist responds, “I am, therefore I think.”  The former lends itself to political voluntarism (agency), the latter to political processes (structures) in their explanations of behavior.[67]  The ideological perspective, as represented by Seliger’s model, claims that each is half-right, that the two dimensions constantly interact.  With Realism dominant, the study of ideology has received short shrift in the fields of IR and security studies.  Fortunately, this is beginning to change because of an empirical challenge primarily from diplomatic historians.

Recent Empirical Developments

Diplomatic historians, to their credit, have begun to alter this scholarly inattention to the role of ideology in international politics.  This new interpretation has been driven in many ways by the declassification of documents from the former Eastern Bloc since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its associated regimes in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, and the “open” policy of Deng Hsiaoping of the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) in the 1980s.[68]

The usual way social science scholars measure ideological behavior, or the lack of it, is through the use of Weberian “ideal types.”[69]  In “ideal types,” a general mode of behavior is posited that encompasses the essences of the category, e.g., a “rational actor.”  Then real world behavior is measured against this ideal to analyze how and why humans act against type.  Such a person posited as the “ideal type” does not and cannot exist in the real world.  The “ideal type” is thus used as a metaphysical analytical device for the measurement of consistency of behavior and therefore the role of the examined variable in decision-making.  For example, Hans Morgenthau, unlike some other realists, recognized the need for norms and morality in foreign policy, but advocated removing them from analysis to create a rational model of decision-making that he admits can never exist, i.e., an “ideal type” as used by Weber.  But he also advocated evaluating a foreign policy as close to the model as possible to avoid “ideological” (i.e., “irrational”) errors.[70]

For some reason, when the “ideal type” is used to measure ideological behavior, however, the standard tends to be rigid to the point of being unhelpful analytically.  For example, during the late Cold War, when there was still relatively little information available about policy making in either the Soviet Union or China, the rational actor “ideal type” dominated in the academic analysis of behavior of those two countries, especially after the 1960s.  Cold War traditionalist scholars tended to emphasize the ideological behavior of the Soviet Union and associated communist countries, while playing down the ideological behavior of the United States and its associated states.  Cold War revisionist scholars tended to reverse this evaluation, with the United States being the more ideological actor.  The post-revisionist school tended to eschew the role of ideology altogether, emphasizing rather the power interests of the two blocs and their materialist competition.[71]  Since the post-revisionist school came to dominate Cold War interpretations, the rational actor “ideal type” came to dominate both empirical and theoretical interpretations of the Cold War.

The new evidence suggests that the latter interpretation was unwarranted, and that ideological interpretations of state and Bloc behavior would be a valuable analytical addition.  Historian Vojtech Mastny wittily commented on the phenomenon in the Soviet Union in 1996:

Perhaps the greatest surprise so far to have come out of the Russian archives is that there was no surprise: the thinking of the insiders conformed substantially to what [official] Moscow was publicly saying.  Some of the most secret documents could have been published in Pravda without anybody’s noticing.  There was no double bookkeeping; it was the single Marxist-Leninist one whose defects spelled the bankruptcy of the Soviet enterprise in the long run.[72]

As British political scholar Nigel Gould-Davies noted in 1999, “Ideology is back” as an analytical category, although no less contentious as an issue.[73]

Yet historians have not yet added much to the theoretical rigor of ideology as an analytical construct, or provided a systematic methodological framework in which to understand ideology in different periods and in different contexts, even within the same country.  They do not appear interested in doing so.  The Cold War is also a relatively easy case: it was an example of clashing universalisms, so conflict of some sort was arguably inevitable.  Seliger’s theory fills that analytical gap and provides an analytical framework for better understanding political behavior.

How do current historians’ analyses of particular ideological cases relate to other cases and other periods?  Progress is being made, but much more needs to be done on this extremely important concept in order to ensure that when discussing it analysts are sharing similar meanings and not analyzing cases ad hoc with idiosyncratic definitions and analytical methods. (That may be sufficient to some historians, but not for IR and security scholars given their sub-disciplines’ demands.)

IR Scholars and History 

The new empirical challenges call into question the uses of old history by political scientists.  Often IR scholars do not use history as “evidence” at all, but as mere illustrations for their theoretical points. But if some of the fundamental empirical nature of those illustrations changes based on new evidence, as in the current period, it would necessarily change their utility as illustrations.  As the late William T.R. Fox used to tell his IR students, good history does not necessarily lead to good theory, but poor history does necessarily lead to poor theory.  Some of my IR colleagues privately disparage these “historians’ questions” as relatively unimportant to their theorizing.  But outdated history will lead to outdated theories unless one divorces the theory completely from the empirical political world, as I believe much IR theorizing has done.

