Rational Choice and Security Studies: Stephen Walt and His Critics

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Get In-Stock Alert. Delivery not available. Pickup not available. Opposing views on the merits of formal rational choice approaches as they have been applied to international security studies. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. Rational Choice and Security Studies. Customer Reviews. Write a review. See any care plans, options and policies that may be associated with this product.

Email address. Please enter a valid email address. Used as a simulation tool, it allows the design of strategies to improve the chances of achieving desired ends. These strategies are detailed, dynamic, and practical. Real-time predictions from this model are in the academic literature. Additionally, a number of predictions based on Policon have contradicted those made by the intelligence community, nearly always represented by the analysts who provided the input data.

In every case, the Policon forecasts proved to be correct.

Morrow, and Samuel S. James L. Ray and Bruce M. Stanley A. Rational Choice and Security Studies 60 Feder discusses a few applications in depth while enumerating many others. Analysts have used the model to examine economic, social, and political issues. They have dealt with routine policy decisions and with questions threatening the survival of particular regimes.

Rational choice and security studies : Stephen Walt and his critics - Semantic Scholar

Issues have spanned a variety of cultural settings, economic systems, and political systems. The extensive use of this model by the government of the United States is further documented by a story reported in Izvestia. The forecasts are given to the President, Congress, and the U. First, the model uses the results of basic research. Second, one cannot know in advance which basic research will prove fruitful for policymaking.

Third, the model discussed here does not express policy opinions or make normative judgments. It elucidates feasible paths to chosen outcomes; it does not suggest what outcomes should be desired. Fourth, the model is general across cases.

Rational Choice and Security Studies : Stephen Walt and His Critics

It always uses the identical computerized analysis to specify how variables relate to one another. Only the data vary from case study to case study. Fifth, the model required extensive engineering to convert abstract research results into a practical policy tool. We should be clear that theory should not be expected to jump directly Sorting Through the Wealth of Notions 61 into policy applications.

We believe that logical consistency is the gatekeeper for judging theories; a theory that contains logical inconsistencies must be remedied before it can have any empirical content. Formal models assist this sorting by helping the research community examine the logical consistency of arguments. Of course, formalism is not necessary for close examination of the logic of an argument. We have found models helpful, particularly in dealing precisely with the details of arguments.

The details matter, and models have helped us establish both the details of an argument and their consequences for the conclusions of the argument. Scientists specialize across the research community. Some physicists, for example, are theorists and others are experimentalists. Yet Walt criticizes modeling papers that do not contain immediate empirical tests of their propositions even when he knows that other papers test implications of those models.

They need not be done by the same people at the same time. Walt criticizes James D. Yet Walt also notes in footnote 86 p. Hart Jr. Rational Choice and Security Studies 62 We have tried to clarify our views about the contributions of formal theory to security studies.

Stephen Walt

Through examples we have shown how logical rigor has helped clarify arguments. And we have demonstrated that the formal literature has made an important contribution to public policy. Although Walt ends with a plea for diversity p. In this response, I make three arguments. This approach misses the importance of theory in providing insights that are logically connected to one another in an integrated analytical framework, a necessary condition for progress in social science.

Martin is Professor of Government at Harvard University. I would like to thank Celeste Wallander and Barbara Walter for discussions and comments on this piece, and Lawrence Hamlet for his able research assistance.

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Further references appear in parentheses in the text. Better empirical testing of formal models is surely desirable—as is better empirical work in international relations and security studies in general. Coherence The approach that Walt takes in his review of formal models is to single out particular hypotheses and propositions that have been derived in prominent examples of formal work. He argues that, taken individually, none of these insights is valuable enough to justify the technical complexity that went into producing them.

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I leave it to those authors who were singled out to respond directly to these claims, if they desire. The point I wish to make here is a larger one, however. The value of formal theory, like any theory, does not lie primarily in its ability to generate isolated propositions, however original or empirically valid such assertions might be. Generating isolated propositions does not require a theoretical framework at all, much less the relatively elaborate framework of mathematical game theory. Any thoughtful observer of international affairs is likely to be able to generate a good insight here or there.

What is RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY? What does RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY mean?

Social science, in contrast, relies on theory. The reason is fundamental to the drive to make social science a progressive, cumulative effort. Proving or refuting an isolated proposition has some value. But without an overarching analytical framework that generates complexes of related propositions, determining the empirical validity of a particular proposition is a dead end rather than a step toward cumulative knowledge.


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Social science does not consist simply of compiling lists of propositions and a tally of which are true, false, or undecided. Instead, it contributes to human knowledge by showing how sets of related propositions are tied to an underlying set of core assumptions and methods of analyzing social interaction. It is this multiplier effect that makes theorizing worthwhile and creates at least the possibility of cumulative knowledge. I share this prejudice.

quefranlighter.tk But without an emphasis on theory, empirical testing of propositions can degenerate into a crudely inductive enterprise that is quickly made valueless by the next change of fortune in the practice of international politics.