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Thursday, February 8, 2024


A Conversation with Sebastian Rosato

Moderated by Jonathan Hanson
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

6 to 7:30 PM
Annenberg Auditorium
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
co-sponsored with the

Thanks to Professor Jonathan Hanson and the students leaders of the

Alexander Hamilton Society for a thought-provoking conversation on

"How Sates Think"!


What motivates relations between States? How do States arrive at foreign policy decisions? Ultimately States aim at their own survival, and interact with neighbors and rivals with that primary aim in mind. Scholars have proposed three theories to help us understand international relations: realism, liberalism and constructivism. "Realists" argue that States will always seek to advance their self interest by attempts to gain power relative to, and often at the expense of, other States. "Liberals" disagree with this premise and contend that States can advance their self interest through cooperation. For "constructivists", ideas, shared beliefs and social norms, rather than material factors or a power paradigm characterize international politics

A closely related debate surrounds the notion of whether states function as "rational" or "irrational" actors. While most scholars agree that "rationality" is a fundamental driver of international relations, there is a lack of consensus over the definition of "rationality" and of the related notion of "utility maximization". The authors propose a precise definition of "rationality", emphasizing both its individual and collective dimensions.


Ultimately,  it is individual leaders and policymakers who generate foreign policy and they rely on their own theories – credible or not – to arrive at policy decisions. Join Professor Rosato for a great conversation about these and other important concerns related to international affairs. 

Sebastian Rosato is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, where he also serves as Director of Graduate Studies. With John J. Mearsheimer, he co-authored the influential book How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy which will serve as the framework of our conversation with him. He received a B.A. (Honors) in History from Cambridge University, an M.Phil. in International Relations from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Before attending graduate school, he worked for Goldman Sachs in London.

He has also written Europe United: Power Politics and the Making of the European Community (Cornell University Press, 2011), and Intentions in Great Power Politics (Yale University Press, 2021); as well as scholarly articles in the American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, International Security, Perspectives on Politics, and Security Studies.

He is a Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the Notre Dame International Security Center. Professor Rosato has been a Fellow of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.


Sebastian Rosato, M Phil, PhD
Professor, Department of Political Science
The University of Notre Dame


After introductory comments by Professor Rosato, we will begin a conversation between our guest and Professor Jonathan Hanson, Director of the Masters Programs in Public Policy and in Public Affairs of the University of Michigan, followed by a time for Q & A.

Professor Hanson is a political scientist and lecturer in statistics at the Ford School at Michigan. Within the field of comparative politics, his specialization is comparative political economy and political development, studying the ways in which, and the channels through which, political institutions affect economic performance and human development outcomes, with a focus on state capacity and regime characteristics. Prior to entering academia, he worked as a legislative assistant in Congress for several years, handling budget and tax issues, trade policy, federal retirement programs, education, and campaign finance reform. He has also worked on political campaigns and continues to follow domestic politics closely.

He holds a BA from Harvard College and advanced degrees in Political Science and Economics from the University of Michigan. He has won teaching awards from the University of Michigan as a graduate student (2002), and from Syracuse University as a faculty member (2012 & 2013). He has advised numerous doctoral students in political science, and in 2017 he received an Outstanding Reviewer Award from the Political Research Quarterly.”

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