Saturday, September 26, 2015

Noted

Realpolitik: A History, by John Bew, is due to be published in the U.S. by Oxford U.P. on Dec.1, according to Amazon; presumably the book has already been released in the UK.  It clocks in at roughly 400 pp. (some of the contents are available at Amazon Look Inside); the author's previous book, a biography of Castlereagh, was longer.  Whether Bew has much that is new to say about postwar American realism is perhaps doubtful, given the amount of extant scholarship on that particular subject, but the book claims to be the first comprehensive history to trace Realpolitik from its German roots to its American (or Anglo-American) variations.

Speaking of books, I currently have a review in the works of this, but the review probably won't be up for a while, for various reasons.  So expect things to be quiet here for the immediate future.

14 comments:

Ronan said...

I really didnt know what to make of that second book you linked to from the synopsis, but the reviews are impressive. Im loking forward to what your take is

LFC said...

Yeah, I think the publisher, Johns Hopkins Univ Press, went a bit overboard in getting accolades/blurbs from every major US IR scholar they cd think of... Schweller is well known in the field and I don't think he really needs all that blurbing, so to speak. As for the bk, haven't quite finished it (or my review). Plus have some other things on the plate right now. I'm definitely going to put it up eventually, just not sure exactly when.

Peter T said...


Third Reich's strategic planning is an interest of mine, so I'll look up Schweller's earlier book on that. For the decline of US power, latest from Ted Cruz (jail communist Obama, assassinate Khamenei) and reaction thereto calls to mind Marx' dictum about history as farce.

LFC said...

I missed Cruz's latest pronouncement -- I haven't been following the campaign very closely, I guess. He clearly is pursuing a "no one further to the right" strategy. But in Cruz's case, when he says "assassinate Khamanei," he might mean it; who knows? Anyway it's not the sort of thing, if you really wanted to do it, you shd go around announcing in public. But I will look up Cruz's latest, for the farce value if nothing else.

LFC said...

@Ronan
I see that you've been participating in the comment thread at Lawyers Guns & Money on Erik Loomis's 'meritocracy' post. I read the post, but only sort of skimmed the comment thread. Tempted to write something there, but don't think I will.

Anyway, since you seem to have some interest in these matters as they play out in the U.S., thought I'd mention my own experience. Not claiming it's typical in any sense, just one data point.

-- Attended very good public, suburban high school (supposedly one of the best public high schools in the country): graduated mid-70s

-- Attended elite (Ivy) university: graduated late '70s (my academic record there, i.e. GPA, was, well, on the unimpressive side)

-- Attended non-elite law school and, some years later, non-elite grad school.

-- Career (by societal standards): unsuccessful.

Make of that what you will...

LFC said...

for clarification of previous comment, read:
"graduated in the mid-1970s"

(apparently there's no way to edit one's comments in Blogger once they're posted)

Ronan said...

Thanks LFC.
I had a longer comment that has been eaten twice now, so lll probably leave it. In summary though, lets just say it's very difficult to avoid engaging in hyperbole at LGM.

LFC said...

True.

Actually because I only skimmed that comment thread, I'm not sure which commenters were engaging in hyperbole (maybe all). For various reasons, I decided it's not a good use of my time to get into the whole set of issues raised by Loomis. Not that they aren't interesting, I just have other things I have to do right now. Plus I'm not sure I have anything that informed to contribute. But I do think, for ex., that Loomis was exaggerating when he said he cdn't get a job at an elite school, no matter how much he publishes, b/c his PhD is from U of New Mexico. Pedigree in that sense matters, and puts up perhaps bigger hurdles, but if one of his bks were, e.g, to win a major prize he cd prob write his own ticket, or at least it wd drastically change the picture. Anyway, he has a full-time, tenure-track job, which is a lot more than many academics (esp. in his field), so I'm not going to cry much for him...

chaosandgovernance said...

I missed the boat on this thread, but Schweller is one of the most creative and insightful American Neorealists. His discussion of status quo and revisionist states is leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of other mechanical Neorealist attempts to patch up Waltz's framework. He contributed a bit to the patching-up enterprise in his own right, but he has now said that he is thoroughly bored of the entire debate and that it's all irrelevant to world politics in the C21st. Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple looks really interesting and not the sort of book that IR scholars usually write.

