Kornprobst, Markus.
Kornprobst, Markus. "The agent's logics of action: defining and mapping political judgement." International Theory 3.1 (2011): 70-104.
Publication year: 2010

The agent’s logics of action: defining and mapping political judgment

By Markus Kornprobst



How do individual actors figure out what to do? This article advocates a departure from carving up research on this key question about political agency into narrow scholarly categories. Such categories, especially what has to become framed as incompatible logics of action in International Relations Theory, may make for neat and tidy scholarly boxes. But they miss the winding roads through which actors come to embark on a course of action. In order to overcome this shortcoming, I start with uncovering an important clue on which authors adhering to different logics of action converge; political agency has a lot to do with making judgments. I proceed with conceptualising political judgment broadly in terms of subsuming particulars and universals. I follow up with outlining a map for empirical research on judgment that helps us follow the actors in how they figure out what to do (the agent’s logics of action) rather than superimposing our narrow scholarly categories on their reasoning (a scholarly logic of action). Scrutinising the usefulness of this map, finally, I analyse McNamara’s exercise of political agency during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The findings underline my overall argument: the inclusive conceptualisation of political judgment, coupled with the balance of theoretical and empirical inquiry that the research map facilitates, improves on our understandings of how actors figure out what to do.


Acknowledgements. I am grateful to the British Academy and the Vienna School of International Studies for generously funding this research. I would also like to thank Fiona Adamson, Felix Ciuta, Andrew Hobson, David Hudson, Andrew Hurrell, David Karp, Ned Lebow, Harald Müller, Christine Reh, Raluca Soreanu, Sherill Stroschein, Ralph Walker, the anonymous referees and especially the editors of IT for their very helpful comments. As ever, I remain indebted to Emanuel Adler, who made me think about political agency in the first place, and Vincent Pouliot whose grasp of practice challenges me to broaden my understanding of communication.



  • International Relations


Last draft before final version and publication in International Theory 3.1 (2011): 70-104.


Full bibliographical details: Kornprobst, Markus. „The agent’s logics of action: defining and mapping political judgement.“ International Theory 3.1 (2011): 70-104.