In This Review

Strategies of Commitment and Other Essays
Strategies of Commitment and Other Essays
By Thomas C. Schelling
Harvard University Press, 2006, 360 pp.

Schelling won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work using game theory to analyze conflict and cooperation, and his 1960 book, The Strategy of Conflict, remains the classic theoretical statement on bargaining and strategic behavior. Over the last half century, Schelling has applied his ideas to an expanding array of international and domestic policy areas, and this collection of essays captures the playful brilliance and real-world utility of his scholarship. At the heart of Schelling's approach is the notion of commitment. To change the expectations or behavior of others, an individual -- or government -- must restrict his own options and give up freedom of action; the ability and the willingness of actors to make commitments shape the evolution of strategic relationships. The essays here explore the implications of these insights for such diverse matters as the Cuban missile crisis, labor relations, law enforcement, and climate change, the last of which, Schelling argues, is similar to the challenge of nuclear weapons in the 1950s. The richness of the topics covered demonstrates, among other things, that the most important "commitment" a policy analyst can make is to correctly frame the question.