March 8, 2018

Tractable Directions for Statecraft Research

We attempted to lay out an overall scope of the project. More thought on overall scope would probably tighten it up considerably, but the preliminary version produced was disorganized and didn’t shed much light.

There are two big conclusions from the scope-explicating experiment:

  1. Theory of state is of central importance. The other parts of society (Industry, Culture, Military) are mainly important for their interdependency on the state.

  2. Theory of knowledge generation, which is how we get and maintain knowledge of state etc, is also centrally important, but even more underdeveloped.

The intended output of the scope discussion was insight into what we should immediately be working on, what we will eventually have to work on, and information for overall planning of the project.

To some extent we can punt on the latter questions: We’ll figure out later and over time what the overall shape is, as long as we can make immediate progress on things that are near-central and definitely necessary.

As it happens, the above two directions of research, theory of state, and theory of knowledge generation, are also directions we could immediately tackle:

  • We have substantial but unsystematized thoughts in the area of the state and related areas, like the fundamental dynamics of power which underlie it.

  • We have threads to pull on in theory of knowledge generation, in particular our idea that this can be done as a real science, and how to do so.

These seem like the most tractable big projects to work on. That said, we will continue to think about culture and industrial organization, especially as there are big unanswered questions of relevance to statecraft in those areas.

Edited and curated by Wolf Tivy

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