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Strategies for GoverningReinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century$
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Alasdair Roberts

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501714405

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501714405.001.0001

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Danger, Strategic Fragility, and Realism

Danger, Strategic Fragility, and Realism

(p.77) Chapter 11 Danger, Strategic Fragility, and Realism
Strategies for Governing

Alasdair Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies how some scholars who study international relations subscribe to a way of thinking about the world called realism. Niccolò Machiavelli is considered one of the intellectual godfathers of realism. Realists believe that the world is a dangerous place, full of risks to essential state interests, and that leaders must be alert to these risks. The chapter then explains that threats managed by leaders come in many forms. Leaders try to manage such dangers by crafting strategies for governing and renovating institutions to give effect to those strategies. They are engaged in the work of threat management. Leaders hope that these strategies will provide long-lasting protection against the most serious dangers, but this hope is often dashed. Events move too quickly and strategies become outmoded. To put it another way, governance strategies are typically fragile. They require constant maintenance and renovation to accommodate an ever-changing array of risks. To protect the national interest, realists argue, leaders sometimes have to make choices that would be indefensible by the standards of conventional morality.

Keywords:   international relations, realism, Niccolò Machiavelli, realists, state interests, state leaders, governance strategies, state institutions, threat management, strategic fragility

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