Program on STS, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA
"Inventing the Neoliberal Subject: Nuclear Deterrence, Game Theory, and Neoliberal Political Economy."
Game theory and the decision sciences are now recognized to be powerful tools for social scientific modeling, as well as standards for making rational choices. They offer descriptive, normative, and prescriptive bases for modeling individual and public policy decisions. It is becoming increasingly known how the invention of nuclear weapons and their inseparability from US USSR brinkmanship are implicated in the development of strategic rationality, command and control, and hegemonic stability theory. However, as yet the connection between rational deterrence and late twentieth-century neoliberal political economy has not been made explicit. This presentation explores how Cold War nuclear anxiety and strategic dilemmas provided the conditions for the possibility of reimagining the citizen and consumer in the image of Homo strategicus. Older traditions of political liberalism based on normative bargaining, the no-harm principle, and consensual agreements yielded to coercive bargaining, profiteering by imposing external costs on others, and relying on the threat of punishment to sustain compliance.