Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reconsiderations: Schweller's Deadly Imbalances

Introductory note:  
Randall Schweller's name is well known to those familiar with international-relations theory.  Schweller's first book, Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler's Strategy of World Conquest (1998), was based on his Columbia University dissertation.  His second book, Unanswered Threats (2006), also dealt with balance-of-power issues, focusing on instances of so-called underbalancing.  As mentioned before on this blog, in recent years Schweller's attitude toward the conventional versions of Realist international-relations theory has become much more critical (see his 2014 book Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple).  In this guest post, Peter T. looks back at Schweller's first book Deadly Imbalances, offering some thoughts on the book and on the enduring problem of the relation between theory and history.  I have added one sentence in brackets. -- LFC


Schweller's theoretical argument starts from Waltz's classic Theory of International Politics (1979).  Schweller acknowledges the validity of criticisms that Waltz's theory, modelled explicitly on economic theories of the market, is "too abstract to generate useful hypotheses about specific foreign-policy behaviour."  By adding a number of other factors Schweller hopes to bring theory into a closer approximation to reality.  [By contrast, Waltz's view is that, within certain limits, a theory's "[e]xplanatory power...is gained by moving away from 'reality,' not by staying close to it." (Theory, p.7)]

The argument of Deadly Imbalances centers on the lead-up to and conduct of World War II.  Schweller argues that in the late 1930s, the world was effectively tripolar, with the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Germany the central players.  This requires that Schweller establish a more nuanced hierarchy among states than a simple division into Great Powers and others.  So from the classic IR world we go to a world of Poles, Lesser Great Powers, middle powers, and others.  Further, states are no longer simply status quo or revisionist in their aims, but status quo, revisionist or neutral (the U.S. up to 1941).  Revisionist powers can have limited or unlimited aims, and states' strategic choices are not just about balancing but also buck-passing, band-wagoning, binding, distancing or engagement.

Not all these strategies are realistic options for all states, but each state has sufficient choice that, in combination with their power status and aims, there are a myriad of potential outcomes.  And this is the problem with the approach: as Schweller adds new factors his theoretical base becomes less like an explanation and more like a description.  And, as the book proceeds, the theory gives way to what looks very like old-fashioned diplomatic-military history.  It is a long way, for instance, from calculations about the overall balance of power to Hitler's belief that shipping constraints would prevent effective U.S. intervention in the European war.

In this way the book falls between two stools.  The theory illuminates very little of the complex forces at play, while the exploration of the detail draws almost entirely on secondary sources and has dated rapidly.

A second issue is that Schweller's theory, like Waltz's, assumes that states have a clear and relatively accurate view of their own and others' power. Schweller goes into some detail on the strengths of the various Poles and Lesser Great Powers, using the Correlates of War (COW) project estimates of power.  For the period, these are a composite of industrial production, population, and military strength.  Yet, as Schweller details, all states made major errors in estimating their own and other's power.  And all considered not just these factors but many others -- national morale and political cohesion, geographic position, financial resources, allies and sympathisers, operational proficiency, military technology and more.

As an instance, the COW rankings put Great Britain well behind Germany in the '30s.  Yet Great Britain had an overwhelming advantage at sea, the backing of the dominions (most of whom disposed of considerable military and industrial resources), its position as the second financial centre of world trade, and the manpower and other resources of India.  Moreover, Great Britain's economy was more advanced than that of Germany (with its still large agricultural sector) and, of course, Britain had the advantage of being an island with free access to the Atlantic.  Britain worried about the German army and air force; Germany worried about British financial pressure, grip on overseas trade, ability to call on colonial and imperial resources and on U.S. support.  Germany had an immediate superiority, Britain an ultimate one.  These are not commensurate capabilities, to be summed into two numbers and compared.

Again, Germany's attack on the Soviet Union was predicated on the certainty that German operational proficiency and Soviet political weakness would more than compensate for superior Soviet numbers, the effects of distance, and German logistic shortfalls.  Soviet calculations were, of course, in the reverse direction.

