Political Thought and International Relations: Variations on a Realist Theme

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Duncan Bell
OUP Oxford, Dec 2, 2010 - Political Science - 256 pages
Political realism dominated the field of International Relations during the Cold War. Since then, however, its fortunes have been mixed: pushed onto the backfoot during 1990s, it has in recent years retuned to the centre of scholarly debate. Despite its prominence in International Relations, however, realism plays only a marginal role in contemporary international political theory. It is often associated with a form of crude realpolitik that ignores the ethical dimensions of political life. The contributors to this book explore alternative understandings of realism, seeing it as a diverse and complex mode of political and ethical theorising rather than simply a "value-neutral" social scientific theory or the unreflective defence of the national interest. A number of the chapters offer critical interpretations of key figures in the canon of twentieth century realism, including Hans Morgenthau, E. H. Carr, and Reinhold Niebuhr. Others seek to widen the lens through which realism is usually viewed, exploring the writings of Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, and Leo Strauss. Finally, a number of the contributors engage with general issues in international political theory, including the meaning and value of pessimism, the relationship between power and ethics, the purpose of normative political theory, and what might constitute political "reality." Straddling International Relations and political theory, this book makes a significant contribution to both fields.


Under an Empty SkyRealism and Political Theory
Ethics Persuasion and Power
3 A Theoretical Missed Opportunity? Hans J Morgenthau as Critical Realist
4 Hans J Morgenthau and the Legacy of Max Weber
Conflicting Conceptions of Ethics in Realism
6 The Ethic of Reality in Hannah Arendt
7 Towards a More Reflective Political Realism
Leo Strauss War and Politics
9 Pessimistic Realism and Realistic Pessimism
10 Realism and the Politics of Dis Enchantment
11 Political Theory and the Realistic Spirit
A Flight from Reality?

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About the author (2010)

Duncan Bell is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Christ's College. His research interests span political theory, international relations theory, and the history of political thought.

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