LFC said...

@N. Lees (and others in this thread):

I read a substantial part of 'Maxwell's Demon' and drafted parts of a review, but then I got bored w. the bk and decided I wasn't going to finish it, and I've now returned it to the library. It's a fairly short bk that began as a magazine/journal article, but it still has a certain amt of repetition. The basic theme is that 'entropic' forces are leading to more ungovernability and chaos in the C21st intl system. Because great-power or 'hegemonic' war is off the table, acc. to Schweller (and I think he's right about that), one of the main mechanisms for the restoration of order in an intl system is unavailable. Hegemonic war 'cleans the slate' and offers the system a fresh start, he says, and since there isn't going to be one, new rules just get piled on top of old ones and basically no one knows what's going on, leading to ungovernability. I'm telescoping drastically obvs. and I've just been drinking some wine, so I apologize for the compression etc., but from what I cd tell (and w/o looking back at my draft review), that's the basic argument. The most controversial passage (in the part of the bk I read) prob. is where he talks about the benefits of hegemonic war, even though of course he is glad that it's no longer on the table and therefore tens or hundreds of millions of people aren't going to be killed in one.

Anyway, since I decided not to finish the book, I will not be posting a review, contrary to what I said upthread. However, I do think the bk is worth a look. It's pretty snappily written, but for a short book there's too much repetition and it cd have been somewhat better organized. I don't how much is the bk's fault and how much is me -- i.e., am I just getting bored w IR-theory bks? Since I don't have an academic career, I don't have to pretend to be interested in something when I'm not.

But I give Schweller credit for writing something at least a bit iconoclastic instead of churning out yet another conventional study.

LFC said...

P.s.
One other thing re Schweller: he says that a multipolar system is emerging, but not as a result of anything that cd be called balancing behavior, certainly not traditional balancing behavior (i.e., forming of alliances or deliberate 'internal' building up of military etc. capabilities [though actually China and India are doing some of the latter]). I think that pt is basically right.

chaosandgovernance said...

I think I will probably check it out, especially as my current teaching duties include a course on international institutions and general issues of the organisation of world politics. The concern with social entropy reminds me of David Christian's naturalistic, thermodynamics-inspired Big History approach.

I also agree that movement back to multipolarity has little to do with balancing behaviour but is largely explained by uneven growth among the (potential and actual) great and intermediate powers. This is one of the arguments made by the self-styled Postclassical Realists, Brooks and Wohlforth, in their criticisms of balance of power Neorealists like Layne and Mearsheimer. I do think, however, that over the long run geopolitical pressure has played a role in forcing states to re-organise their economies and catch-up with more economically and militarily developed states. But this is not what Neorealists conceptualised balancing as (although Waltz notes the process in an aside about Russia), it's much more central to hegemonic cycle/power transition/long cycle leadership theories.

Repetitious books are just hard going. I started Ikenberry's 'Liberal Leviathan' not so long ago. I like Ikenberry's work, but I felt that I had read all of his arguments before in his journal articles.

LFC said...

I don't know David Christian, but will look him up. As for Ikenberry, I'm sure your feeling about Liberal Leviathan (which I haven't read) was accurate.

LFC said...

Re:
...over the long run geopolitical pressure has played a role in forcing states to re-organise their economies and catch-up with more economically and militarily developed states. But this is not what Neorealists conceptualised balancing as (although Waltz notes the process in an aside about Russia), it's much more central to hegemonic cycle/power transition/long cycle leadership theories.

Yes, and this reminds me of another point about 'Maxell's Demon': Schweller endorses -- as a historical observation though he thinks it does not apply any more today -- Modelski's 100-year-cycles of war-and-peace (which Gilpin called "interesting" but "speculative" in War and Change, p.205). But Schweller does not mention the 50-year Kondratieff cycles that some have seen as an analogue in the economic sphere to the 100-year cycles in the geopolitical sphere. I don't have a firm position on the validity of either kind of cycle. (I did read, years ago, some of Goldstein's Long Cycles, which subjects both kinds of cycle theories to empirical scrutiny, but, frankly, I don't remember what conclusions he reaches.)