“…This relates to another great economic sin of contemporary IR theory: the hyperrationalist turn. Most clearly seen in the influential rationalist explanations for war approach, it reflects the uncritical adaptation of a certain type of macroeconomics: rational expectations theory. But the limits to rational expectations were revealed analytically for decades and ultimately exposed by the global financial crisis.”
As Kirshner argues uncontroversially elsewhere, Alan Greenspan and friends had too much faith in a particular free-market model. We know that most narratives about “what went wrong” involve bankers putting their own interests above those of firm, taxpayer, and wider financial system. But how does the fact that economists and practitioners didn’t pay enough attention to the incentives of bankers undermine “rationalism” at all, let alone rationalism in a different field?
I hope the forthcoming article will help me better understand the argument. If not, it will join a growing list of puzzling criticisms made by people I respect of rationalist scholars. Just last week I came across Anne-Marie Slaughter’s review of Henry Kissinger’s World Order. In that review, she tars Kissinger with the “game theorist” label either because he uses chess and poker metaphors or because he envisions a world of states as opposed to a world of people. Game theory for her is a tool for statists: only those with a state-centric lens still think in terms of competition and strategy. (She implies at one point that game theory molds the minds of “would-be statesmen." This made me smile given what people in Washington tend to say they hate most about academic IR.)
I would only point out that strategic interaction and the “high-stakes games” she seems to dismiss are just as central to humanitarian intervention as they are to traditional interstate interaction. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if a few closet modelers served on the Atrocities Prevention Board.