Constructivists, liberal institutionalists (both of which do contain some ideological analyses, although it is not particularly good) and others have challenged Realism in recent decades, but have not provided an alternative set of theoretical constructs that match the epistemic richness and power of realist power/interest analysis and the materialist “utility-maximizer” rational choice model.  Constructivists’ refusal to accept the importance of the co-existent materialist imperative leads them to view the political world as excessively malleable, and therefore to overestimate the power of agency.  Trying to follow a value system in the harshness of the real world, and perhaps especially the political world, is extremely difficult, and many times impossible.  Thus they have the same epistemological problems as the materialists: in this epistemic instance half a loaf won’t do.

Ideology Among IR Scholars in Politics and Knowledge 

Despite the apparent disparity between general ideological beliefs as portrayed in “ideal types” and many particular actions in the political world, only the most blinkered observers would say that such beliefs are meaningless or do not affect behavior in important ways, especially in attempting to shape a political order, which directly affects state behavior.  All people contradict themselves, and do so often.  A lack of congruity between beliefs and actions is not necessarily evidence for a lack of relevance for a value or moral code unless its abandonment can be shown to be wholesale and permanent.  The gap can merely be a temporary expedient or a lapse in moral judgment.

Ideologists tend to bifurcate in their policy prescriptions, in both politics and knowledge.  A major reason for this tendency is disagreements over the pace and possibility of actions taken to pursue end-goals.  It is important to keep in mind that which we all know: ideologies are relational, that is, they can only be fully understood relative to other ideologies.  They are also relational among adherents, that is, ideological believers bifurcate along a spectrum into proactive/voluntarist (usually labeled “left”) and reactive/process (usually labeled “right”) factions based on varying readings of structural conditions and plausible strategies for future action, both domestically and internationally.   As a generalization, bifurcation between different ideologies is over the ends of policies (i.e., differing versions of the ultimate political order), while that between adherents of the same ideology is over means (how best to bring about or maintain the desired order.)  But bifurcation of behavior among both ideological friends and foes, both domestically and internationally, inevitably occurs as ideological beliefs interact with the harshness of political realities.

If all political thinking is in some manner ideological, in the sense of in reaction to a particular existing political order, it stands to reason that any theory that offers particular policy prescriptions must be also (structuralism, for example, claims not to do so.)[74]

This ideological bifurcation between proactivity and reactivity can also take place in ideology in knowledge, that is, among the observers.  As Bob Jervis has recently pointed out for the Bush Doctrine, and Kenneth Waltz did more theoretically years ago, holding such a proactive/voluntarist position that emphasizes regime type, regardless of the means used to pursue it, makes the important assumption that the domestic political order in large part shapes attitudes towards the international political order.[75]  The implicit assumption among proactive/voluntarist liberals is that the individual and domestic levels of analysis matter, and in many cases matter a lot.  The reactive/process liberals reject this assumption.

This bifurcation aspect of Seliger’s theory helps explain why some ideologists can be proactively ideological at home and reactively anti-interventionist abroad.  Among many scholars in the United States, this theoretical debate takes the form of a split between proactive/voluntarist liberals and reactive/process liberals, of which realists are a subset.

To my knowledge and expectations, leading realists such as Bob Jervis, Kenneth Waltz, and John Mearsheimer, for example, support the existing liberal order at home (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, independent universities, routine elections, etc.)  They may even have hope for its spread through example abroad.  Waltz, for example, while eschewing the United States as a model for other countries, and claiming the “democratic peace” empirical claims are overdone, also notes:

Still, peace has prevailed much more reliably among democratic countries than elsewhere.  On external as well as on internal grounds, I hope that more countries will become democratic.[76]

Many might wonder how the primary structuralist theoretician could say such a thing, but Seliger’s theory of ideological bifurcation explains it neatly.  In its terms, Waltz is proactive at home and reactive abroad in advocating political action.

This hope for more democratic regimes, for internal and external reasons, is by any definition from a liberal ideological point of view.  Yet realist liberals, whether classical or structuralist, are usually reactive and procedural abroad, and therefore opposed to attempting to create a liberal international order through direct, proactive action.  Liberal at home, and reactive in foreign policy, is not an irrational or even unusual choice of policies.  Ideology, unlike its portrayal in the scholarly literature and common parlance, is in fact an elastic concept that is captured in Seliger’s theory.

