Power & Market

How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy

How States Think

There is little doubt that John Mearsheimer is one of the most prominent, and controversial, thinkers in the field of international relations alive today. His most important work, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2014, New York: Norton), continues to be the de facto handbook to the theory of offensive realism and this theoretical lens has played a very prominent role in the debate over the underlying causes of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Coauthor Sebastian Rosato, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, is, like Mearsheimer, a thinker from the broadly realist school of international relations.

However, How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy is not rooted in realism. Rather, Mearsheimer and Rosato are seeking to defend the epistemological basis upon which the entire field of international relations is founded; to defend the position that states (or specifically the individual policymakers) in international politics generally act rationally most of the time. While this may not seem to be a controversial proposition at first glance, it is often called into question or openly denied. The authors cite many examples of this argument when it comes to the behavior of Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular, and a similar argument has often been made regarding the leadership of Iran and their supposed desire to usher in an eschatological apocalypse.

Read the rest at The Independent Review: https://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?id=1974 

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