From Europe's past to the Middle East's future: the constitutive purpose of forward analogies in international security

Why do international security experts and policymakers draw analogies between various contexts? Do they use analogies to help them better predict the future consequences of their actions? Or do they employ analogies for other purposes? This article analyzes how policymakers and experts draw on "forward analogies" (i.e., analogies between observed causal relations and expected causal relations) to advance diplomatic negotiations in a particularly hard context: the deliberations of the weapons of mass destruction Free Zone in the Middle East. In situations in which diplomacy is blocked by the unwillingness of parties to start negotiations, this article claims that forward analogies can not only serve a predictive purpose, but also a constitutive purpose: analogies help "constitute" the reality of regional orders (such as the "Middle East") when their ontological status as objects of deliberation and intervention is problematic. Yet, their successful operation depends on their ability to respect pre-existing cultural scripts and cultural taboos. Furthermore, their constitutive effect remains circumscribed to specific contexts in which forward-looking discussions are clearly distinguished from official negotiations. By highlighting the cultural embeddedness of forward analogies, this article draws upon developments in cultural sociology to advance the burgeoning literature on future-oriented practices in international relations.


Publication year:
2017
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In: American Journal of Cultural Sociology. - 2017, 31 p.
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 Record created 2018-06-21, last modified 2018-06-21

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