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How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold War Rationality [Kindle Edition]

Paul Erickson , Judy L. Klein , Lorraine Daston , Rebecca Lemov , Thomas Sturm , Michael D. Gordin

Kindle-Preis: EUR 17,88 Inkl. MwSt. und kostenloser drahtloser Lieferung über Amazon Whispernet

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"This is an important book, one that should be read not just by historians of science but by anyone interested in the unique intellectual culture of Cold War America." (Hunter Heyck, University of Oklahoma)"


In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and economics, among others—and its participants enlisted in an intellectual campaign to figure out what rationality should mean and how it could be deployed.
How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind brings to life the people—Herbert Simon, Oskar Morgenstern, Herman Kahn, Anatol Rapoport, Thomas Schelling, and many others—and places, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Cowles Commission for Research and Economics, and the Council on Foreign Relations, that played a key role in putting forth a “Cold War rationality.” Decision makers harnessed this picture of rationality—optimizing, formal, algorithmic, and mechanical—in their quest to understand phenomena as diverse as economic transactions, biological evolution, political elections, international relations, and military strategy. The authors chronicle and illuminate what it meant to be rational in the age of nuclear brinkmanship.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 11913 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 272 Seiten
  • Verlag: University of Chicago Press (22. November 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B00GMEJ0L8
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #154.276 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 2.5 von 5 Sternen  2 Rezensionen
7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Shoddy and Chaotic Scholarship 12. Februar 2014
Von Herbert Gintis - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
The message of this book is eloquently expressed by a blurb on the back cover of the book: "In the wake of World War II, a generation of self-proclaimed 'action intellectuals' fought to save the world from nuclear Armageddon. They nearly destroyed it. This extraordinary book explains how and why a generation of American social scientists reconceived human reason as algorithmic rationality---and how, when they did, they delivered us into a world that remains anything but rational."

In fact, and despite the almost unethically misleading title, the book does no such thing. Indeed, it could not because there is no systematic discussion of actual Cold War nuclear policy in the book, and the academics involved did not advocate disastrous policies at all. The issue of algorithmic rationality was extremely important for defense reasons, because nuclear alerts were signaled by computers with sophisticated sensors. But the rational decision theorists and game theorists did not suggest that rule-bound computers should dictate when to launch thermonuclear war.

The book does suggest that these "action intellectuals" conceived of the Cold War as a prisoner's dilemma in which the only rational action was to defect (launch the bombs), but in fact (a) the Cold War was closer to a game of chicken than a prisoner's dilemma; (b) most of the intellectual participants recognized this fact; and (c) very few, except the extreme hard-liners, motivated not by a crazy academic theory but rather by their hatred of Communism, suggested a preemptive nuclear attack.

It would be difficult for me to convey to you, dear reader, the vast gulf between the intellectual credentials of the authors of this book and the quality of the final product. A couple of chapters are perceptive and well written, but most are just a hodge-podge of mundane description and speculative excess. The book should not have been published, and Chicago University Press should be censured for allowing so misleading a title.
10 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Disappointing 14. November 2013
Von Jon Elster - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Disappointing - a missed opportunity to explain the impact of rational-choice theory (quantifying probabilities and utilities with absurd precision) and game theory on Cold War decision-making, especially in Vietnam. The Bundy brothers are not even mentioned; McNamara only in passing, with a retrospective comment from 1989.
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