Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Richard Ned Lebow's "A Cultural Theory of International Relations"

Richard Ned Lebow is James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Centennial Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to one of his recent books, A Cultural Theory of International Relations, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book, A Cultural Theory of International Relations, recapitulates an argument I made in my previous book, The Tragic Vision of Politics (2003) about the proclivity of the successful and powerful – people, organizations and states – to commit hubris. Because they were successful in the past, they convince themselves that they are no longer bound by conventions and have an extraordinary ability to control people and their environment. They trust in their self-confidence and become susceptible to adventures where reason would dictate caution and restraint. The American invasion of Iraq and the banking-mortgage scandals are recent example of this phenomenon.

Cultural Theory situates risk-taking in a broader study of human motives and their consequences for foreign policy. Drawing on the ancient Greeks, I stress the need for human self-esteem, and show how it influences behavior at every level, from individual to state. I develop four ideal-type worlds associated with four motives: appetite, spirit (responsible for self esteem), reason and fear. I demonstrate how each generates a different logic of cooperation, conflict and risk-taking. Each also generates a different form of hierarchy, and all but fear are associated with different principles of justice. I make use of cases, ranging from ancient Greece to the War in Iraq, to document my claims.
Read an excerpt from A Cultural Theory of International Relations, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

Visit Richard Ned Lebow's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue