Imagining empathy: counterfactual methods and the US-Iran security dilemma

Baker, Joshua George (2017). Imagining empathy: counterfactual methods and the US-Iran security dilemma. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The overall contribution of this thesis is to develop a conceptualisation of empathy for the security dilemma, and to empirically explore this conceptualisation through a counterfactual case study of US foreign policy towards Iran, 2001-2010. It achieves this in three stages. First, it shows how the concept of empathy has long been implicitly central to security dilemma theorising. In particular, it demonstrates that security dilemma theorists have drawn upon implicit and unspecified notions of empathy in order to answer the crucial question of how security dilemma dynamics between adversaries can be overcome. Second, it addresses this omission by developing a conceptualisation of empathy that speaks to the unique context of the security dilemma. In mediating between different understandings of empathy across a number of literatures, the thesis proposes a conceptualisation that emphasises the importance of reflexivity and notions of difference. And third, it uses an innovative counterfactual methodology to empirically map the dynamics of empathy onto US foreign policy towards Iran. In doing so the thesis shows how empathy can promote cooperation between adversaries in some instances, but can be inhibited by broader contextual factors in others.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Government and Society, Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations


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