Joseph Nye Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Theory and Practice in International Relations: Conversation with Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; 4/8/98, by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

Page 2 of 9

Research Interests

As you began your academic research, and let's look a minute at the body of your work. It focuses on problems of state and power in the context of global interdependence and then in the context of globalization.

Yes. Sometimes people will look at where I worked and think that I can't keep a job or can't keep a focus. I seem to find a thread. I did my thesis in East Africa on the East African Common Market. And the key question was, could Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda hold together a common market which would be good for them economically, or would the political pressures of newly independent African countries tear them apart? My thesis predicted they'd be torn apart, alas. Proved to be correct, though too bad for the countries.

I then discovered that the Central American Common Market was working, so I went to Central America and lived in Guatemala to do a study of the Central American Common Market. From that I did a study in Europe of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and also the European Common Market. And that got me interested in trade in difficult materials, particularly nuclear materials. And that then led to the job I had in the State Department, which was dealing with slowing the spread of nuclear weapons. That got me interested in the larger question of weapons, war, and nuclear issues. And that then led to the topic of what was going to happen to American power, was there going to be a decline of American power, which many people believed, at the end of the eighties? I said no, the declinists were wrong.

Then I went back into government, and I have been very much interested in the study of changing power relations about Japan. When I was in government I was able to work on Japan and also the rise of China and problems of East Asia. But then the puzzle of what was happening to government more generally -- Why was it that people were losing confidence in government? How was government going to need to change as we went though an information revolution? -- led me to the current focus that I have, which is on the relationship between government institutions and the change in the nature of the economy and society that's occurring in an information age. It sounds like a lot of wandering around. I think there's a thread there but perhaps the only thread is my own intellectual curiosity.

It does sound like one step following another.

Next page: Theory and Practice

© Copyright 1998, Regents of the University of California