Reading Between the Matrices: Conflicting Strategies in The Strategy of Conflict
Edwards Abbey, Ruth
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Thomas Schelling is one of the first writers to apply game theory to the study of international relations and his 1960 work, The Strategy of Conflict, is the first book in which he does this. As such, this work is a seminal text in what is currently one of the dominant family of approaches to international relations theory -- rationalism. This paper offers a close reading of The Strategy of Conflict which highlights the many significant tensions the text is heir to and seeks to demonstrate that in many places and on many important questions, Schelling's arguments undermine themselves. Read in this way, The Strategy of Conflict is not just one of the seminal works in the rationalist tradition of international relations theory, but is also a testament to the limitations, difficulties and perhaps even impossibility of using game theory to explain international relations.