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

Princeton University Press
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In October 1962, the fate of the world hung on the American response to the discovery of Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba. That response was informed by hours of discussions between John F. Kennedy and his top advisers. What those advisers did not know was that President Kennedy was secretly taping their talks, providing future scholars with a rare inside look at high-level political deliberation in a moment of crisis. Talk at the Brink is the first book to examine these historic audio recordings from a sociological perspective. It reveals how conversational practices and dynamics shaped Kennedy's perception of the options available to him, thereby influencing his decisions and ultimately the outcome of the crisis.

David Gibson looks not just at the positions taken by Kennedy and his advisers but how those positions were articulated, challenged, revised, and sometimes ignored. He argues that Kennedy's decisions arose from the intersection of distant events unfolding in Cuba, Moscow, and the high seas with the immediate conversational minutia of turn-taking, storytelling, argument, and justification. In particular, Gibson shows how Kennedy's group told and retold particular stories again and again, sometimes settling upon a course of action only after the most frightening consequences were omitted or actively suppressed.

Talk at the Brink presents an image of Kennedy's response to the Cuban missile crisis that is sharply at odds with previous scholarship, and has important implications for our understanding of decision making, deliberation, social interaction, and historical contingency.

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About the author

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

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 29, 2012
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781400842438
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / International Relations / Arms Control
Political Science / International Relations / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the Hardcover edition.
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