The inability to exactly define or measure power is a central problem for IR theories.  A major reason that wars happen, as Geoffrey Blainey (in The Causes of War) pointed out, is that states are uncertain of their relative power.  Clausewitz likened battle to cash settlement in commerce -- the moment when true credit-worthiness is tested and revealed.  Likewise, war usually provides a moment of clarity about relative power.  In the absence of a recent test, all parties are left to manoeuvre in uncertainty.

And this uncertainty extends to defining who are the major players.  In the '30s the U.S. preponderance of industrial and financial power was widely acknowledged.  Yet how this translated into international influence given U.S. isolationism, its distance from Europe, and the small size of its army left a lot of room for error.  In some areas the U.S. was a major force, in others a minor player.  The same could be said of the Soviet Union, China, Japan and Italy.  It is this zone of uncertainty that gives rise to alterations in the ranks of the Great Powers -- the sources of their strength go unrecognised until revealed in some contest, rendering previous calculations and strategies moot.

So Schweller's Deadly Imbalances is an interesting, and not unrewarding, read. Its strength is his willingness to engage with the detail; its weakness the inability of abstract theory to explain that detail in any convincing way.  It is a general weakness of grand theory in this area of study.

-- Peter T.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quote of the day

"The style is extremely graceful, but its literary merits go with a refusal to use the more ponderous devices of footnote and reference which, like metal spikes in mountain-climbing, may be inelegant but do help one over the steep places."

-- Bernard Williams, review (in Encounter, 1960) of Stuart Hampshire's Thought and Action, reprinted in Williams, Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 (p.11).

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rubio the "moderate" (cough) hope

Lemieux at LGM:
My guess is still that Rubio will to some extent break the knot by finishing ahead of Cruz and clearly ahead of Christie and Jeb! in New Hampshire. Things are at least trending in a “Party Decides” direction. But given how long Rubio has run behind Cruz and Trump, considerable skepticism about his candidacy remains justified.
How long Rubio has run behind?  It's really not that long when you consider that the actual voting has just started.  The real reason for skepticism about Rubio's candidacy is that he appears determined to repeat stale, idiotic talking points, as when he accused Pres. Obama of "pitting people against each other" [!] by giving a speech at a mosque at which Obama urged the inclusion of Muslims in American society on the same basis of tolerance accorded to members of all other religious groups (and to the non-religious, for that matter).

P.s. I'm not actually linking to the LGM post from which I quote because they already get enough ******* traffic. If they don't like it, that's just too damn bad. (Of course, they won't know one way or the other.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Insomniac musings

Amid the sturm und drang of the CT thread on liberalism and conservatism, it occurs to me to wonder about other binary axes on which one could try to divide writers/philosophers etc. Take action vs. contemplation.  On the 'action' side would be, for example, Machiavelli, Burke (?), Sartre; on the 'contemplation' side, perhaps mostly but not exclusively religious thinkers, from Augustine to Zen (apologies for forced cleverness).  And maybe someone like Rousseau straddling the divide: he did write that the human who meditates is a depraved animal, but probably some other lines more favorable to reflection can be found in R's oeuvre.  And where would Marx be?  (Yes, very simplistic, but this is a blog; one has to throw in something like this once in a while.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

The legacy of Brown

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education marked its 60th anniversary in May 2014.  A unanimous opinion of the Warren Court, Brown prohibited official (i.e., de jure) segregation in the public schools and rejected the doctrine of 'separate but equal'.  "Separate educational facilities," Chief Justice Warren wrote, "are inherently unequal."  He explained that "[t]o separate them [i.e., African-American students] from others of similar age...solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."  In a follow-up opinion a year later, the Court noted that implementation of its decision would involve a "period of transition"; it ordered states to "make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance" with its ruling and directed the lower courts to "enter such orders and decrees...as are necessary...to admit to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed the parties to these cases."  

While the practical impact of Brown, which took time to be felt fully (see below), was in some respects significant, the "symbolic quality of the decision," as Yale Kamisar observed in 1969, "was immeasurable," or at any rate substantial.  Thurgood Marshall (later, of course, a Supreme Court justice) was the main lawyer for the successful plaintiffs, and the cases consolidated in the Brown decision were the culmination of a long litigation campaign by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.   

