Thursday, 28 January 1999

From "Neorealists as Critical Theorists: The Purpose of Foreign Policy Debate"

By Rodger A. Payne.

Social constructivists [...] regularly examine frames, persuasion, and other discursive mechanisms by which actors reach intersubjective agreement. Critical theorists add an overtly normative dimension by embracing the transformative potential of public deliberation. In contrast, realists and neorealists claim that outcomes are determined by the distribution of material power—political communication and discursive ideals are virtually meaningless elements in international politics. Put simply, talk is cheap. Given this view, it is puzzling that many prominent realists participate actively in national foreign policy debates and in that context both implicitly and explicitly embrace views about political discourse that are remarkably consistent with those held by constructivists and critical theorists. In the recent Iraq debate, the realists reveal lies, political spin, and other distortions of the debate promulgated by government elites and their allies. They challenge the legitimacy of established policies and critique excessive secrecy. Most importantly, these neorealists seek to transform public and elite consciousness so as to produce social pressures for alternative outcomes.

Friday, 22 January 1999

From "Institutionalist Theory, Realist Challenge"

By Robert O. Keohane.

Consistently with realism -- and accounting for the fact that it is frequently denoted as "neorealist" -- institutionalist theory assumes that states are the principal actors in world politics and that they behave on the basis of their conceptions of their own self-interests. Relative capabilities -- realism's "distribution of power" -- remain important, and states must rely on themselves to assure themselves gains from cooperation. However, institutionalist theory also emphasizes the role of international institutions in changing conceptions of self-interest. Thus it draws on liberal thinking about the formation of interests. Institutionalist thinking has focused its critical fire on realism rather than on harmony-oriented versions of liberalism, since the latter have been discredited in Anglo-American international relations theory for half a century [...]

Saturday, 16 January 1999

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

[...] clear physical and behavioral clues to emotional arousal do exist, and prospective liars know this. The only way a liar can be sure that his lie will not arouse suspicion is for him to be in complete control of the emotions he actually feels while lying (or else to feel no emotion at all).

But there are good reasons for not wanting that kind of control. Adam Smith's observations about the division and specialization of labor mean that most people will find it essential to form economic alliances with others. Such alliances inevitably involve trust. People who join them must expose themselves to the possibility of being cheated by their partners. Who would want to form an alliance of this sort with a person who had perfect control over his emotions? Given the high payoff to being a trusted member of a productive economic group, it is not obvious that even completely selfish persons would choose to enter the world with a utility function that lacked the usual emotional inhibitions against lying and cheating [...]

From "Telling Lies"

By Paul Ekman.

[In the] muscle movements that occur with fear, worry, apprehension, or terror [...] the eyebrows are raised and pulled together. This combination of actions is extremely difficult to make deliberately. Less than 10 percent of the people we tested could produce it deliberately [...]

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

Intense feelings of hunger, apparently, are more expedient than rational reflections about caloric intake for motivating a starving individual to focus on the most important threat to its survival.

The match between the behaviors favored by the reward mechanism and those favored by rational calculation is at best imperfect.

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

Cognitive capacity is a scarce resource like any other. As Etzioni observes, it takes hard work to be rational. To gather the information and do the calculations implicit in naive descriptions of the rational choice model would consume more time and energy than anyone has. More important, by the strict terms of the very same model, it would not be rational! Anyone who tried to make fully-informed, rational choices would make only a handful of decisions each week, leaving hundreds of important matters unattended.

From "Shrewdly Irrational"

By Robert H. Frank.

[...] cutting back on something when the terms of trade turn against it requires neither an especially clear vision of self-interest nor even minimal self-discipline [...]

Friday, 15 January 1999

From "Luther and the Justifiability of Resistance to Legitimate Authority"

By Cynthia Grant Shoenberger.

[...] the writings translated, collected, and anthologized for academic use are those which Luther wrote during the early years of his clash with the Roman church and the associated notion of a universal Christendom represented by the Holy Roman Empire. Reading, for example, the 1523 work, Temporal Authority, the student finds that Luther was concerned to "provide a sound basis for the civil law and sword, so no one will doubt that it is in the world by God's will and ordinance."[...] The image of the political system which pervaded the work was of a hierarchical order of authorities established by God. Power flowed downwards, and those in inferior positions were obligated to obey those set above them in the hierarchy. The implications for the possibility of resistance in Germany were clear: although the use of force might be permissible against an equal or inferior authority, a prince could never justly wage war against his overlord, the emperoror. It without saying that a private subject might never actively resist the authorities set over him, but Luther nonetheless allowed for the possibility of refusal to obey in cases when the prince trespassed upon the jurisdiction belonging of right only to God. Under such circumstances the Christian's two duties, to God and to his prince, might come into conflict; and the proper response to such a dilemma was that which Saint Augustine had prescribed-passive resistance, that is, to disobey but submit to whatever punishment might be assigned for disobedience.

What is often forgotten about Temporal Authority is that it was written out of Luther's concern about the excessive interference of the Catholic Church in secular affairs, during a period when he had not yet abandoned hope that the Emperor Charles V might support him in that concern.

Saturday, 9 January 1999

From "On the Freedom of a Christian"

By Martin Luther.

What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.