Proactive/voluntarist liberals, on the other hand, most recently the misnamed “Neoconservatives,” do want to create a liberal international order directly, and, like other proactive/voluntarist ideologists, by changing the individual domestic orders of other societies when possible.  The difference between “Neoconservatives” and “Democratic Peace” liberals is over means in this regard, not ends.[77]

That this is part of liberal ideology, at least the American variant, can be seen by the arguments over many of the very same issues in the Revolutionary era and after, with proactive/voluntarists such as Thomas Paine and reactive/process liberals such as John Adams recommending very different means to promote liberal republicanism in other nations: the former by voluntarist action and the latter by example and process. As George Kennan has noted, similar bifurcated arguments occurred when the Latin American nations were emerging into independence in the early 19th century.[78]

Yet it really was Woodrow Wilson, driven by Progressive ideologically proactive optimism, who first directly connected democratic republicanism in other nations to the nation’s security as a voluntarist imperative.  I have argued elsewhere that this ideological connection between security and ideology has been more prevalent in the Democrat Party than the Republic Party historically.  During the Cold War, the Democrats were far more proactive than the Republicans in promoting democratic norms in other societies as a security measure.[79]  Although American anti-interventionist realist scholars like to reach back to foreign thinkers such as Thucydides and Machiavelli, there is a long tradition of anti-interventionism among reactive/process liberals in their own ideological tradition.  That ideological tradition may help explain their policy preferences as well their conscious adoption of subsequent particular theories.  But it is ideological behavior nonetheless.


Ideology matters, in politics and in knowledge, if one accepts an inclusive definition of the concept and avoids the caricature of the ideologist as mere fanatic living in a fantasy world.  Ideology becomes descriptive and prescriptive once it enters the policy world, and the latter necessarily brings normative concerns to the fore.  There are sound empirical and theoretical reasons to include it as one important variable in the analytical mix if one sets out to understand and explain real world behavior.  Historians, who are more likely to contextualize their analyses, have less resistance to doing so.  At the least, however, they should better define what they mean by the term and how they distinguish it from non-ideological behavior when it can be.

IR scholars, and especially those in security studies, are going to have to deal with the new evidence from the Cold War and its meaning for their theories if they want to maintain intellectual credibility.  In many cases, security goals were shaped, or even defined by, ideological concerns.  Mao Zedong, for example, apparently decided to intervene in Korea in 1950 as much to mobilize his revolution at home, and to protect the chances for further revolutionary change in his region, as to protect the more narrowly defined national security concerns of China.[80]  Similarly, the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s was more over ideological, internationalist issues than it was over the national security concerns of the Soviet Union or China.[81]  These important causal variables simply do not show up in their many IR or security Studies analyses because they are whisked away by a priori theoretical assumptions, such as the notion that ideological explanation of policies in politics is always mere rationalization and not used at times to comprehend the material world.

Ideological analyses can also tell us something about ourselves as observers of political behavior, whether for theoretical or analytical purposes.   Being an ideological liberal, for example, does not mean one must follow a constant, fanatical course of action at all levels of political judgment as the “ideal type” would suggest.  The adoption of a more inclusive definition of ideology makes the variety of policy prescriptions open to ideologists manifest.  We should not expect an ideologist to be totally consistent, never mind singular, in his or her political behavior, even for totalitarian ideologies such as fascism, Leninism, or Islamism.  All humans must make compromises with material reality; but that does not render their beliefs useless as analytical tools, especially if they keep returning to them.

Ideology is back.  Let a hundred analytical and theoretical flowers bloom.  But the importance of ideology in political behavior and its analysis can no longer be credibly denied.

Essay by Tony Smith, Tufts University

The excitement generated by the formulation of democratic peace theory (DPT) can serve, in my opinion, as an excellent example of the kind of process Bob Jervis invites us to review: the way in which personal feelings and ambitions can influence scholarship.  To be sure, many of the arguments made thanks to DPT seem to me useful and valid: regime type does matter for how a state acts in world affairs; the breakdown of boundaries between domestic and international politics (like that between economic and politics) does make for a welcome increase in interdisciplinary studies; the liberal reconstructions of Japan and Germany after the Second World War were perhaps the greatest achievements in the history of American foreign policy.  And there were advocates for DPT, such as Michael Doyle, who repeatedly called for objectivity and warned scholars and policy makers against engaging in “quixotic crusades” based on an exaggerated enthusiasm for the apparent lessons of the theory.[82] Nevertheless, the oft-quoted words of Jack Levy in 1988 sum up the mood of the times for most liberal internationalists when he declared that the “absence of war between democracies comes as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations.”[83]  In the aftermath of the Cold War, DPT was to become an intoxicating message, much as Levy’s line suggests.

