Threats and Promises
The Pursuit of International Influence
Conventional wisdom dictates that the conditions of international politics require states to pursue "tough" strategies based on threats, ruling out "soft" strategies such as reassurances or appeasement. In Threats and Promises, James W. Davis, Jr., works toward a theory of influence in international politics that recognizes the power of promises and assurances as tools of statecraft.
Davis offers an analytic treatment of promises and assurances, drawing on relevant strands of international relations theory and deterrence theory, as well as cognitive and social psychology. Building on prospect theory (from cognitive psychology), he develops a testable theory of influence that suggests promises are most effective when potential aggressors are motivated by a desire to avoid loss. Davis then considers a series of case studies drawn principally from German diplomatic relations in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century. From the case studies—which focus on such issues as European stability, colonial competition, and the outbreak of the First World War—Davis shows how a blending of threats and promises according to reasoned principles can lead to a new system of more creative statecraft.
While many critical analyses exist on the use of threats, there are relatively few on the use of promises. Davis argues that promises have been central to outcomes that were previously attributed to the successful use of deterrent threats, as well as the resolution of many crises where threats failed to deter aggression. Threats and Promises challenges the conventional wisdom and is an original contribution to the field of international politics.
About the Author
James W. Davis, Jr., is an associate professor of international politics at the Geschwister-Scholl-Institut of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, and an Associate editor of the European Journal of International Relations.
James Davis's important and persuasive new book addresses the previously under-theorized issue of promises and assurances in international relations.
Davis has written a perceptive and thought-provoking book.
Threats and Promises is a tightly argued and well-written dissection of the logic and praxis of promises as part of a broader strategy of influence. Davis develops a coherent set of propositions which is informed by the arguments of prospect theory. This analysis will be a central part of any further examination of strategies of influence.
A solid contribution from a talented young scholar who makes the first serious effort to explore the relevance of prospect theory for evaluating the role of threats and promises in the conduct of foreign policy and for combining them in a much-needed broader influence theory.
An insightful, well-argued, and indeed elegant study of a neglected problem: the role of promises and assurances in international politics. The central idea is that when aggressive behavior is rooted in anxiety and not in greed, it might not make sense to deal with it through a strategy of deterrence—that indeed in such cases more flexible strategies might well be in order. A scholarly and provocative piece of work.
|Johns Hopkins University Press|
Other Titles in POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
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