Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
S.M. Amadae

S.M. Amadae

SM_amadae (at)

Sonja M. Amadae is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Program on Science and Technology and Society. She is working with Professor Sheila Jasanoff on studying comparative rationalities and rationales in public policy from the US to Europe. A central question is to understand how and why some forms of argumentation are more persuasive in varying national contexts. She is also exploring the contested politics of counting, from ballots and tax dollars, to war casualties.

Amadae’s second book, Prisoner’s Dilemma Society argues that game theory reinvents what it means to “play a game.” Game playing suggests voluntary, participatory, and constitutive rule following. Game theory instead promotes a view in which actors have preferences they seek to satisfy in competition with others, and behavioral norms emerge as the unconscious and non-reflexive equilibrium of games. This neoliberal understanding of agency, which dovetails with behavioral economics, suggests that the role of government and public policy is to design a legal framework that incentivizes subjects to behave in mutually compatible ways.

Amadae graduated with a PhD from the University of California Berkeley studying the history and philosophy of science in addition to the history of political thought. She held post-doctoral appointments at the London School of Economics and Cambridge University before taking visiting professorships at the University of British Columbia and New School University. Amadae was an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and most recently has served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Selected Publications

Prisoner’s Dilemma Society: Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Neoliberal Political Economy (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

“Normativity and Instrumentalism in David Lewis’ Convention,” History of European Ideas, 37 (2011) 325–335.

“James M. Buchanan, John Rawls, and Democratic Governance,” in Deliberative Democracy: Theory and Practice, ed. Robert Cavalier (Pittsburg: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011), 31-52.

Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy: The Cold War Origins of Rational Choice Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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