Handbook of Biology and Politics
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Handbook of Biology and Politics

Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit

The study of biology and politics (or biopolitics) has gained considerable currency in recent years, as articles on the subject have appeared in mainstream journals and books on the subject have been well received. The literature has increased greatly since the 1960s and 1970s, when this specialization first made an appearance. This volume assesses the contributions of biology to political science. Chapters focus on general biological approaches to politics, biopolitical contributions to mainstream areas within political science, and linkages between biology and public policy. The volume provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the subject.
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Chapter 10: Biology and international relations

John M. Friend and Bradley A. Thayer


The field of international relations (IR) has greatly benefited from the Age of Biology. Through the convergence of the social and life sciences, not only can we better understand the strengths and limitations of traditional perspectives and their rational choice assumptions, but we can also better answer the fundamental questions of IR. In fact, the application of the theories and methods of the life sciences, most notably social neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, to the study of foreign policy behavior continues to offer a great deal of insight into the psychological traits and biological mechanisms shaping decision-making during periods of crisis and conflict. This new behavioral revolution in IR has revealed the ways in which emotions, cognitive biases and neural correlates of prejudice influence political decision-making and intergroup interactions, in turn providing a deeper understanding of the what and why of human affairs. Acknowledging the value of biological perspectives on contemporary issues in global politics, this chapter reviews and analyzes new directions of research in IR made possible by the the Age of Biology. Since it is beyond the scope of this chapter to cover every new avenue of research, we focus on five key areas that have benefited the most from the recent advances and technological breakthroughs occurring within the life sciences: (1) political decision-making and leadership behavior; (2) the causes of war and aggression; (3) hyper-nationalism and ethnic conflict; (4) terrorism; and (5) cultural clash. By exploring these five themes through consilient perspectives, we are able to more fully appreciate the importance of bringing human nature back to the study of politics.

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