JSP Scope

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Faculty in the Spotlight: Philip Selznick

The December 18 issue of The New Yorker magazine carries a fascinating critique of US military strategy in Iraq and the war on terror (George Packer, A Reporter at Large: Knowing the Enemy: Can Social Scientists Redefine the War on Terror). The gist of the argument is that US military strategy relies too much on hard power and not enough on social science informed soft power directed toward the social networks and local contexts that fuel global insurgencies. In pointing back to classic examples of social science informed strategic thinking, Packer cites JSP founder Philip Selznick's 1952 classic, The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics. Of course the implicit optimism about our ability to win the war on terrorism if we only learn more from social science, begs a question raised by the later Selznick: can a morally bankrupt mission be saved by good social science ? (see, The Moral Commonwealth: Social Theory and the Problem of Community).