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The Decisionist Imagination

The Decisionist Imagination

Daniel Bessner | Nicolas Guilhot


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In the decades following World War II, the science of decision-making moved from the periphery to the center of transatlantic thought. The Decisionist Imagination explores how “decisionism” emerged from its origins in prewar political theory to become an object of intense social scientific inquiry in the new intellectual and institutional landscapes of the postwar era. By bringing together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, this volume illuminates how theories of decision shaped numerous techno-scientific aspects of modern governance—helping to explain, in short, how we arrived at where we are today.

Daniel Bessner is the Anne H. H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Assistant Professor in American Foreign Policy in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Cornell University Press, 2018).

Nicolas Guilhot is a research professor at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris and a visiting scholar at New York University. His publications include After the Enlightenment: Political Realism and International Relations in the Mid-20th Century (Cambridge University Press, 2017), The Democracy Makers: Human Rights and the Politics of Global Order (Columbia University Press, 2005), The Invention of International Relations Theory: Realism, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 1954 Conference on Theory (Columbia University Press, 2011).

The Decisionist Imagination expertly outlines the development of a key component of social scientific thought, placing it into historical context across the whole of the twentieth century, providing a systematic analysis and evaluation of a core concept present in virtually all academic fields.” • Inderjeet Parmar, City, University of London

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
The Decisionist Imagination iii
Copyright Page iv
Contents v
List of Figures and Tables vii
Acknowledgments viii
Introduction. Who Decides? 1
Chapter 1. Reading the International Mind 27
Chapter 2. Militant Democracy as Decisionist Liberalism 64
Chapter 3. Parliamentary and Electoral Decisions as Political Acts 85
Chapter 4. Decision and Decisionism 109
Chapter 5. How Having Reasons Became Making a Decision 135
Chapter 6. Computable Rationality, NUTS, and the Nuclear Leviathan 173
Chapter 7. The Unlikely Revolutionaries 217
Chapter 8. Prediction and Social Choice 250
Chapter 9. Predictive Algorithms and Criminal Sentencing 272
Conclusion. The Myth of the Decision 295
Index 303