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Journal Articles Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences Year : 2024

Commitment, Cold War, and the battles of the self


Abstract Economist Nobelist Thomas C. Schelling (1921–2016) is known for his contribution to the analysis of international conflict and many see him as the Cold Warrior par excellence. At a time of great uncertainties and dangers, Schelling combined a deep understanding of strategic analysis, a detailed knowledge of US commitments around the world and an inimitable talent for dissecting everyday behavior, which made him a think tank all on his own. When he turned to the analysis of bargaining in the mid‐1950s, one question dominated policy discussions: “How to demonstrate the US commitment to the ‘free world’”? Schelling answered unequivocally: By restricting one's choices so as to shift others' expectations and thereby influence their behavior in the desired direction. By the mid‐1970s, after he had broken with the US administration and joined the Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior, Schelling transposed the tactics deployed in international conflict to the analysis of individuals trying to achieve self‐control. In the process, he reproduced the logic of military conflict at the level of the self. The view of a conflicted self itself comprised of two selves made restricted choice the daily routine of individuals who wish to avoid the negative consequences of their present behavior in the future while it promised those who enjoy unbounded freedom of choice an unsettling future.
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hal-04590190 , version 1 (28-05-2024)




Philippe Fontaine. Commitment, Cold War, and the battles of the self: Thomas Schelling on behavior control. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 2024, 60 (2), ⟨10.1002/jhbs.22302⟩. ⟨hal-04590190⟩
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