The impact of democratic peace theory on liberal international scholars worked at several levels.  First, there was the understandable intellectual excitement of breaking new ground—of demonstrating empirically, then formulating theoretically and even philosophically that the question traditionally seen as central to the study of world affairs, “Why War?,” could now be replaced by asking (and answering) “How Peace?” In both comparative and international political study new questions could be raised and novel approaches generated to the age-old questions of the character of war and peace. How could DPT fail to have a stimulating effect on political science departments across the country as new courses based on new questions and new methodologies spread?  The fact that this thinking combined with the surge of economic liberalism in the 1990s—the triumph of the “Washington Consensus” on privatization, deregulation and openness—and with liberal jurisprudence—leading today to the rhetoric around “R2P” “the responsibility to protect”—suggests that DPT was part of the weltgeist of the 1990s and the emergence of the United States as the world’s sole superpower, and not pure theory at all.  But so what?

At a second level, there was the question of individual egos. For what democratic peace theory portended was that liberalism could displace realism as the dominant paradigm of international relations study, which in turn meant that new faculty positions, new journals, new courses with fresh graduate students could be born.  Liberal internationalism, which had been dismissed as “idealism” and “moralism” in most of the established texts, now came to have a new gravitas.  In 1971, Arthur Link had called Wilsonianism a “higher realism” and maintained that taking it seriously would contribute both to American national security and to world peace.[84]  But who listened?  By the 1990s, however, Woodrow Wilson needed to be taken far more seriously than he had been since the days when E.H. Carr, Walter Lippmann, George Kennan, and Hans Morgenthau had mocked both him and his legacy.

The notion that liberalism had an international mission resonated with a deep vein of American idealism and moralism, especially among scholars of a secular persuasion, many of whom hoped to find purpose for the lives in the work. What had always been the self-righteous spirit of the United States in world affairs now came to have “scientific” verification.  Andrew Moravcsik could call liberal internationalist theory “non-utopian and non-ideological.” Bruce Russett and John Oneal could talk of the “Kantian imperative” in expanding “the zone of democratic peace.” Paul Berman could call Afghanistan “the first feminist war.”  For his part, John Rawls could conclude his career as the country’s best known liberal philosopher declaring on the last page of his final work–The Law of Peoples, based explicitly on democratic peace theory–“By showing how the social world may realize the features of a realistic utopia, political philosophy provides a long-term goal of political endeavor, and in working toward it gives meaning to what we can do today.”  And Rawls cited Kant’s feelings as his own: “If justice perishes, then it is no longer worthwhile for men to live upon the earth.”[85]

The self-confidence of a new theory and the self-righteousness it validated were not the only reasons democratic peace theorists promoted their agenda, for at a third level, we find the phenomenon of the gratification of individual ambition.  Liberal internationalists might for the first time find themselves welcomed at think tanks, funded by foundations, and flying on planes to Washington as consultants to policy makers.  Indeed, under the auspices of the National Endowment for Democracy or the Agency for International Development they might find themselves informing not simply bureaucrats responsible to the State Department but having influence over the President of the United States himself.  “Democratic globalism” to be pushed during America’s “uni-polar moment” (confidently predicted to be a “uni-polar epoch”) might be the vocabularly of neoconservatives like Robert Kagan, William Kristol, or Charles Krauthammer, but the heavy lifting intellectually was done almost exclusively by neo-liberals such as Larry Diamond or those associated with him in the Progressive Policy Institute of the Democratic Leadership Council, not much by conservatives of any stripe with the single exception of Francis Fukuyama (whose influential work was early but relatively thin compared to what was to follow).

If, as Hegel declared, “Minerva’s owl flies out at dusk,” then the search for explanations as to why the Cold War ended with America triumphant explains both the appeal of democratic peace theory and the rise of the liberal internationalist scholars associated with it as reflecting a historical moment.  For it now appeared that it was not so much the United States that had triumphed over the Soviet Union, as a realist might see it, but that an ideology of liberal internationalism, capable to binding states and peoples together, had won out over proletarian internationalism.  The 1990s (a long decade, stretching from 1989 to 2001) thus became an intoxicating period for liberals recalling Wordsworth’s line in the aftermath of the French Revolution, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”  Containment was now dead and a new framework for American policy was waiting to be born, a “National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement” as the Clinton administration formally broadcast it in 1995, with the promotion of democratic government and economic openness the basis of America’s efforts to create a new world order.  So too, the Bush Doctrine of 2002 (usually accepted as having found its defining moment in the “National Security Strategy of the United States” issued that September) was the logical product of an increasingly commanding liberal internationalist agenda that may have stretched back to the years of Woodrow Wilson (or even Thomas Paine) but that reflected, much more importantly, intellectual arguments produced by liberal theorists in the 1990s in their celebration of the defeat of Soviet communism.

