I am a philosopher of social science with a strong interest in China and Southeast Asia. Paying attention to the logical and conceptual issues raised by the social sciences is key to better understanding the modern world. I think philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social scientists and historians if they are going to be able to make a useful contribution.




  • Technology Lock-in Accidents

    Technology Lock-in Accidents

    image: diagram of molten salt reactorOrganizational and regulatory features are sometimes part of the causal background of important technology failures. This i... Read more

    Posted on 10 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Consensus and Mutual Understanding

    Consensus Mutual Understanding

    Groups make decisions through processes of discussion aimed at framing a given problem, outlining the group's objectives, and arriving at a plan for how to... Read more

    Posted on 03 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Computational Social Science

    Is it possible to elucidate complex social outcomes using computational tools? Can we overcome some of the issues for social explanation posed by the fact of... Read more

    Posted on 27 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Nuclear Accidents

    Nuclear Accidents

    diagrams: Chernobyl reactor before and afterNuclear fission is one of the world-changing discoveries of the mid-twentieth century. Read more

    Posted on 24 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Folk Psychology and Alexa

    Paul Churchland made a large splash in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science several decades ago when he cast doubt on the categories of "folk psychology... Read more

    Posted on 11 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Cold War History from an IR Perspective

    Cold History from Perspective

    Odd Arne Westad's The Cold War: A World History is a fascinating counterpoint to Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. Read more

    Posted on 09 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Declining Industries

    Declining Industries

    Why is it so difficult for leaders in various industries and sectors to seriously address the existential threats that sometimes arise? Read more

    Posted on 30 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Gaining Compliance

    Gaining Compliance

    Organizations always involve numerous staff members whose behavior has the potential for creating significant risk for individuals and the organization but who... Read more

    Posted on 25 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Actors in Historical Epochs

    Actors Historical Epochs

    I've argued often for the idea that social science and historical explanations need to be "actor-centered" -- we need to ground our hypotheses about social and... Read more

    Posted on 20 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • The Second American Revolution

    Second American Revolution

    The first American Revolution broke the bonds of control exercised by a colonial power over the actions and aspirations of a relatively small number of people i... Read more

    Posted on 15 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Populism's Base

    Populism's Base

    Steve Bannon may have lost his perch in the White House and Breitbart; but the themes of white supremacy, intolerance, bigotry, and anti-government extremism... Read more

    Posted on 15 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Trust and Organizational Effectiveness

    Trust Organizational Effectiveness

    It is fairly well agreed that organizations require a degree of trust among the participants in order for the organization to function at all. But what does thi... Read more

    Posted on 08 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Is History Probabilistic?

    History Probabilistic?

    Many of our intuitions about causality are driven by a background assumption of determinism: one cause, one effect, always. But it is evident in many realms --... Read more

    Posted on 30 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • The Culture of an Organization

    Culture Organization

    It is often held that the behavior of a particular organization is affected by its culture. Two banks may have very similar organizational structures but show... Read more

    Posted on 22 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • Is Public Opinion Part of a Complex System?

    Public Opinion Part Complex System?

    The worrisome likelihood that Russians and other malevolent actors are tinkering with public opinion in Western Europe and the United States through social medi... Read more

    Posted on 20 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • Varieties of Organizational Dysfunction

    Varieties Organizational Dysfunction

    Several earlier posts have made the point that important technology failures often include organizational faults in their causal background. Read more

    Posted on 13 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • Organizational Dysfunction

    Organizational Dysfunction

    What is a dysfunction when it comes to the normal workings of an organization? In order to identify dysfunctions we need to have a prior conception of the... Read more

    Posted on 09 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • New Perspectives on Chinese Authoritarianism

    Perspectives Chinese Authoritarianism

    The question of China's political future is an important one and a difficult one. Will China evolve towards a political system that embodies real legal... Read more

    Posted on 04 December 2017 SOCIETY
  • Collapse of Eastern European Communisms

    Collapse Eastern European Communisms

    An earlier post commented on Tony Judt's magnificent book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. There I focused on the story he tells of the brutality of... Read more

    Posted on 29 November 2017 SOCIETY
  • Corruption and Institutional Design

    Corruption Institutional Design

    Robert Klitgaard is an insightful expert on the institutional causes of corruption in various social arrangements. His 1988 book, Controlling Corruption, laid... Read more

    Posted on 28 November 2017 SOCIETY