Getting Your Way Strategic Dilemmas in the Real World
by James M. Jasper
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Cloth: 978-0-226-39475-6 | Paper: 978-0-226-39477-0 | Electronic: 978-0-226-39474-9
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Getting other people to do what we want is a useful skill for anyone. Whether you’re seeking a job, negotiating a deal, or angling for that big promotion, you’re engaged in strategic thought and action. In such moments, you imagine what might be going on in another person’s head and how they’ll react to what you do or say. At the same time, you also try to pick the best way to realize your goals, both with and without the other person’s cooperation. Getting Your Way teaches us how to win that game by offering a fuller understanding of how strategy works in the real world.

As we all know, rules of strategy are regularly discovered and discussed in popular books for business executives, military leaders, and politicians. Those works with their trendy lists of pithy maxims and highly effective habits can help people avoid mistakes or even think anew about how to tackle their problems. But they are merely suggestive, as each situation we encounter in the real world is always more complex than anticipated, more challenging than we had hoped. James M. Jasper here shows us how to anticipate those problems before they actually occur—by recognizing the dilemmas all strategic players must negotiate, with each option accompanied by a long list of costs and risks. Considering everyday dilemmas in a broad range of familiar settings, from business and politics to love and war, Jasper explains how to envision your goals, how to make the first move, how to deal with threats, and how to employ strategies with greater confidence.

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Rosa Parks, Hugo Chávez, and David Koresh all come into play in this smart and engaging book, one that helps us recognize and prepare for the many dilemmas inherent in any strategic action.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

James M. Jasper teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His previous books include The Art of Moral Protest and Restless Nation: Starting Over in America, both of which are published by the University of Chicago Press.

REVIEWS

"Getting Your Way gives us a fresh, powerful perspective on strategic action in social and economic life. It brings a robust theory of action and choice to sociology and political science as it breathes life into the sterile world of game theory and economics. Written with precision and flair, it is a must-read for anyone­—academics or practitioners­—interested in understanding and thriving in business, politics, organizations, and markets."
— Wayne Baker, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“What a bright and daring thinker! In Getting Your Way, James Jasper attacks the utilitarian view of strategy, which too often is imposed upon us by economists. Jasper leads us to the notion of strategic dilemmas which becomes one of the most efficient instruments of analysis. This is the most original and illuminating introduction to strategy that I have read.”

— Alain Touraine, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Getting Your Way is a wondrous book—well-written, hard-driving, interesting, creative, and important. A gifted storyteller and a brilliant analyst, Jasper uses broad-ranging examples, drawing on personal experience, philosophy, and history to convey his message that much of social interaction is strategic. Throughout Jasper pushes his analysis in ways that challenge popular accounts of strategy—especially game theory—identifying their deficiencies and pointing the way forward. This is a fun book to read.”--Lee Clarke, author of Worst Cases

— Lee Clarke

"[An] original and distinctive take on the question of strategy. . . . A refreshingly alternative look at the human dilemmas at the heart of strategic decision-making."
— Stefan Stern, Financial Times

