The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Yet another introduction

June 4, 2005

It looks like I’ll be the “senior scholar” on this blog. Less formally, that makes me “the old fart,” trying to avoid becoming “deadwood.”

My academic career began in the ’70s, as I started college at the University of Kansas in 1979. Back then, Dan and Patrick were probably trading baseball cards, watching “Star Wars” for the 23rd time (though very few people had VCRs then), and reading Robert Heinlein’s books. I hate to think about Bill’s age in 1979; he was almost surely a toddler.

Though I fully intended to become an attorney when I was growing up, by 1983 I knew too many unhappy lawyers and decided to go to grad school instead. Yes, like some of my cohorts here, I was a “made man” in the debate mafia. However, I was interested in public policy rather than law — especially defense and foreign policy. Thus, I decided to attend the University of Maryland because it is inside the beltway and because the Government and Politics Department offered me a nice assistantship. The school had also recently hired some fairly big name experts on nuclear strategy, deterrence and proliferation, which were my primary areas of interest back then (and strategic defense, of course). So, I was in College Park and studying international security and public policy analysis during the first Reagan administration. Then, I spent a couple years on the fellowship circuit (Stanford and Chicago) and taught as an adjunct for two years at Northwestern.

I landed my first tenure-track job in 1991 at the University of Louisville. Fourteen years later I’m still here and am now a full Professor. My second sabbatical is ending and I just returned from a semester spent at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. I’m not really a “tenured radical,” though my politics are probably well to the left of your average blue state voter. Some university colleagues think I’m to their right because I think there are legitimate circumstances when states should use force and I do not believe that government can solve every problem.

My scholarship focuses on the intersection between democratic politics and international relations. At one point, that primarily meant exploring the importance of public opinion and interest groups on national security and foreign policymaking, but my recently published coauthored book (with Nayef Samhat) is called Democratizing Global Politics; Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). We explore the increased participation of various non-state actors in international organizations (IOs) and regimes, and the increased transparency of those institutions. Though I’m not inclined to debate serious social theory with Dan and Patrick, the book is inspired by the work of Jürgen Habermas. Nayef and I are interested in public deliberation, political accountability and legitimacy.

In the 1990s, I spent a lot of time working on global environmental politics, and I am still interested in that topic. Most recently, however, my research has returned to questions of international security, focusing on the so-called Bush Doctrine and the evolution of norms limiting the legitimate use of force in IR. Lately, Peter Dombrowski and I have looked at the way other states view the prospects for “pre-emptive” and “preventive” war.

Let’s see, what else might readers want to know?

I spend far too much time watching and thinking about baseball. My leanings are towards the analytical writings of Bill James and the spirit of “Bull Durham” rather than the nostalgia of David Halberstam and the sentiment of “Field of Dreams.” As a KC Royals fan for over thirty years, I’ve experienced the very good and very bad times that baseball can offer. To meet my own competitive urges, I’ve owned a team in the 24-team “original bitnet fantasy baseball league” since 1991. That’s correct: bitnet.

What else? I like Americana music (especially “alt-country“), film noir, and full-flavored ale. I remain a big fan of Jayhawk basketball and I have read the overwhelming majority of books and stories by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Elmore Leonard.

Sometimes I wonder what it says about a person that he likes to read dark tales about criminals living on the fringes of society. Apparently, FBI profilers believe that serial killers study their predecessors. The Patriot Act implicitly assumes that terrorists check out books about their craft.

Since I have no intention of becoming a killer or thief, I think my reading habits reflect my interest in IR. These books highlight the nasty side of human nature, but the authors make that seem normal, if not beyond redemption. My scholarship tries to figure out exactly what to do about that problem.

Incidentally, my own IR-themed blog began in September 2003 and I’ll still be posting regularly there. At least for now.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.