Writing in The Atlantic around the time of the 60th anniversary, Ronald Brownstein described Brown's "core mission" as "unfinished" and went on to observe: "...racial and economic isolation remains daunting: One recent study found that three-fourths of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics attend schools where a majority of the students qualify as low-income."  Brownstein also noted that the "increasing diversity and shrinking white share of America's youth population" makes more urgent than ever Brown's "broader goal of ensuring all young people the opportunity to develop their talents."

How much and in what ways did the Brown decision matter and, more broadly, how much did the courts in general contribute to the civil rights movement in the U.S.? On the one hand, the prohibition of de jure segregation in the schools was important both symbolically, as already mentioned, and because it did lead, first in the border states and then eventually in the deep South (after years of 'massive resistance' and other forms of obstruction), to some school integration.  In 1954, 'dual' (i.e. segregated) school systems were mandated by statute in eleven southern states and six other states, as well as the District of Columbia.  T
he situation in the border states began to change relatively quickly after Brown, but the decision did not have any substantial effect in the deep South until the 1970s, when, as James Patterson (author of a 2001 book about Brown) notes, the decision finally was enforced.  Some cities and localities have been success stories of integration -- Raleigh, N.C., to mention one, as discussed in Gerald Grant's 2009 book Hope and Despair in the American City [link]

If that's the glass-half-full side of the story, the glass-half-empty side is that there is overall still a great deal of both economic and racial segregation in U.S. public schools -- there's more segregation now in schools in the North and West than there was 30 years ago.  The Supreme Court had a chance to help reverse this trend in 1974 by allowing court-ordered cross-district (urban/suburban) busing in cases of de facto (residential) segregation, but instead a 5-4 majority of the Burger Court went the other way; the case was Milliken v. Bradley.  Voluntary urban/suburban integration programs -- which typically do not involve an actual merger of urban and suburban systems, as occurred in Raleigh, but instead move relatively small numbers of students across district lines -- are not an adequate substitute for larger-scale court-ordered programs, but Milliken basically precluded those.  Today, according to this piece that aired last month on the PBS NewsHour, there are only eight voluntary urban-suburban 'transfer' programs in the country, involving all together a mere 40,000 students, and almost half of those are in Hartford, Ct.  The same piece noted that the number of 'intensely segregated' (i.e., more than 90 percent minority) schools in Rochester, N.Y., has increased fivefold since 1989, and Rochester has one of the voluntary urban-suburban programs.

There is by now a large literature on Brown and on the broader question of the courts and social change, most of which I haven't read (I've listed a few relevant titles at the end of this post, but this list is only the tip of the iceberg).  With that said, Mark Tushnet's judgment on the impact of Brown, and of civil rights litigation more generally,
seems reasonable, though no judgment here will command universal agreement.  In Red, White, and Blue: A Critical Analysis of Constitutional Law (1988), p.132, Tushnet wrote:
Brown galvanized black communities not so much because schools were desegregated -- except in the border states substantial [de jure] segregation continued for more than a decade after Brown -- but because it showed that one branch of the national government was on their side. Two years later the Montgomery bus boycott was the first episode in the development of the modern civil rights movement, whose sit-ins and marches prodded Congress to enact important civil rights acts in 1964, 1965, and 1968. The [Supreme] Court's response to the movement was hesitant and indirect. It never ruled that sit-ins were protected by the Constitution, but it did allow demonstrators to invoke the powers of the federal courts to limit the worst sort of harassment, and it upheld innovative efforts by the executive branch to convict white terrorists under old statutes.  Overall the courts played a distinctly subordinate role in the post-1960 struggle for civil rights.  It seems fair to wonder whether the pattern of race relations in 1970 or 1980 would have been dramatically different had blacks been forced to use only political methods.
Kamisar in 1969 emphasized more strongly Brown's "galvanizing" effect, arguing among other things that it contributed to the subsequent enactment of civil rights legislation and that it sped up or "perhaps even precipitated" the Warren Court's "revolution" in criminal procedure ("The School Desegregation Cases in Retrospect," in the Chelsea House volume listed below, p.xxiv).  Probably the only certain statement is that the legacy of Brown will continue to be debated.  

