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2 - A theory of nuclear weapons project efficiency and inefficiency

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Jacques E. C. Hymans
Affiliation:
University of Southern California
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Summary

In this chapter I seek to develop a coherent set of theoretical hypotheses on the causes of nuclear weapons project efficiency and inefficiency. I start from the basic observation that nuclear weapons projects are huge undertakings whose key day-to-day players are scientific and technical workers. When the workers are well motivated, the project is liable to run well; when the workers are poorly motivated, the project is liable to run poorly. Therefore, to explain the empirical variation in nuclear weapons project timelines to the bomb, I focus above all on how different management choices and political institutions affect scientific and technical workers’ motivation to perform collectively at a high level. Surprisingly, this is virgin terrain for the social-scientific literature on nuclear proliferation.

In brief, the argument of this book is pitched at two levels: the micro and the macro. First, at the micro level, I stress the critical importance of a management approach that respects the scientific and technical workers and permits them to exhibit their professionalism, while also appealing to their national pride. Second, at the macro level, I stress the critical importance of Weberian legal-rational institutional constraints on top-down political meddling, for in the absence of such constraints, meddling is very likely to happen. The top leadership can have strongly positive effects on nuclear weapons project efficiency when it focuses on offering inspiration and facilitation, but it has strongly negative effects when it seeks also to exercise intrusive command and control.

Type
Chapter
Information
Achieving Nuclear Ambitions
Scientists, Politicians, and Proliferation
, pp. 41 - 78
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Lepper, Mark R.Henderlong, JenniferGingras, IsabelleUnderstanding the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation – Uses and Abuses of Meta-Analysis: Comment on Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (1999)Psychological Bulletin 125 1999669
Eisenberger, RobertPierce, W. DavidCameron, JudyEffects of Reward on Intrinsic Motivation – Negative, Neutral, and Positive: Comment on Deci, Koestner and Ryan (1999)Psychological Bulletin 125 1999 677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deci, Edward L.Koestner, RichardRyan, Richard M.The Undermining Effect Is a Reality After All – Extrinsic Rewards, Task Interest, and Self Determination: Reply to Eisenberger, Pierce, and Cameron (1999) and Lepper, Henderlong, and Gingras (1999)Psychological Bulletin 125 1999 692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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