Whatever the insights of DPT—and as mentioned, I think it has had a salutary affect on certain dimensions of the way political science is taught and practiced in the United States—it became a witches’ brew when it mixed with democratic transition theory (thanks to many political science comparativists who relaxed the strictures on “preconditions” and “sequences” that had made an older generation wary of the ease of democratization in many circumstances) and with liberal jurists (who in the course of the 90s moved from a “democratic entitlement” to a “responsibility to protect” that effectively redefined sovereignty so as to permit progressive imperialism on the part of the United States and whatever other democracy cared to join in). An excellent illustration of the heights to which this could reach came in the Princeton Project on National Security 2006 Report “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law” authored by Anne-Marie Slaughter and G. John Ikenberry, two prominent liberal internationalists. If ever there were an imperial doctrine for an imperial country, here it was, the outlines of a grand strategy for the United States, one which must have pleased many such as John Lewis Gaddis with his Grand Strategy Seminar at Yale, where (in Surprise, Security, and the American Experience) he had enthusiastically endorsed the invasion of Iraq based on drinking deeply of the liberal witches’ brew whose chief ingredients were mentioned above.

And the beat goes on.  In February 2010, I was on two panels at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association where DPT was discussed, for the most part as if its terms were undisputed.  On the desk beside me, I have two recent books expressing much the same opinion: The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just not the Way George Bush Did) by James Traub, and Michael McFaul’s, Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can.  Even Azar Gat in his commendable study War and Human Civilization, seems more interested in refining DPT than in criticizing it.

In 1952, in The Irony of American History, Reinhold Niebuhr had implicitly warned against the social sciences taking their scientific vocation too seriously.  Instead he complemented the United States on the “fortunate vagueness” of its expressions of self-confident, self-righteousness in world affairs:

The American national version of the [Messianic] dream had [a] fortunate vagueness.  American government is regarded as the final and universally valid form of politically organization.  But, on the whole, it is expected to gain its ends by moral attraction and imitation. Only occasionally does an hysterical statesman suggest that we must increase our power and use it in order to gain the ideal ends, of which providence has made us the trustees…Though we are not without vainglorious delusions in regard to our power, we are saved by a certain grace inherent in common sense rather than in abstract theories from attempting to cut through the vast ambiguities of our historic situation and thereby bringing our destiny to a tragic conclusion by seeking to bring it to a neat and logical one.[86]

Presumably Niebuhr would have seen what so many fail to see still today, that by becoming a “science,” DPT—in conjunction with democratic transition theory and liberal international jurisprudence—blinded American policy makers to many dangers they might otherwise have perceived.  In this respect we might recall how the “Washington Consensus,” the package of ideas behind economic globalization that included deregulation, privatization, and openness, contributed to the blindness that allowed the economic crash of 2008 to occur. In each case, the wounds have been self-inflicted; American hubris has been our own worst enemy. How united the American economics profession seemed at the time and indeed for the most part still today, just as political science seems unwilling to recognize the damage its theorizing underwrote. Democratic Peace Theory, like the Washington Consensus, reminds us of the famous words of John Maynard Keynes:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.  Indeed the world is ruled by little else.  Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.[87]

© Copyright 2010-2015 The Authors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.


[1] M. Mahoney, “Publication Prejudices: An Experimental Study of Confirmatory Bias in the Peer Review System,” Cognitive Therapy and Research 2 (June 1977): 161-75; Mahoney, “Psychology of the Scientist,” Social Studies of Science 9 (September 1977): 349-75; also see Thomas Morton et al., “We Value What Values Us: The Appeal of Identity-Affirming Science,” Political Psychology, 27 (December 2006): 823-38.

[2] Jeffrey Henig, Spin Cycle: How Research Is Used in Policy Debates The Case of Charter Schools (New York: Russell Sage, 2008).

[3] Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955); Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946).

[4] Jerald Combs, American Diplomatic History: Two Centuries of Changing Interpretations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); Ido Oren, Our Enemies and Us: America’s Rivalries and the Making of Political Science (Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell University Press, 2003). Also see Tony Smith, A Pact With the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (New York: Routledge, 2007).

[5] Timothy Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Daniel Wegner and John Bargh, “Control and Automaticity in Social Life,” in Daniel Gilbert, Susan Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, eds., Handbook of Social Psychology (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), 446-96.

[6] New York: Wiley, 1957.

[7] Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979

[8] Kenneth Waltz, “The Politics of Peace,” International Studies Quarterly 11 (September 1967).

[9] Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989); this built on my The Illogic of American Nuclear Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984.)

[10] Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 25-9.

[11] Maurice Mandlebaum quoted in Novick (1988), 263.

[12] Novick (1988), 254-63.

[13] Novick (1988), 299.

[14] See Christopher Simpson, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988).

[15] Editors, “The Radicalism of Disclosure,” Studies on the Left 1 (fall 1959), 2, quoted in Novick (1988), 425.

[16] I heard de Antonio lead off a lecture at Swarthmore College in 1976 with this self-description.

