Love is politics by other means

The most entertaining Valentine’s Day themed item I read yesterday came from Foreign Policy, in the form of a Stephen Walt blog post applying international relations theory to romance:

To begin with, any romantic partnership is essentially an alliance, and alliances are a core concept on international relations. Alliances bring many benefits to the members (or else why would we form them?) but as we also know, they sometimes reflect irrational passions and inevitably limit each member’s autonomy. Many IR theorists believe that institutionalizing an alliance makes it more effective and enduring, but that’s also why making a relationship more formal is a significant step that needs to be carefully considered.
Of course, IR theorists have also warned that allies face the twin dangers of abandonment and entrapment: the more we fear that our partners might leave us in the lurch (abandonment), the more likely we are to let them drag us into obligations that we didn’t originally foresee (entrapment). When you find yourself gamely attending your partner’s high school reunion or traveling to your in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner every single year, you’ll know what I mean.

There’s more at the link. I found this via Matt Yglesias, who remarks: “I bet Man, the State, and War could sell more copies if they [found] a way to reposition it as a dating advice book.” Indeed, I would go further and say that Stephen Walt should definitely write a book-length version of this post, offering cold-hard yet charmingly sassy relationship advice based on IR theory. There’s always demand for books in this vein, and with the IR angle it could even be pitched at men. “It’s He’s Just No That Into You… with nukes!”
In this interdisciplinary spirit, I wondered if finance has any similar lessons to teach, but I didn’t think of much. Relationships aren’t assets to be traded, after all, and you can’t short sell by breaking up with someone whom you weren’t actually dating. However, it does seem that online dating is countercyclical which at least suggests that one’s chances might improve during a recession.

3 thoughts on “Love is politics by other means

  1. Mason Porter

    I have to admit that I have thought of this in terms of job interviews before. (I am thinking of the initial phase of attempting to find a partner, where in principle one just needs to be successful once. Maybe one should head in the international relations direction for the maintenance?) Of course, I am both more comfortable and more successful with actual job interviews because (among other reasons) my inability to read people is a bit more of a critical failing in one area than the other. I guess it’s impressive how confident I can be in some aspects of life and how little confidence I have in others. I find it easier to tell a Nobel Laureate that he should have shared his Nobel prize with someone else than I do asking someone out on a date. Something seems inherently wrong about that.

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