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Dilemmas

Preface

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0001
[political theory, strategy, goal, dialogue, persuasion, strategic actions]
This chapter discusses a political theory of social and economic life. In the political model, people strategize both as individuals and as groups—with group formation being a key strategy but also frequently a goal. Dialogue and persuasion are front and center in the political image which allows the readers to appreciate clashes between different points of view. It then explains that humans operate according to routine rather than strategy when one have no awareness of one's means and ends; it is instrumental rather than strategic action if the objects of a person's design are not humans with minds. Even when a person is purposively interacting with humans who are aware of his or her actions, a person's interaction can be either strategic or symbolic. An overview of the chapters included in this book is given. (pages 1 - 14)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0002
[risk dilemma, engagement dilemma, home-turf dilemma, strategic interaction, engagement, barriers, arena]
This chapter addresses the questions: Who initiates strategic action? Why and how strategic interaction begins? It shows among other things that there are many barriers to engagement. Three dilemmas are discussed in detail—risk dilemma, engagement dilemma, and the home-turf dilemma. The existence of certain personalities, positions, and organizations that “specialize” in strategic interaction shows that it is relatively unusual, and as shown in this chapter, starting something has both advantages and disadvantages. When several players are involved, coordination is vital because the precise order of actions is important. Familiarity with your arena reveals the subtle interplay of aggression's advantages and disadvantages. The balance of power between offense and defense shifts with the invention of new tactics and technologies. The success or failure of your initial move depends primarily on surprise and information about the arena. (pages 15 - 33)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0003
[strategic interaction, threats, insult, deprivation, incapacity, blame, strategic engagements]
This chapter illustrates how a sense of threat can be a central component for initiating strategic interaction in most engagements. In threats, people see the power of the negative to focus attention. Political scientists have repeatedly documented the power of the negative, finding that negative information carries more weight in political judgments than positive information. This chapter also investigates the three categories of threat: insult, deprivation, and incapacity. It then explains how the boundaries of blame are cultural creations that shift, often as the result of strategic action. Further, it argues that threats, intentional or not, are the main moves or perceptions through which strategic interaction begins. A perception of threat seems the most common reason to enter strategic engagements. (pages 34 - 55)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0004
[goals, human desires, reputation, sensual pleasures, impact, knowledge, faith, curiosity]
This chapter attempts to demonstrate the diversity of human desires, overly simplified models of which will always distort what is seen and expected. Goals of human action fall crudely into three basic groups: reputation in the eyes of oneself and others; direct sensual pleasures, including loving and being loved; and the ability to have an impact on the world around one. Knowledge, faith, and intellectual activity are then added to these classic goals. Curiosity, the motivation behind them, has more to do with awareness than with agency, with the surprise of learning how things will turn out. In addition, it illustrates objectives as intermediate goals that are valued as part of strategic interactions. Goals are what humans carve out as specific embodiments of what is valuable, and people can pursue them through strategic action. (pages 56 - 86)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0005
[human competencies, physical resources, strategic interaction, mastery, confidence, intelligence, charm]
This chapter investigates the kinds of human competencies and physical resources that are helpful in strategic interaction. It shows how the sense of mastery and confidence can be an important asset for strategic actors. There are two great families of strategies, one based on physical resources and the other on intelligence. Resources are the tools and raw materials people use in their strategic interactions, the physical capacities to do things. Intelligence comes in the form of strategic intelligence, expert intelligence, and the ability to express inner sensibilities or to empathize with those of others. The distribution of both capacities changes during the course of strategic interaction. Aggressively strategic people get more of what they want, despite their lack of charm. Skills and resources are lodged in both simple and compound players. For this reason, strategic interactions depend on how the various players line up. (pages 87 - 118)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0006
[strategic action, strategic players, audiences, strategic engagement, cultural filters, watching, listening]
This chapter proposes to view strategic players as audiences watching and listening to each other's actions and words, insisting on the cultural filters of all strategic action. It argues that strategic engagement focuses players' attention. Also, they actively interpret whatever happens, including their own actions. Then, it presents several ways on how people and groups become players in strategic engagements. The image of players as audiences, watching and listening to each other and themselves, suggests a rhetorical approach to words and actions. Because rhetoric deals with the interaction between speaker and audience, it is especially useful to a strategic framework. (pages 119 - 139)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0007
[strategic arenas, interaction, rules, resources, motives, players, competencies, goals]
This chapter addresses the arenas within which interaction occurs. An arena is an open-ended bundle of rules and resources that allows certain kinds of interactions to proceed, leading to outcomes that may be formal or quite casual. Arenas differ as well in the goals, objectives, and motives with which people enter them. Arenas also vary in the norms of behavior that are accepted or considered deviant, for these also help define the arena. Different actors can play in different arenas. Arena switches can change the nature of an interaction by changing the players involved. It is stated that the strategic arenas, the players who enter them, and the motives and goals, resources and competencies they bring with them are the basic building blocks that are needed to describe strategic interactions in a more social way. (pages 140 - 170)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- James M. Jasper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226394749.003.0008
[dilemmas, strategic issues, strategic principles, players, gender, race, class]
This chapter describes a number of dilemmas and how to think about (and with) them. It also suggests how a number of fields of inquiry might benefit from attention to strategic issues. Lists of strategic principles never guarantee success, especially when other players have the same lists. At best, they offer problems to consider, mistakes to avoid. The term dilemma may imply that people feel torn equally between two paths, recognizing the value of each, but much of the time nuances of the situation suggest one route rather than another. Dilemmas can be grouped into rough categories reflecting existential conditions of being human. Many of the dilemmas arise during confrontations between players. Strategic projects help reproduce hierarchies such as gender, race, and class. (pages 171 - 180)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Appendix: Rules of Strategic Action

Notes

Index