Abstract:Archie Brown belongs to that small, distinguished and deservedly proud band of Sovietologists who saw early on that Mikhail Gorbachev recognized the need for major changes in domestic and foreign policy. His eloquently argued and richly documented book The Gorbachev Factor remains the landmark study of the Soviet leader's role in the tumultuous events of the USSR's last years. This distinguished record of analysis and scholarship makes him arguably the leading proponent of the view that Gorbachev played a deci… Show more
“… 49. On the perception of power in IR theory, see Morgenthau 1948. For an example from empirical IR, see Brooks and Wohlforth 2006 on declining power as experienced by Gorbachev during the late 1980s. …”
Status has long been implicated as a critical value of states and leaders in international politics. However, decades of research on the link between status and conflict have yielded divergent findings, and little evidence of a causal relationship. I attempt to resolve this impasse by shifting the focus from status to relative status concerns in building a theory of status from the ground up, beginning with its behavioral microfoundations. I build on and extend previous work through an experimental study of status threats and the escalation of commitment, operationalized here as a new behavioral escalation task using real financial incentives and framed around a narrative of war and peace. I utilize a unique sample of high-profile political and military leaders from the Senior Executive Fellow (SEF) program at the Harvard Kennedy School, as well as a group of demographically matched control subjects, allowing me to evaluate the moderating effect of power on status concerns while also addressing typical concerns about external validity in IR experiments. I find strong evidence that the fear of losing status impedes decision making and increases the tendency to "throw good money after bad," but that power aids decision making by buffering high-power subjects against the worst effects of status loss.A large body of research in international relations (IR) has suggested the importance of status concerns for international conflict. Status-standing in a hierarchy-has been a critical component of both realist and evolutionary theories, as well as empirical work on status inconsistency, power transition theory, and social identity and dominance theory. 1 It has also featured in international political economy (IPE), often as one of the "less tangible payoffs" sought by states. 2 I am especially grateful for the thoughtful comments and suggestions from
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