In the fields of observation

chance favours only the prepared mind.

Louis Pasteur (1854)


What is prudence? How does one go about being prudent? How can prudence inform statecraft?

Despite stressing the importance of prudence in foreign policy and grand strategy, contemporary international relations only thinks of prudence as moderation or restraint. In contrast to this thin conception of the virtue, I offer a thick understanding by drawing on multiples perspectives in international relations theory and the political theory.

I also develop the Prudent Judgment Approach - an original prescriptive approach for guiding strategic decision-making under uncertainty.

An application of these ideas is presented in my doctoral thesis, The Promise of Prudence: Deliberative Decision-Making in an Uncertain World. I have also presented this research at the 2019 general conferences of the Swiss Political Science Association in Zurich, the International Studies Association in Toronto, and the British International Studies Association in London. A working draft is available upon request, please feel free to email me.


How do states construct their self-perceptions? How do national identities affect state interests and behavior?

I'm a co-editor of and contributor to the open source National Identity Database for India from 1950-2010 with the Making Identity Count Project.

The Project assembles a constructivist intersubjective database of national identities for 10 major powers from 1950-2010. We use inductive discourse analysis to recover national identity categories from a range of elite texts, such as leadership speeches and history textbooks, and mass sources such as bestselling novels and blockbuster movies. We also construct quantitative datasets for each of the 10 countries, which provides fascinating insights into continuities and changes in national identities for each of these countries over time. All the qualitative and quantitative data is available in open source reports on the project website.

The Project is led by Bentley Allan (John's Hopkins University) and Srdjan Vucetic (University of Ottawa).

I'm working with Amit Julka on a book manuscript about India's national identity, tentatively titled Past Perfect, Future Tense: Discourses of National Identity, 1950-2020.

Rising Powers

How do a state's identities, interests, and behaviour change as it becomes a rising power? How does the rise of new powers affect the existing international order?

My postdoctoral research investigates these questions in the case of India from 1980-2020. A project abstract is available here.

Previously, I was a research assistant with the project 'From Emerging Markets to Rising Powers? Powershift in International Economic Governance' led by Soo Yeon Kim at the National University of Singapore from 2015-2018.

We constructed an original dataset of which countries are identified as emerging markets and rising powers in private sector investment fund reports, and scholarship in Economics and International Relations. We also investigate the political and social globalization, along with economic fundamentals, as determinants for emergence and rise.

keywords: prudence, international relations theory, foreign policy decision-making, grand strategy

keywords: national identity, constructivism, qualitative methods, interpretivist research

keywords: emerging markets, rising powers, globalization, power shift

Working Papers

“Too Much Democracy”: Insights from India into the Link between National Identity and Democratic Backsliding (2022)

India’s success as a postcolonial, plural, liberal democracy has long been a source of national pride and international status. The recent downgrading of its democracy in international rankings marks a surprising departure from long-term trends. How do we understand this backsliding in a polity where liberal democracy was considered to have consolidated? I use an original interpretivist mapping of national identity discourses in India from 1950 – 2020 to systematically ‘overhear’ how the democratic identity is described overtime. The analysis confirms the importance of procedural elements, especially elections, as essential components of democracy but also reveals variations in the meaning of democracy across different sections of Indian society over time. Specifically, it not only identifies a loss of faith in the ability of democratic institutions to deliver public goods, but also identifies the absence of liberal values in mass discourses. The widening gap between elite preoccupations with liberal values against mass frustrations about persistent corruption, inequality, and incompetent governance provides important insights into the dynamics of backsliding. The study points to the crucial role of ideas in enabling or hindering the maintenance of democracy over time and demonstrates the value of tracking societal discourses over time for understanding momentous political shifts.

The Logic of Prudence (2021)

International Relations (IR) theory acknowledges several logics of action: consequentialism, appropriateness, practicality, habit, and arguing. These logics combine both the cognitive and the evaluative bases of action, i.e. whether actors think about what to do and the criteria they use for determining the value of alternatives. The reflective practical ethics of prudence, however, goes beyond the instrumental ethics of consequentialism, normative ethics of appropriateness, inarticulate know-how of practices, routinized taken-for-grantedness of habits, and truth-seeking of arguing. I explore the logic of prudence and its value for guiding political action, especially under uncertainty, drawing on diverse accounts from IR and political theory. I claim that the logic of prudence involves finding a balance between practical and representational knowledge by engaging reflective reasoning. Prudence is fed by habits and practices, considers the relative consequences of alternatives, and takes into account standards of appropriateness through a deliberative process aided by arguing and truth-seeking. Yet, as a cognitive process for informing successful action, prudence involves a distinctly situation-specific reflective logic of action. Conceived as a normative theory of how to think, the logic of prudence also offers a perspective on the cognitive basis upon which agents draw and identify the objects of their reasoning, and addresses remaining gaps in mainstream practice theory by returning reflective reasoning and action to the center of analysis.

Emerging Markets and Rising Powers in the International Economy: Liberalization without Globalization? (2017)

(with Rajeev Arumugam, Soo Yeon Kim, and Florian Winkler)

Despite the growing importance of ‘emerging markets’ and ‘rising powers’ in shaping global outcomes, especially since the outbreak of the 2008 financial crisis, we lack fundamental knowledge about the composition of these groups beyond the BRICS. We also know little about their common attributes – political and social – that go beyond levels of economic growth and development. This study seeks to address this gap. We introduce an original dataset of countries classified as emerging mar- kets and/or rising powers from three different sources: scholarship in International Relations; scholarship in Economics; and materials from private sector investment funds dealing with investment in emerging markets. We identify which countries are referred to as emerging markets and how often across these sources, so as to evaluate the prominence of particular countries as emerging markets in our current state of knowledge. The empirical analysis examines the importance of political and social globalization as well as economic fundamentals as determinants of these memberships. We find that while emerging markets are well-integrated into the international economy through trade and investment linkages, many of these countries exhibit low levels of social and political globalization. This suggests that emerging markets may still lack the political will and embeddedness in international society to achieve prominence as influential actors in global economic governance.

All content and pictures are ©Manali Kumar, 2022.