References and further reading
Carol Anderson, Eyes Off the Prize

Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights
Gerald Grant, Hope and Despair in the American City
F. Harris and R. Lieberman, "Racial Inequality after Racism," Foreign Affairs (March/April 2015)
Richard Kluger, Simple Justice

Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., All Deliberate Speed 
James T. Patterson, "The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board" (pdf)
Gerald Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope

Mark Tushnet, Red, White, and Blue 
Argument: The Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1952-55, vol. 1 of the series Oral Arguments Before the Supreme Court (N.Y.: Chelsea House, 1970; paperback reprint, 1983), ed. Leon Friedman, with introductions by Kenneth Clark and Yale Kamisar.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What Rawls was doing

Ending the break a bit early. 

The blogger Bianca Steele has been posting about Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice (a book I've read, but I don't have a copy to hand, so am not going to discuss it in any detail). Rather, this post is about Bianca S's remark about Rawls in this passage of this post:
Walzer describes “distributive justice” as a theory about the distribution of everything within a society, even things that aren’t normally transferable, and so on. This sounds like a good idea, and almost obvious. How else could philosophers and other thinkers evaluate the justice of a society, other than by characterizing the distribution of various bad or good things among its members? Why should questions of the distribution of one thing be discussed in different terms than the distribution of others? Moreover, as will be seen in the following pages, Walzer is responding to A Theory of Justice, a far-reaching theory published about a decade earlier by John Rawls. It’s not unreasonable to expect that Rawls is interested in justice as it applies to everything that might be shared either justly or unjustly.However, this is not what Rawls was doing. (At least, it’s not what he’s taken to have been doing, from the vantage point of today. I would be interested to learn whether he addressed this question somewhere in the very long text of his book, but for me, that’s a research project for another day.)

Answering the question of what Rawls was doing in this respect doesn't require a research project.  It requires reading page 7 of A Theory of Justice (1971 edition), where Rawls explains that the main focus of his theory is justice in "the basic structure of society," i.e., a society's "political constitution" and its "principal economic and social arrangements" and how they "distribute fundamental rights and duties and determine the division of advantages from social cooperation."  So yes, he's not focusing on the distribution of "everything that might be shared" but rather on how a society's basic institutions operate to distribute political rights, income, wealth, status, and other things that might be considered to make up the social bases of self-respect.  As stated this is somewhat vague, but enough to show that Rawls is not interested in all of the distributional items that Walzer covers.  For example, though my memory of this is hazy, Walzer in Spheres has a chapter on love, where he talks about dating and marriage etc. This is outside the scope of Rawls's concerns, since the basic structure of society as he conceives of it has to do with these matters only indirectly, if that.

ETA: Ordinarily I might have left this as a comment on Bianca S's blog rather than writing a post here, but she's made clear that my comments aren't welcome there.

ETA (again): Rawls does list "the monogamous family" as an example of a major social institution, but he has very little or nothing to say about justice in the family, as a number of  his feminist critics have pointed out.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dept of First-World complaints/messages

Interrupting the month of non-posting to say 'have fun shoveling snow' to anyone reading this in the relevant geographical area (which may be a grand total of zero people, but anyway).

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Note to readers

Starting the year with a blogging break; I'm not planning to do any posting in January.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The year at this blog in retrospect

The Middle East was a main focus here this year.  Among other developments, the Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing Syrian civil war (including the question of strategy against ISIS), and the resurgence of violence on the West Bank (engaged in by both sides though conditioned by the seemingly now-permanent occupation) received some attention.  The four guest posts by Peter T. were a highlight: see here, here, here, and here.     

Other posts from this past year perhaps worth mentioning include a note about Machiavelli and mercenaries and a reflection on 'critical junctures'.   