[17] Interview in Alan Rosenthal, The Documentary Conscience: A Casebook in Film Making (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980),  211.

[18] Hayden White, “Historiography and Historiophoty,” American Historical Review 93:5 (December 1988).  1195-96. See also the discussion in Robert Sklar and Charles Musser, eds., “Introduction,”’ Resisting Images: Essays on Cinema and History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 3-5.

[19] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Walter Kauffman, (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), 127. For further discussion, see Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American—East Asian Relations (Duke University Press, 1999), ch. 1.

[20] Kenneth N. Waltz, “Laws and Theories,” in Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and its Critics (Columbia University Press, 1986), 41-2.

[21] Waltz, in Neorealism, 57-58.

[22] Waltz, in Neorealism,  62.

[23] Waltz, in Neorealism,  62-63.

[24] Waltz, in Neorealism,  63.

[25] Waltz, in Neorealism,  64.

[26] Jon Dupré, The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science (Harvard University Press, 1993); David Locke, Science as Writing (Yale University Press, 1992).

[27] Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (Bantam Books, 1984).

[28]  John Hogan, The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age (1996).

[29]  Among many possible citations, Immanuel Wallerstein, Unthinking Social Science (1991); Donald B. Calne, Within Reason: Rationality and Human Behavior (Pantheon, 1999); George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenges to Western Thought (Basic Books, 1991).

[30] Locke, Science as Writing, 40.

[31] Quoted in Locke, Science as Writing, 27.

[32] David Lindley, The End of Physics: The Myth of a Unified Theory (Basic Books, 1993), 18-19.

[33] Locke, Science as Writing, 205; End of Physics,  5.

[34] Dennis Chong, a rational choice political scientist, quoted in Jonathan Cohn, “Revenge of the Nerds: Irrational Exuberance,” The New Republic (October 12, 1999).

[35] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970),  240-41, 257.

[36] Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, ed. and trans. by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1969).

[37] For the surveys, see

[38]  This argument could be rescued by turning to path-dependence arguments that explain why initial judgments are not revisited; this approach is not convincing however when the judgments in question are sufficiently important to have a large impact on major policy choices or historical explanations.

[39]  I tried to adopt this approach in my analysis of U.S. Cold-War nuclear policy; see Glaser, Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

[40] Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1955).

[41] I should note that in this essay I am examining ideologies of political elites and scholars, not the masses.  The latter is a different analytical problem and requires different methods.

[42] Mark Hulliung, ed, The American Liberal Tradition Reconsidered: The Contested Legacy of Louis Hartz (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2010).  This volume was not available at the time of writing, but the overall thesis appears to be in the title.

[43] Edward Shils, “Ideology and Civility: On the Politics of the Intellectual,” The Sewanee Review, LXVI (1958), pp. 450-480. For the uses of ideology to identify friends and enemies in international politics, see Mark L. Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power politics, 1789-1989 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), passim ; John Lenczowski, Soviet Perceptions of U.S. Foreign Policy: A Study of Ideology, Power, and Consensus (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982) p. 269; Sergei Goncharov, et. al., Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 219-220.  For the ideational argument that people tend to identify friends and enemies according to predetermined categorizations, see Robert Axelrod, “Schema Theory: An Information Processing Model of Perceptions and Cognition,” American Political Science Review, 67:4 (December, 1973), p. 1248.

[44] I prefer the term Ideologist to Ideologue given the pejorative connotation of the latter. There are historical reasons for this that are beyond the scope of this essay.

[45] For a methodological criticism of those resistant to the use of ideology as a concept in political analysis, especially in international politics, see Douglas J. Macdonald, “Formal Ideology and the Cold War: Toward a Framework for Empirical Analysis,” in Odd Arne Westad, ed, Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp. 80-105.

[46] My use of these categories has been heavily influenced by, but does not follow exactly, Albert O Hirschman’s brilliant little book, The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).  I will use the word “reactive” below rather than the word “reaction” for the same reason I prefer “ideologist” over “ideologue.”  I find the rejected terms irretrievably value-laden in the current political and scholarly lexicons.  Moreover, as Hirschman wisely notes, “progressives” also use similar rhetoric and concepts when reacting negatively to proposals they do not like.

[47] Ideology and Politics (New York: The Free Press, 1976), p. 96.  It might be noted that Seliger was writing in the mid-1970s, a particularly ideological period.

[48] John Gerring, “Ideology: A Definitional Analysis,” Political Research Quarterly, 50:4 (December 1997), p. 962.

[49] For the argument that the Anglo-American intellectual tradition is particularly opposed to the concept of ideologies, see Seliger, Ideology and Politics, pp. 30-31.  Seliger cites British analytical philosophy and American social science behavioralism as the two main culprits in his view.

