Friday, July 15, 2011

They Want What?

Kenneth Waltz (in 1959) surveys the contributions of "behaviorial scientists" to international relations:
Thus James Miller … thinks the cause of peace might be greatly advanced if we could plant one thousand trained social scientists in the Soviet Union, disguised as Russians, who would use the latest techniques of public opinion sampling to find out what the Russians are thinking. Gordon Allport advocates arranging the entrance to the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Security Council, and Unesco so that the delegates will have to pass through the playground of a nursery school on the way to their meetings. And J. Cohen, another psychologist, believes that the cause of peace might be promoted if women were substituted for men in the governing of nations.
--Waltz, Kenneth N. (2010), Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis (pp. 46-47).
Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition

This all sounds pretty weird to us and I suspect also to Waltz, but I suspect that we don't find the idea of “women...substituted for men in the governing of nations” weird in quite the same way it seemed weird to Waltz. I suppose I can cut him some slack on this one: aside from Wu Zeitan, Catherine de Medici, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Cleopatra, I don't suppose he had a great deal to go on. The question really would be: was “J. Cohen” right that the presence of women would lead to a kinder, gentler politics?

I know the easy answer is: Margaret Thatcher! Indira Gandhi! Ha! And I admit that when you look at the current lot, you sometimes wonder why we ever gave them the vote. But these are side issues. I think on the whole the answer has to be emphatically yes, we do get—well, perhaps not a kinder, gentler politics, but a steadier, more issue-oriented politics with less banty-rooster posturing, less risk-taking (whether it also means fewer boy-toys is a question on which perhaps the votes are still out). And at the very least, I know of no case where a female politician has been outed for buying oral sex from a cleaner at a six-star hotel.

Afterthought: I do think all those “social scientists disguised as Russians” would have made a great Peter Sellers movie, though.

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