Finally, thanks to the readers and commenters whose contributions produced some good comment threads in 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The "subjective impact" of inequality

In discussing post-1949 China in her classic States and Social Revolutions (1979), T. Skocpol quotes (on p.274) a passage from a 1975 article by Martin K. Whyte on how post-revolutionary China addressed the issue of inequality.  The Chinese regime, according to Whyte, aimed not so much to eliminate income and other inequalities as to "mute [their] consequences."  In this 40-year-old article, Whyte wrote:
People in high positions in China are viewed as entitled to certain kinds of differential rewards and authority, but at the same time flaunting authority or engaging in conspicuous consumption is tabooed. There is thus a concerted effort to blunt the subjective impact which existing inequalities might have on the initiative and dedication of the have-nots in whose name the revolution was fought.
The notion of the subjective impact of inequalities clearly relates to inequality's tendency, in some cases, to undermine the social bases of self-respect (as discussed in the comment thread attached to this post).  My impression is that conspicuous consumption is no longer especially discouraged in China; some might consider that one of the acceptable prices to pay for having escaped the more destructive aspects of Maoism, but it's interesting that, 40 years ago at any rate, Chinese policy was apparently very conscious of what Whyte labeled the subjective impact of inequality.  

Though Skocpol thought China was different from post-revolutionary France and Russia in this respect, I'm not so sure.  The addressing of pretty much everyone as "citizen" after 1789, to take one example, might have been one way in which the new French republic tried to, quoting Whyte in this different context, "mute the consequences" of the inequalities that remained after the Revolution. Just a stray thought...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Weber and the switchmen

The title of this post could be the name of a rock band, but it's not.  Earlier today I was looking briefly at an almost decade-old review (by Peter Thomas in New Left Review, Sept/Oct 2006) of Joachim Radkau's 1000-page biography Max Weber: die Leidenschaft des Denkens [the passion of Thought] (and don't get the idea that I have any German because, regrettably, I really don't).  And just now, in writing a comment at another blog, I was prompted, perhaps (though who knows) because of having looked at the Thomas review this morning, to mention the passage in "The Social Psychology of the World Religions" in which Weber compares ideas to "switchmen."

Since this post doesn't have much of a point, you can file it under 'inconsequential stuff that your blogger thought he might as well throw onto the interwebs before 2015 shudders to a close'.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book reviews at this blog, 2009-2015

This is a list of the book reviews that have been posted here since the blog's beginning, in chronological order starting with the earliest.

Alan Wolfe, The Future of Liberalism (2009), reviewed 9/9/09

Joshua S. Goldstein, Winning the War on War (2011), reviewed 1/16/12

Jack Knight & James Johnson, The Priority of Democracy (2011), reviewed 12/23/12 [this wasn't presented as a formal book review, but for all intents and purposes it is a review]

Srinath Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh (2013), reviewed 1/16/14

Michael E. Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution (2011), reviewed 3/14/14 [again, this wasn't presented as a book review, but it comes pretty close to being one]

David A. Bell, The First Total War (2007), reviewed 9/22/14       

James T. Johnson, Sovereignty (2014), reviewed 6/5/15 [the author is a different James Johnson than the one mentioned above] 


There have been a few other posts discussing a particular book in detail, but I think the above list will do.  The (regrettable) absence of female authors from the list is accidental not intentional; however, I'll try to be more attuned to that in the future.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book note

Have just become aware of a book that might be of interest to some readers of this blog: John Judis, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  The paperback edition came out last February. (Amazon link.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunstein is writing about what?

P. Campos at the LGM blog:
How did Star Wars become such a big deal, culturally speaking? Why does the franchise...  have such a vast and fanatical following? Why, for example, is Cass Sunstein, of all people, writing a book about Star Wars?
Oh, I know the answer to this one: it's the natural outgrowth of Sunstein's Harvard senior thesis on Samuel Beckett, written in 1975.

