Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Overview

"The ping-pong match known as the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 is reinterpreted in this brilliant, analytic exposé. David Gibson sheds landmark new light on the terse diplomacy between Kennedy and Khrushchev. His research is prodigious. Highly recommended!"—Douglas Brinkley, Rice University

"Some phenomena are so important, so consequential, that they are worth putting under a microscope. If true for the cells of a human being, why not apply another kind of microscope to the crisis conversations skirting ...

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Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis

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Overview

"The ping-pong match known as the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 is reinterpreted in this brilliant, analytic exposé. David Gibson sheds landmark new light on the terse diplomacy between Kennedy and Khrushchev. His research is prodigious. Highly recommended!"—Douglas Brinkley, Rice University

"Some phenomena are so important, so consequential, that they are worth putting under a microscope. If true for the cells of a human being, why not apply another kind of microscope to the crisis conversations skirting the edge of global thermonuclear war? That is what Gibson has done, giving us a renewed sense of indeterminacy about the whole event. It takes a rare kind of historical sociologist to find this extra depth of understanding."—Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia, coauthor of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

"In Talk at the Brink, Gibson has established himself as one of sociology's leading conversational analysts. Drawing on actual audio recordings, he offers us a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the deliberations among Kennedy's inner circle during the Cuban missile crisis. Remarkably nuanced, this is microsociology at its best."—Eviatar Zerubavel, Rutgers University, author of The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life and Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community

"This book makes a major intellectual and scholarly contribution to our understanding of human behavior. I predict that it will be much cited and lead to significant shifts in the way scholars and the lay public think about the Cuban missile crisis in particular and decision making and leadership in general. The book's strongest lesson is how open and nonlinear important decisions can be."—Jane Mansbridge, Harvard University

"Talk at the Brink is an important book for sociologists, political scientists, linguists, historians, and theorists of conflict resolution. Analyzing John F. Kennedy's taped deliberations during the perilous days of the Cuban missile crisis, Gibson persuasively argues that talk has its own prerogatives and rules and that these things matter in how decisions get made. Extremely lucid and illuminating."—Robin Wagner-Pacifici, author of The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict's End

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2013 Melvin Pollner Prize, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Section of the American Sociological Association

"[W]ith his thorough and incisive analysis of the ExComm meetings, David Gibson has provided a new, refreshing, and disturbing look at how US decision-makers responded to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba."—Asa McKercher, Dzplomacy & Statecraft

"For its empirical contribution alone, Talk at the Brink is required reading for scholars of Cold War history and American politics. The writing is witty and uncluttered, while the raw intimacy of the back-and-forth among ExComm members, as rendered by the painstakingly precise transcription and coding, makes for a rather riveting and eminently teachable experience."—Phaedra Daipha, American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691151311
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/29/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David R. Gibson is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Excerpts ix
Preface xi

Chapter 1 - Introduction: Talk in Time of Crisis 1
Chapter 2 - The Future in Thought and Talk 24
Chapter 3 - The ExComm 49
Chapter 4 - The Response 74
Chapter 5 - The Blockade 109
Chapter 6 - The Deal 135
Chapter 7 - Conclusion 159

Appendix A - Timeline of Events and ExComm Meetings 167
Appendix B - Dramatis Personae 175
Appendix C - Conversation-Analytic Transcribing Conventions 177
Appendix D - The Audio Recordings 181

Notes 183
Bibliography 203
Index 213

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