Lepgold Recipients Discuss War Politics
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 19:11
Vanderbilt University professor Giacomo Chiozza and University of Rochester professor Henk Goemans discussed their book “Leaders and International Conflict” at the Mortara Center for International Studies Thursday.
The event honored Goemans and Chiozza for receiving the Georgetown University Lepgold Book Prize, which is named Joseph P. Lepgold, a former professor in the School of Foreign Service and government department who died unexpectedly in a hotel fire in 2001.
The professors’ book analyzes the reasons why world leaders start wars.
“War lurks in the background of international politics because revolution — a forcible or violent removal from office — lurks in the background of domestic politics,” Chiozza said. “It’s not just staying in power that matters. Leaders are also concerned about what might happen to them should they lose power.”
Chiozza and Goemans both emphasized the importance of studying world leaders in addition to systems of government. Because government systems usually remain in place while rulers go in and out of power frequently, rulers’ personal beliefs and practices can explain political changes and trends.
“A lot of variation in international politics is explained at the level of the leader,” Goemans said.
Goemans added that their research can be used to predict the behavior of world leaders.
“From the measures that we have, we are able to trace different levels of probability that leaders would face,” Goemans said.
Lepgold Book Prize committee member and SFS professor James Vreeland praised Chiozza and Goemens’ work.
“This book is exactly the type of book we’re looking for when we look for the prize,” Vreeland said.
Lepgold’s colleague and prize committee member Andrew Bennett agreed. According to Bennett, their work is particularly significant because most work in the field of international relations focuses on larger entities.
“Individuals really matter,” Bennett said. “Only an international relations theorist could forget that.”
Goemans and Chiozza said that they hoped their book would spark new scholarly inquiry into the role of the individual in international relations.
“Once you go deep with something, you always find more puzzles,” Goemans said.
Jooeun Kim, a doctoral candidate in the government department, said that he saw opportunities to build on the authors’ work.
“Their case studies aren’t done in the Asian region, but they’re going to leave a framework,” Kim said. “It will be fascinating if we can find the same result or the opposite result.”
Morten Seja (GRD ’13) also expressed interest in the individual level of analysis.
“I thought it was very interesting, to say the least,” Seja said. “It’s definitely a subject, at least to my knowledge, that’s not studied that much.”
University of Wisconsin professor Helen Kinsella also won an honorable mention for her book “The Image Before the Weapon.”