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Reasoning of State
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Book description

Scholars and citizens tend to assume that rationality guides the decision-making of our leaders. Brian C. Rathbun suggests, however, that if we understand rationality to be a cognitive style premised on a commitment to objectivity and active deliberation, rational leaders are in fact the exception not the norm. Using a unique combination of methods including laboratory bargaining experiments, archival-based case studies, quantitative textual analysis and high-level interviews, Rathbun questions some of the basic assumptions about rationality and leadership, with profound implications for the field of international relations. Case studies of Bismarck and Richelieu show that the rationality of realists makes them rare. An examination of Churchill and Reagan, romantics in international politics who sought to overcome obstacles in their path through force of will and personal agency, show what less rationality looks like in foreign policy making.


‘Rathbun's argument that many decision-makers are not Realists, but rather are Romantics is original, important, and well supported by analysis and evidence. The result is an important challenge to what is generally believed and even those who are not convinced will need to grapple with it.'

Robert Jervis - author of How Statesmen Think

'Brian C. Rathbun has written a superb book about rationality and romantics in international politics. He asks the important question - when are leaders rational - and looks at the differences across leaders. Leaders are rational and intuitive at different times, but some are typically more of one than the other most of the time. This book changes our understanding of the dynamics of decision making.'

Janice Gross Stein - Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

'Reasoning of State is an impressive and provocative book. It is highly original, engaging, and beautifully written. I have rarely had so much fun reading an academic study. I strongly recommend it to IR scholars in general and rational choice theorists in particular.'

Robin Markwica Source: H-Diplo

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