In “Culture Clash,” Michael Desch offers a dismissive assessment of the new culturalist
wave in security studies.1 Desch ªnds cultural variables hard to deªne and operationalize,
culturalists reluctant to generalize across cases, and inconsistencies within culturalism
in security studies such that some cultural theories have more in common with
realist theories than with other cultural ones. I deal with each of these criticisms in turn.
I then focus on Desch’s call for culturalists to subject their theories to “crucial tests.” I
propose an alternative method, more favored by social scientists and accepted by
realists, of comparing realism and culturalism as rival research programs in security