Skip to main content

Getting Your Way

Strategic Dilemmas in the Real World

Getting other people to do what we want is a useful skill for anyone. Whether you’re seeking a job, negotiating a deal, or angling for that big promotion, you’re engaged in strategic thought and action. In such moments, you imagine what might be going on in another person’s head and how they’ll react to what you do or say. At the same time, you also try to pick the best way to realize your goals, both with and without the other person’s cooperation. Getting Your Way teaches us how to win that game by offering a fuller understanding of how strategy works in the real world.

As we all know, rules of strategy are regularly discovered and discussed in popular books for business executives, military leaders, and politicians. Those works with their trendy lists of pithy maxims and highly effective habits can help people avoid mistakes or even think anew about how to tackle their problems. But they are merely suggestive, as each situation we encounter in the real world is always more complex than anticipated, more challenging than we had hoped. James M. Jasper here shows us how to anticipate those problems before they actually occur—by recognizing the dilemmas all strategic players must negotiate, with each option accompanied by a long list of costs and risks. Considering everyday dilemmas in a broad range of familiar settings, from business and politics to love and war, Jasper explains how to envision your goals, how to make the first move, how to deal with threats, and how to employ strategies with greater confidence.

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Rosa Parks, Hugo Chávez, and David Koresh all come into play in this smart and engaging book, one that helps us recognize and prepare for the many dilemmas inherent in any strategic action.

224 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies

Psychology: Social Psychology

Sociology: General Sociology


"[An] original and distinctive take on the question of strategy. . . . A refreshingly alternative look at the human dilemmas at the heart of strategic decision-making."

Stefan Stern | Financial Times

"Getting Your Way gives us a fresh, powerful perspective on strategic action in social and economic life. It brings a robust theory of action and choice to sociology and political science as it breathes life into the sterile world of game theory and economics. Written with precision and flair, it is a must-read for anyone­—academics or practitioners­—interested in understanding and thriving in business, politics, organizations, and markets."

Wayne Baker, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“What a bright and daring thinker! In Getting Your Way, James Jasper attacks the utilitarian view of strategy, which too often is imposed upon us by economists. Jasper leads us to the notion of strategic dilemmas which becomes one of the most efficient instruments of analysis. This is the most original and illuminating introduction to strategy that I have read.”

Alain Touraine, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Getting Your Way is a wondrous book—well-written, hard-driving, interesting, creative, and important. A gifted storyteller and a brilliant analyst, Jasper uses broad-ranging examples, drawing on personal experience, philosophy, and history to convey his message that much of social interaction is strategic. Throughout Jasper pushes his analysis in ways that challenge popular accounts of strategy—especially game theory—identifying their deficiencies and pointing the way forward. This is a fun book to read.”--Lee Clarke, author of Worst Cases

Lee Clarke

Table of Contents

List of Dilemmas
Introduction: The Politics of Social Life
Chapter 1 - Starting Points
Initiation Is Rare — Advantages — Disadvantages — Knowing the Terrain — Accidental Engagements

Chapter 2 - Threats
The Power of the Negative — Insult — Deprivation — Incapacity — Moral Shocks — Blame — Intentional Threats

Chapter 3 - Goals
The Diversity of Goals — Reputation — Sensuality and Connection — Impact — Knowledge and Curiosity — Objectives — Relations among Goals — Changing Goals — Acts and Consequences — Appendix: Terms of Desire

Chapter 4 - Capacities
Means of Action — Resources — Intelligence — Individual Competencies — Reputations — Confidence and Agency — Organizational Capacities — Being There — Tastes in Tactics

Chapter 5 - Players as Audiences
Multiple Players — Creating Players — Segregating Audiences — Diverse Audiences and Alliances

Chapter 6 - Arenas
Kinds of Arenas — Relations among Arenas — Switching Arenas — Rules and Capacities — Structures — False Arenas
Conclusion: Thinking Through Dilemmas
Appendix: Rules of Strategic Action

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press