[50] For a recent discussion of ideological value projection in American foreign policy, see the H-Diplo Roundtable on Tony Smith’s A Pact with the Devil at:

[51] Alexandras Shtromas, “Ideological Politics and the Contemporary World: Have We Seen the Last of ‘Isms,’” in Alexandras Shtromas, ed, The End of “Isms”: Reflections on the Fate of Ideological Politics after Communism’s Collapse (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994), pp. 183-225.

[52] Robert C. Richardson, “Biology and Ideology: The Interpenetration of Sciences and Values,” Philosophy of Science, 51:3 (September 1984), pp. 396-420.

[53] Hans Morgenthau, for example, equates ideology and irrationality. See Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Fifth Edition, Revised (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), pp. 7-10.

[54] For a case study of this valuational rationality model, see Kristen Renwick Monroe and Lina Haddad Kreidie, “The Perspective of Islamic Fundamentalists and the Limits of Rational Choice Theory,” Political Psychology, 18:1 (March, 1997), pp. 19-43.

[55] “Politics, Ideology, and Belief Systems,” American Political Science Review, 63:2 (1969), pp. 398-411.

[56] Ideology and Politics, p. 120.  The entire book is a critique of existing definitions of ideology, and a philosophical and empirical defense of this inclusive version.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Preston King defines a domestic social and political order as rule-based: “regulation based upon co-operation, a recognition of rules, perhaps – more loosely – ‘a way of going about things’, the recognition of the infringement of rules, and the imposition of sanctions (punishment) up to and including force, whether designed to inhibit, compensate for, or repay (avenge) the infringement of rules.” Preston King, The Ideology of Order: A Comparative Analysis of Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes (London: Frank Cass Ltd., 1999), p. xvii.  John Ikenberry defines an international order as “the ‘governing’ arrangements among a group of states, including its fundamental rules, principles, and institutions.”  John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 23.  Seliger, like most Political Theorists, deals only with domestic orders.  I am applying his theory to the international order also.

[59] Kenneth N. Waltz, “Evaluating Theories,” American Political Science Review, 91:4 (December, 1997), pp. 913-917, especially p. 914.  Waltz does allow that human agency, or in his terms state action, can affect structures in the short term, but not in the long term.  “Long term” is never really defined and is used as an open criterion.

[60] Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1946), p. 89.  Originally published in 1939.  Carr did not approve of these political demands, but did recognize their importance in political behavior and analysis.

[61] For a policy example, see George F. Kennan, “Morality and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, 63:2 (Winter 1985), pp. 205-218.  In a recent H-Diplo essay, Bob Jervis appears to agree, but for theoretical rather than the policy reasons that Kennan uses.  Robert Jervis, “International Politics and Diplomatic History: Fruitful Differences,” H-Diplo|ISSF Essays Number 1, 12 March 2010, at:

[62] Of course, if one does not believe it is the goal of social science to understand human behavior, but, for example, to create theories, this would not apply.  Apparently, Randy Schweller believes this.  Cited in Jervis, “Fruitful Differences.”  I have often heard this view from other IR political scientists also.  I vigorously disagree.  But I am a foreign policy analyst, not an IR theorist.  Comparative foreign policy analysis is part of the IR literature, but not a particularly respected or important one.

[63] Alexander L. George, “Ideology and International Relations: A Conceptual Analysis.” Jerusalem Journal of International Relations 9 (1987), pp. 1-21.  See also, Colin Elman, “Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?” Security Studies, 6:1 (Autumn 1996), pp. 7-53; Haas, Ideological Origins.

[64] Robert Jervis, “International Politics and Diplomatic History: Fruitful Differences” H-Diplo|ISSF Essay, No. 1, 12 March 2010

[65] Emphasis added. See “Through the Realist Lens,” conversation between John Mearsheimer and Harry Kriesler, April 27, 2002, at: (n.p.) (Accessed 2/21/10) Actually, Waltz denies that his theory is deterministic, arguing instead that structures “shape and shove” state behavior through structural rewards and punishments until the balance occurs, rather than “determine” it.  I will leave it to others to explore the distinction further.  Waltz, “Evaluating Theories,” p. 915.

[66] “Through the Realist Lens.” I agree with everything Mearsheimer says here if one replaces the terms “balance of power” and “structures” with “a particular political order.”  In my view, the “balance of power” is only one aspect, albeit a very important one, of a particular political order.   Political orders are not, in my formulation, simply determined by power relations, devoid of human agency and normative concerns.

[67] I have been influenced in this analytical formulation by Robert P. Farrell, “Feyerabend’s Metaphysics: Process-Realism, or Voluntarist-Idealism?” Journal for General Philosophy of Science, 32 (2001), pp. 351-369.

