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Face-to-Face Diplomacy
Social Neuroscience and International Relations


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  • Date Published: August 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108404440

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About the Authors
  • Face-to-face diplomacy has long been the lynchpin of world politics, yet it is largely dismissed by scholars of International Relations as unimportant. Marcus Holmes argues that dismissing this type of diplomacy is in stark contrast to what leaders and policy makers deem as essential and that this view is rooted in a particular set of assumptions that see an individual's intentions as fundamentally inaccessible. Building on recent evidence from social neuroscience and psychology, Holmes argues that this assumption is problematic. Marcus Holmes studies some of the most important moments of diplomacy in the twentieth century, from 'Munich' to the end of the Cold War, and by showing how face-to-face interactions allowed leaders to either reassure each other of benign defensive intentions or pick up on offensive intentions, his book challenges the notion that intentions are fundamentally unknowable in international politics, a central idea in IR theory.

    • A ground-breaking theory of face-to-face diplomacy that answers 'why do leaders expend so much energy pursuing face-to-face diplomacy when international relations theory suggests it is useless?'
    • Provides a new methodological and epistemological approach to incorporating social neuroscience into international relations theory, featuring concrete examples
    • Presents new evidence and a fresh analysis of landmark cases of twentieth-century diplomatic history that continue to be debated today
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    • Co-winner, 2019 Diplomatic Studies Section (DPLST) Book Prize, International Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Marcus Holmes advances an innovative and compelling argument for taking face-to-face diplomacy seriously. He not only shows that it works – something that diplomats know intuitively – but also explains how and why face-to-face encounters have shaped key events in global politics.' Roland Bleiker, University of Queensland

    'After many years Face-to-Face Diplomacy brings the poverty of theory in the literature on summit diplomacy to an end. This is an excellent study by a fine mind and, in that sense, a milestone.' Jan Melissen, Co-Editor of The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael' and University of Antwerp

    'Holmes' new book is at the forefront of an overdue turn in international relations scholarship examining the pre-rational processes that guide most human behavior and how they affect foreign policy decision-making. Face-to-Face Diplomacy unsettles strongly held assumptions in international relations scholarship, such as the idea that information must be costly to be convincing and is processed deliberately and consciously. This is a new step forward in international relations scholarship, deftly integrating insights from neuroscience and providing an answer for what leaders have long known – it is important to meet face-to-face.' Brian Rathbun, University of Southern California

    'The book will be of immense interest to scholars and students of diplomatic studies, IR, world history, social neuroscience, psychology, and anyone else interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the social sciences. The book is of substantial value for practitioners - diplomats and leaders - who might find the empirical cases of interpersonal communication between state leaders enlightening, instructive, and worth keeping in mind in the continuously evolving practice of diplomacy.' Olga Krasnyak, International Studies Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108404440
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.426kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The puzzle of face-to-face diplomacy
    2. Face value: the problem of intentions and social neuroscience
    3. Reassurance at the end of the Cold War: Gorbachev and Reagan face-to-face
    4. Unification and distribution after the wall falls: a flurry of face-to-face
    5. Overcoming distrust at Camp David
    6. 'Munich'
    7. Escaping uncertainty

  • Author

    Marcus Holmes, College of William and Mary, Virginia
    Marcus Holmes is Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary, Virginia. He is co-editor of Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (2015, with Corneliu Bjola) and has written articles for multiple journals including International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of Theoretical Politics.


    • Co-winner, 2019 Diplomatic Studies Section (DPLST) Book Prize, International Studies Association

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