My in-progress PhD uses process tracing as one of its main research methodologies. Publisher Palgrave Macmillan has two major regional studies out this year — Fatemeh Shayan’s Security in the Persian Gulf Region, and Yandry Kurniawan’s The Politics of Securitization in Democratic Indonesia — which use process tracing. Good to see the methodology being used more.
I’ve followed S.M. Amadae‘s work for several years. Her 2016 book Prisoners of Reason informs Chapter 1 of my PhD on theory-building in strategic culture. Now, I’m reading her 1999 PhD dissertation from the University of California Berkeley on the 1944-85 history of rational choice theory. I know that rational choice frameworks have influenced Jack Snyder’s later work and Martha Crenshaw’s analysis of terrorist organisations. I also note that Amadae thanks Philip Mirowski in her acknowledgments. Amadae and Mirowski’s work are writing models for possible future research. For example, it may be possible to write a similar history of strategic culture research that goes beyond Alastair Iain Johnston’s influential generations framework.
Author and scholar Aaron Cheak is on the latest Daimonosophy 2.0 podcast where he briefly talks about Metis as “cunning awareness” and as a kind of fluid engagement with the world that reshapes the psyche. He mentions Peter Kingsley’s book Reality (The Golden Sufi Center, 2004) on Metis. Cheak and I discussed Metis and Kingsley’s book in 2005-06, in the context of my 1998 Book of Oblique Strategies ‘received text’ experience.
In 2005-06 whilst at Monash University, I considered early warning indicators to prevent genocide. One of the limits was the lack of a multinational rapid response capability. Now, Yf Reykers and John Karlsrud have a new overview article in Contemporary Security Review, introducing some recent scholarly research. Here’s the abstract:
Military rapid response mechanisms are generally understood as troops that are on standby, ready to be deployed to a crisis within a short time frame. Yet, the overall track record of the existing multinational rapid response mechanisms within the European Union, the African Union, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization remains disappointing, and the United Nations does not even have a rapidly deployable capacity anymore. Meanwhile, despite that calls for the further development of these mechanisms are still being voiced politically, scholarly literature remains fragmented. This is problematic as many of the obstacles faced by these organizations are similar. This forum uniquely compares experiences from the four aforementioned organizations. Drawing on these insights, this introductory article identifies some key factors that hamper or enable the development and deployment of multinational rapid response mechanisms.
I’ve been following Philip Mirowski‘s work on economics and science ever since I spotted a copy of Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes A Cyborg Science (Cambridge University Press, 2001) in RMIT University’s Swanston St, Melbourne library. Mirowski’s book Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste (Verso, 2013) was one of the best studies of the 2008 global financial crisis and neoliberalism’s ideological role. Now, he has coauthored The Knowledge We Have Lost In Information (Oxford University Press, 2017) on how modern economics deals with information. Mirowski’s work is a culturally informed model that I will use for in-progress PhD and post-thesis research.
Thomas Wendt‘s Persistent Fools: Cunning Intelligence and the Politics of Design (Createspace, 2017) considers Metis as an “anti-strategy” that can inform a sustainability design ethic. The book’s details:
Persistent Fools: Cunning Intelligence and the Politics of Design explores the manipulative qualities of design, the unsustainability of capitalist rationalism, the anti-strategies of cunning intelligence, and new approaches for responsible and ethical design practice. Design is not a purely benevolent activity. Even in an age of human-centered design (or perhaps because of it), the practice is linked to deception. But rather than this being a downfall, Persistent Fools argues that we can use its deceptive qualities to introduce a new way of strategizing: cunning intelligence over rational logic. The very connection between design, deception, and capitalist exploitation might also be the lever for shifting power relations back toward sustainability, if only we can flip the dominant logic. Persistent Fools argues that design is a political act and should be understood as such. It is a call to action for designers to shed the baggage of industrialist thinking and adopt new forms of futuring that are better equipped to deal with social and political complexity.
I updated my Research page and Google Scholar profile today to reflect Metis (cunning intelligence) as the hedgehog concept that underpins my personal research program. In particular, I am interested in Metis in the context of foreign policy decision-making, investigative journalism, hedge funds, and special warfare.
Andrew Silke – always worth reading – and Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen have a new article out in Terrorism and Political Violence on the topic. Here’s the abstract:
In a context where widespread failings in the nature of terrorism research are well recognised—yet where the quantity of work is still enormous—is it possible to fairly assess whether the field is progressing or if it has become mired in mediocre research? Citation analysis is widely used to reveal the evolution and extent of progress in fields of study and to provide valuable insight into major trends and achievements. This study identifies and analyses the current 100 most cited journal articles in terrorism studies. A search was performed using Google Scholar for peer-reviewed journal articles on subjects related to terrorism and counter-terrorism. The most cited articles were published across sixty-two journals, which reflected the interdisciplinary nature of terrorism studies. Compared to other articles, the most cited articles were more likely to be the result of collaborative research and were also more likely to provide new data. Sixty-three of the top 100 articles have been published since 2001. The findings are discussed in relation to the evolution of terrorism research and current debates on progress in the field. (emphasis added)
Joshua Green’s new memoir Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (Penguin, 2017) has grabbed my attention this week. I’m hoping for some good anecdotes about Bannon’s interest in Michael Milken, his time with Goldman Sachs, his Hollywood financing and documentary film career, and his interest in the Traditionalist scholar Rene Guenon. Green’s memoir will make a good counterpoint to Charles Clover’s Black Wind, White Snow (Yale University Press, 2016) on Alexander Dugin, who is also influenced by Traditionalist writings. This is territory that I first came across in the early 1990s, and it is fascinating to see it evolve.