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12/29/2012

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Keyanna

Enlightening the world, one hepflul article at a time.

Robert O. Keohane

This blog about bewilderment resonates with me. I am a scholar of international relations who has tried to understand puzzles such as why, in a world of states that is often seen as "anarchic," some degree of international government exists, in the form of international organizations, not just the UN (of varying effectiveness) but the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization, all of which have important impacts on the world political economy. I have found that my most important contributions to helping to solve this puzzle (e.g. in AFTER HEGEMONY: COOPERATION AND DISCORD IN THE WORLD POLITICAL ECONOMY, Princeton University Press, 1984) have come when I have been utterly confused. For two years before figuring out what to say in this book I was reluctant to go to academic cocktail parties since I would be asked what I was working on and could not articulate my argument. Conversely, when I am not really confused I am typically not working on such a basic and important problem as the one of how to explain institutionalized cooperation in world politics -- I am working on more minor problems. So I concluded that for me at least, being bewildered is a necesary condition for my best discoveries. I think that Shimer prepared me for this experience since reading Plato or Hobbes (both of whom I hated when I read them)bewildered me. Why are these works considered "great?" By whom and why? Reading textbooks will not bewilder you (except if you wonder why you should spend your life this way!), and therefore will not prepare you for the importance of bewilderment in the process of intellectual discovery.

-- Robert O. Keohane, Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University (Shimer B.A. 1961).

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