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Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award ($5000).

For the best book published in 1999 on government, politics, or international affairs.

Award Committee: John Aldrich, Duke University, chair; Ray Hopkins, Swarthmore College; and Nancy Rosenblum, Brown University.

Recipient: Barry O'Neill, Stanford University

Book: Honor. Symbols. and War (University of Michigan Press)

Citation: Honor. Symbols, and War by Barry O'Neill analyzes often-imprecise ideas with logical rigor, synthesizing contemporary understandings from the theory of games, the philosophy of language, and comparative linguistics, to make a bold assault on such concepts as honor, face, and prestige and their role in war-making and peace-seeking. O'Neill combines a focus on issues of enhanced scholarly recognition, especially the role of symbols, norms and ideas, with the technical rigor afforded by the strategic calculus.

The core to the book's success is the careful elucidation of the meaning of symbolism. O'Neill develops conceptions of message, focal, and value symbols. These conceptions (especially the first two) are then contextualized in a systematic collection of symbols in international relations discourse, as presented in the news. This core is completed by tying this logical and empirical set of conceptions to the beliefs, strategies, and actions of game theory.

O'Neill then proceeds to develop a series of specific instances of this core approach. He begins with the idea of national honor, ties it to a game of incomplete information, and develops not only the logic of what he calls the basic game of honor, but also the nature and form of challenges to honor and commitments based on the necessity to retain honor. He next considers "face," again embedding his conception in a game theoretic setting, and then analyzes insults as challenges to (or as he puts it, "assaults on") face, and derives results about international commitments based on face. He continues by examining models of apologizing based on honor and based on face and how the international setting for apologies differs from the inter-personal setting. His last set of theoretical topics develop comparative analyzes of prestige, normative regimes, and moral authority. He applies the full range of what are by now carefully integrated accounts to important aspects of issues dealing with nuclear weapons.

Overall, the growing importance of norms, ideas, and institutions in our globalized world is a reason to especially praise this book. The importance of symbolism in politics, celebrated by Harold Lasswell decades ago, is rejuvenated in important ways that captures intuitive sensibilities underpinned by mathematical game analyses. Aesthetically, the book is both accessible and yet technically rich. The committee was and we believe the community will also be impressed by the originality of insights and results obtained, and their potential applicability to domestic as well as international politics. It is precisely because this set of ambitious is so audacious and yet O'Neill is so successful that Honor, Symbols, and War is awarded the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for 2000.

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Publication:PS: Political Science & Politics
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:473
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