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Talk at the Brink:
Deliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis
David R. Gibson

Book Description | Table of Contents
Preface [in PDF format]


"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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File created: 4/22/2014

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