Interview with Dr. Joshua King

Interview with Dr. Joshua King, 2016-2017 Hayek Visiting Scholar

We are are excited to announce the appointment of our 2016-2017 Hayek Visiting Scholar, Joshua King. We sat down with Dr. King and asked him about his background and what he is working on here at the Institute.

CISC: Where are you from?

JK: I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and I went to college at Furman University.

CISC: What did you study and where?

JK: After Furman, I earned my M.A. and Ph.D in Political Science at Baylor University in Waco,Texas.

CISC: What did you write your dissertation on?

JK: The title of my dissertation is, “Good for Self and Good for Others: Rousseau’s Construction of International Politics.”

CISC: What did you find fascinating about the topic?

JK: I first read Rousseau in high school and I found him really irritating; I thought he was some sort of authoritarian. I studied him again in college; although he and I have our differences, I can’t escape the fact that Rousseau understands the difficulty of being at once an individual and a member of a community. My dissertation topic allowed me to study the relationship between the individual and the community and apply it to a similar problem: the relationship between individual states and international society. This topic also let me work at the intersection of Political Philosophy and the study of International Relations.

CISC: There is certainly a lot to be discussed in such a topic. What did you decide you wanted to focus mainly on?

JK: As an international theorist, Rousseau’s preeminent concern is with protecting individual freedom from the dangers of power politics. He develops this goal by searching for ways to preserve the liberty of individual states to govern themselves and pursue their own accounts of justice. The sovereignty of independent states is essential to international pluralism and protects the rights of individual citizens. This position provides the basis for Rousseau’s critique of international relations theory. He argues that even liberal states need an account of a common good. Communities that intentionally develop an internal account of the just and the good are in the best position to elevate leaders who understand and defend these internally defined interests. A carefully defined national interest empowers leaders to understand and protect the interests of their people domestically and in the midst of the competitive international realm. My research resists the notion that international anarchy forces all states to adopt the same behaviors and limits or even eliminates a statesman’s freedom of choice. Rousseau shows why it is important to continue studying how the characteristics of individual leaders and the nature of domestic regimes can influence the dynamics of international politics in ways that promote peace and defend individual agency.

CISC: What are you working on now?

JK: Right now I’m working on two things. I’m revising a chapter of my dissertation for publication as an article.

I’m also very interested in the political thought of Hans Morgenthau, particularly his understanding of moral statesmanship. In the spring I presented a paper on this topic at the International Studies Association conference. This fall I’m revising the paper as an article.

CISC: What are you teaching this semester?

JK: I’m teaching two sections of POSC 1020—Introduction to International Relations here at Clemson University. I developed this class as a survey of International Relations Theory that discusses three central themes: obstacles to international order, the development of international institutions, and the challenge of applying ethical standards to international politics. We engage these themes using texts from the Western tradition of political thought. My students and I grapple with the weighty philosophic writings of authors like Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Kant, as well as the challenging categories of Alexander Wendt’s social science.

CISC: What has your experience thus far been teaching Clemson students?

JK: I have loved working with Clemson students! So far they have been enthusiastic about completing the work that I assign and they have brought excellent questions to our class discussions.