[68] For some outstanding recent examples, see Melvyn P. Leffler, For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, The Soviet Union, and the Cold War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2008); Vladislav M. Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); Lorenz M. Luthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (New York: Penguin, 2006); Chen Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000); Michael M. Sheng, Battling Western Imperialism: Mao, Stalin, and the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).  This list is representative, but hardly exhaustive.

[69] Weber used the term “pure type,” at least according to the translation by Talcott Parsons.  Max Weber, Translated and Edited by Talcott Parsons, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press, 1964), p. 89, fn. 4.  For useful discussions of Weber’s “ideal types” in the social science literature, see Susan J. Hekman, “Weber’s Ideal Type: A Contemporary Reassessment,” Polity, 16:1 (Autumn 1983), pp. 119-137; Donald McIntosh, “The Objective Bases of Max Weber’s Ideal Types,” History and Theory, 16:3 (October, 1977), pp. 265-279; John Rex, “Value-Relevance, Scientific Laws, and Ideal Types: The Sociological Methodology of Max Weber,” The Canadian Journal of Sociology, 2:2 (Spring 1977), pp.151-166; Werner J. Cahnman, “Ideal Type Theory: Max Weber’s Concept and Some of Its Derivations,” The Sociological Quarterly, 6:3 (Summer 1965), pp. 268-280.

[70] For his discussion, see Politics among Nations, pp. 7-10.  For Weber’s argument along those lines, see Weber, Theory, pp. 92-93.  For the influence of Weber on Morgenthau, and that of Carl Schmitt, from whom Morgenthau apparently borrowed the “ideal type” of politics as inherently conflictual, see Hans-Karl Pichler, “The Godfathers of ‘Truth’: Max Weber and Carl Schmitt in Morgenthau’s Theory of Power Politics,” Review of International Studies, 24: 2 (April, 1998), pp. 185-200.

[71] Douglas J. Macdonald, “Communist Bloc Expansion in the Early Cold War: Challenging Realism, Refuting Revisionism,” International Security, 20: 3 (Winter 1995), pp. 155-188.   This article makes the case that the new evidence from the East better supports a traditional view of the Cold War than the other explanations.  If I were writing the article today, I would have emphasized American and Western ideological behavior more clearly.

[72] The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 9.

[73] “Rethinking the Role of Ideology in International Politics During the Cold War,” Journal of Cold War Studies, 1:1 (1999), p. 90.

For a less enthusiastic reception, see Mark Kramer, “Ideology and the Cold War,” Review of International Studies, 25 (1999), pp. 539-576.

[74] Waltz emphasizes the inability of structuralism to prescribe particular policies.  Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Relations (New York: Columbia University press, 1979), passim.

[75] Robert Jervis, American Foreign Policy in a New Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War, Revised Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).  In terms of particular policies, Jervis makes the point more sharply.

[76] Kenneth N. Waltz, “America as a Model for the World? A Foreign Policy Perspective,” PS: Political Science and Politics, 24:4 (December, 1991), p. 670.  Note that Waltz is maintaining a foreign policy perspective in this statement, not a structuralist theoretical one.

[77] See Bruce Russett, “Bushwhacking the Democratic Peace,” International Studies Perspectives, 6:4 (November, 2005), pp. 395-408.  Russett argues that most Democratic Peace theorists do not support military invasion for the spread of democracy.  For a spirited defense of the Bush Doctrine, see Robert G. Kaufman, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (Louisville: University of Kentucky Press, 2008).  There are similar liberal ideological ends, but vastly bifurcated means, proposed in these books and the schools of liberal thought they represent.

[78] George F. Kennan, “On American Principles,” Foreign Affairs, 74:2 (March-April, 1995), pp. 116-118.  Kennan makes the case for reactively spreading democracy by example, but avoiding a proactive policy.

[79] Adventures in Chaos: American Intervention for Reform in the Third World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992).

[80] Chen Jian and Yang Kuisong, “Chinese Politics and the Collapse of the Sino-Soviet Alliance,” in Odd Arne Westad, ed, Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1963 (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press and The Woodrow Wilson Center, 1998), pp. 252-254.

[81] See the path-setting work of Luthi, The Sino-Soviet Split.

[82] See Michael W. Doyle, Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism (New York: Norton, 1997).

[83] Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics and War: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18:4 (Spring 1988): 622.

[84] Arthur Stanley Link, The Higher Realism of Woodrow Wilson, and Other Essays (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1971).

[85] Andrew Moravcsik, “Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics,” International Organization 51:4 (Autumn 1997); Bruce Russett and John Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1999), 128.

[86] Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1952; reprint with introduction by Andrew Bacevich, 2008), 73.

[87] John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory Of Employment, Interest, and Money (New York: First Harvest/Harcourt, 1964), 383.