Most of the papers collected here were written in the last ten years, and the book may be regarded as a sequel to the author's Social Order and the Risks of War: Papers in Political Sociology, first published in 1952 and reissued by The M.I.T. Press in 1964. The papers in Force and Folly reflect Hans Speier's professional concerns over the past decade as a charter member of the Research Council of The RAND Corporation. About a third of the papers have never been published before in any form.
“Force” and “Folly” are respectively the titles of the book's two parts. Speier explicitly warns against misreading his title as Force is Folly: The first paper, “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age,” makes clear that he does not believe war to be abolishable in the foreseeable future, although we may hope to keep it scaled down to appropriately chosen limits; that the use of force is often unavoidable and sometimes justifiable; but that the use of total force is indeed gross folly.
The first part, “Force,” presents, from an empirical point of view, studies of specific situations arising from past and current wars and crises. These include the Suez crisis of 1956, the crucial role of Germany in the formation of American foreign policy, the Hallstein Doctrine, and the exposure of NATO to Soviet pressures. A major theme treated by Speier is the process of political communication, including the uses of humor. He also introduces the reader to certain “gaming” techniques for [robing possible futures, techniques largely developed at RAND. Two of the papers describe and evaluate political and war gaming.
Part Two, “Folly,” complements and reinforces these professional reflections with essays that grew from the avocational side of Speier's intellectual life. In these he is generally concerned with the archetypical Fool in Western literature, and most particularly with the archetypical Fool in Western literature, and most particularly with the writings of the low Baroque German novelist Grimmelshausen and the Fool he fathered, Simplicissimus. Grimmelshausen both fought in and wrote about the Thirty Years War, which in its times was a total war and one of the bloodiest in European history, with foolish men glorying in their follies. Looking back into the seventeenth century of crisis, Speier is at pains to gauge the psychology of total war—its effects on public order, on morals, and on behavior as a function of religious faith.
Force and Folly is a volume in the series M.I.T. Studies in Comparative Politics under the general editorship pf Harold D. Lasswell, Daniel Lerner, and Ithiel de Sola Pool.