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A Point of Principle: The Role of Rhetoric in International Bargaining


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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs 

Comparative Politics and International Relations presents

A Point of Principle: The Role of Rhetoric in International Bargaining

How does rhetoric affect international bargaining? In this project, I provide evidence that when countries rely on moral over nonmoral rhetoric, they decrease the probability of peaceful compromise and increase the probability of a dispute escalating with military action. This language operates through two pathways. First, moral language prejudices domestic audiences against compromise, which makes it more difficult for politicians to de-escalate the disagreement. Second, principled rhetoric provokes the other side to dig in their heels and resist compromise during negotiations. Opposition to compromise on both sides—a product of moral rhetoric—increases the probability that at least one side will resort to force to resolve the dispute. On the other hand, nonmoral language defuses the situation and avoids dispute escalation. The project examines the effects of rhetoric on negotiation breakdown and dispute escalation in a case study of the Falklands/Malvinas dispute and a survey experiment of U.S. citizens.

Dr. Abigail S. Post

Assistant Professor of National Security and Political Science

Anderson University, IN

Abby Post is Assistant Professor of Political Science and National Security at Anderson University in Indiana. She studies the dynamics of coercive bargaining in international relations, mostly from a psychological perspective. Her current book project examines the impact of a government leader’s moral language on the willingness of a state to compromise during international negotiations. Her dissertation, “It’s the Principle at Stake: Rhetoric and Compromise in International Bargaining,” received the John McCain Dissertation Award in 2019. Her research has been published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution and International Interactions. Post holds a Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. 

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