You're welcome. Next question. ;-)

ETA: Some blathering by me on the question of Star Wars and 'empire' can be found here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Climate links

I'm not going to write about the climate agreement because I don't follow the issue(s) closely enough, but A. Gilbert has some relevant, or so it appears, links here.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A note on two scholars

The Internet is full of discussion of the death of Benedict Anderson (see, e.g., Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, Corey Robin at his blog and also at CT, and Robert Greene II at the USIH blog).

Although I've read (parts of) Imagined Communities and admire it and was just looking this morning at a section at the end of the 1991 revised edition (where Anderson takes off from Renan on forgetting to discuss the paradoxes attending the ways in which national histories are retrospectively rewritten to emphasize "fraternal" quarrels), I can't say the book had an enormous effect on me.  Its wide influence, however, is of course undeniable. 

A book that deals partly with nationalism and had a bigger impact on me is Rogers Brubaker's Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (1992), not so much for its details (about 95 percent of which I've forgotten) or even for its main thesis, but rather because of the meticulous care with which it was researched, organized, and written.  Today, many books published even by top-line university presses are littered with typographical and spelling errors and in some cases awkward or ungrammatical sentences; many of them are not written carefully, and they are not copy-edited or proofread competently. (Note: I'm saying "many," not "all.")  

Citizenship and Nationhood, which was based on the author's dissertation, is the exact opposite: excellently written and virtually devoid of the small errors that bespeak a carelessness and haste and that are rampant in scholarly books today.  I'm quite sure -- in fact, I'm positive -- that some of the arguments of Citizenship and Nationhood have been challenged since its publication, but the care that went into that book is obvious from the first page to the last.  It's no surprise that the author, who has written a lot of other things since that book, has had a highly successful scholarly career.

Added later: I also liked, to some extent, Anthony Marx's Faith in Nation: Exclusionary Origins of Nationalism, which I read more recently.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sanders on 'realism'

Bernie Sanders in conversation with Ezra Klein.
Excerpt -- close paraphrasing (not verbatim):

Klein: Turning to foreign policy, is there a school of foreign policy you identify with - are you a realist or ...
Sanders: I don't know what the word means. I think we're all realists...
Klein (smiling): I'm not sure we are.
Sanders (repeating): I don't know what the word means.
Would have been a bit better, I think, if Bernie had said the word was unhelpfully vague instead of saying he doesn't know what it means.  But this is a nitpick, admittedly. I didn't watch the whole interview, but the parts I watched were interesting.

Added later: Note also the exchange near the beginning where Klein asks about global poverty, immigration, and 'open borders'.  Sanders's reply is substantively more or less what one would expect him to say, but it perhaps could have been framed a bit better.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"Obscure uprisings"

I'm starting to read Jonathan Sperber's Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life (2013).  This passage appears in the Introduction:
Marx's life, his systems of thought, his political strivings and aspirations, belonged primarily to the nineteenth century, a period of human history that occupies a strange place in relation to the present: neither evidently distant and alien, like the Middle Ages, nor still within living memory as, for instance, the world of the age of total war, or communist regimes of the Eastern bloc in the years 1945-89.  Every once in a  while the nineteenth century suddenly emerges into the present, with an eerie clarity and familiarity.  A prime example are [sic] the revolutions of 1848, whose rapid spread from country to country within a few months was a central political event of the nineteenth century, but since then have been known only to historical specialists.  All at once, these obscure uprisings seemed current and familiar during the fall of 1989, as revolutions moved through communist Eastern Europe, or in the winter of 2011 as they raced through the Arab world.  Much the same can be said about the relationship of Marx's life and thought to the present: there are moments of familiarity, but more often than not, I am struck by the differences....
Would it be nitpicking to point out that if the 1848 revolutions were indeed "obscure uprisings" known only to specialists they really wouldn't have been able to seem "current and familiar" in 1989 and 2011?  What Sperber intends to say here is clear enough, but he's not saying it particularly well.  A copy editor probably could have fixed this in about fifteen or twenty minutes; however, the number of publishers using good copy editors seems small.
In fairness to Sperber, I have about 550 pages to go, and a preliminary glance through the book suggested that the overall quality of the writing is high.  It remains to be seen whether my preliminary judgment will be borne out.