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The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

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The Decisionist Imagination

Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

Edited by Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot

320 pages, 1 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-915-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-916-5 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


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


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).

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: North America Europe


List of Figures and Tables

Introduction: Who Decides?
Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot

Chapter 1. Reading the International Mind: International Public Opinion in Early Twentieth Century Anglo-American Thought
Stephen Wertheim

Chapter 2. Militant Democracy as Decisionist Liberalism: Reason and Power in the Work of Karl Loewenstein
Carlo Invernizzi-Accetti and Ian Zuckerman

Chapter 3. Parliamentary and Electoral Decisions as Political Acts
Kari Palonen

Chapter 4. Decision and Decisionism
Nomi Claire Lazar

Chapter 5. How Having Reasons Became Making a Decision: The Cold War Rise of Decision Theory and the Invention of Rational Choice
Philip Mirowski

Chapter 6. Computable Rationality, NUTS, and the Nuclear Leviathan
S.M. Amadae

Chapter 7. The Unlikely Revolutionaries: Decision Sciences in the Soviet Government
Eglė Rindzevičiūtė

Chapter 8. Prediction and Social Choice: Daniel Bell and Future Research
Jenny Andersson

Chapter 9. Predictive Algorithms and Criminal Sentencing
Angèle Christin

Conclusion: The Myth of the Decision


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