Role Theory and the Cognitive Architecture of British Appeasement Decisions

Symbolic and Strategic Interaction in World Politics

By Stephen G. Walker

© 2014 – Routledge

246 pages

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Paperback: 9780415709477
pub: 2014-12-15
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About the Book

Appeasement is a controversial strategy of conflict management and resolution in world politics. Its reputation is sullied by foreign policy failures ending in war or defeat in which the appeasing state suffers diplomatic and military losses by making costly concessions to other states. Britain’s appeasement policies toward Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1930s are perhaps the most notorious examples of the patterns of failure associated with this strategy. Is appeasement’s reputation deserved or is this strategy simply misunderstood and perhaps improperly applied?

Role theory offers a general theoretical solution to the appeasement puzzle that addresses these questions, and the answers should be interesting to political scientists, historians, students, and practitioners of cooperation and conflict strategies in world politics. As a social-psychological theory of human behavior, role theory has the capacity to unite the insights of various existing theories of agency and structure in the domain of world politics. Demonstrating this claim is the methodological aim in this book and its main contribution to breaking new ground in international relations theory.

Reviews

"This book unequivocally demonstrates the theoretical and empirical utility of role theory for IR while at the same time providing new insights into British foreign policy in the 1930s. Walker’s mix of historical narrative and formal analysis is unexcelled. All those concerned with agents and structures will find this book enlightening and refreshing—a must read."

—John Vasquez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Observers of world politics have long agreed that Britain's decisions to appease Imperial Japan, Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany contributed to the outbreak of World War II, but they have proposed varying explanations for those decisions. Drawing upon both archival evidence and mathematical analysis, Stephen Walker's path-breaking new book develops a compelling case for role theory as a general analytic solution to ‘the appeasement puzzle.’ His conclusion indicates that leaders’ beliefs and preferences provide a powerful explanation for how and why foreign policy decisions are made."

—Ole R. Holsti, Duke University

Table of Contents

Part I: Role Theory: The Puzzle of Britain’s Appeasement Decisions in the 1930s. 1. The Appeasement Puzzle in World Politics 2. Modeling the Appeasement Strategy. 3. Role Theory and the Uncertainty Problem in International Relations Theory. Part II: Role Demands: Substantive Rationality and Structural Adaptation. 4. Britain’s Roles in the Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1931-1933. 5. Britain’s Roles in the Italo-Abyssinian and Rhineland Conflicts, 1934-1936. 6. Britain’s Roles in the Search for Peace, 1937-1938. 7. Britain’s Roles on the Road to War, 1939-1941. Part III: Role Conceptions: Bounded Rationality and Experiential Learning. 8. Psychological Mechanisms and British Decision-Making Processes. 9. Turning Points for Peace: The Anschluss and the Sudeten Conflict in 1938. 10. Turning Points for War: The Prague Coup and the Polish Conflict, 1939. Part IV: Role Enactments: Communicative Rationality and Altercasting. 11. Binary Role Theory and Britain’s Appeasement Decisions. 12. Crossing Simon’s Bridge: Is Binary Role Theory a Theory of Everything

About the Author

Stephen G. Walker is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University. He served as a co-editor of International Studies Quarterly (1985) and as a vice-president of the International Society of Political Psychology (1997-1999) and the International Studies Association (2003-2004). He received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Foreign Policy Section of the International Studies Association in 2003.

About the Series

Role Theory and International Relations

Advisory Board: Marijke Breuning (University of North Texas), Sebastian Harnisch (University of Heidelberg), Valerie Hudson (Texas A & M University), Paul Kowert (Florida International University), Stephen G. Walker (Arizona State University).

The Role Theory and International Relations Series aspires to attract and publish the latest and best research integrating knowledge in the field of International Relations with role theory. This aspiration cuts across a wide swath of subfields, including foreign policy analysis, peace and security studies, international political economy, diplomatic studies, and international organization. While each of these subfields of study is presently organized as an "island of theory," this series intends to integrate their signature phenomena within a system of knowledge, a "theory complex" or an alliance among different subfields. This series showcases the ability of role theory to generate useful theoretical insights on its own or in combination with existing theories across these traditional subfields. Role theory’s conceptual repertoire, plus its ability to span multiple levels of analyses and the major meta-theoretical divides in the discipline position it to be an important integrative force in the study of International Relations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POL000000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / General
POL010000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POL011000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General