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Hans J. Morgenthau?s Conception of the Balance of Power

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Although Morgenthau is regularly identified as the father of modern realism, and the precusor of neoclassical realism, there have been few systematic attempts to unpack the theory of international politics that is embedded in his central text - Politics Among Nations. The more prevalent tendency has been for analysts to ransack his writings looking for quotations that confirm their particular take on his approach to international politics. Such a strategy never proves to be convincing, however, because Morgenthau?s assessment of international politics is both complex and ambiguous. As a consequence, it is very difficult to pigeon hole him. The aim of this paper is to provide a sympathetic reading of Politics Among Nations that attempts to overcome the confusion and inconsistency that is frequently associated with Morgenthau's approach. To this end, two main moves are made. First, I approach the text from the perspective of the balance of power ? identified as the central concept in his theory. Second, I try to demonstrate that Morgenthau?s approach to the balance of power is more pluralistic than is generally recognised - conflating two distinctively different dynamic processes. One associates the balance of power with the unintended outcome of Great Powers engaged in a drive for hegemony. The other dynamic is associated with a complex set of social, ideational and material factors that ameliorate the effects of the first dynamic and assist the Great Powers in maintaining an equilibrium that promotes their collective security and common interests. In practice, Morgenthau makes no explicit attempt to distinguish these two dynamics, and so it needs to be acknowledged that this is a reading that is being imposed on his text. It is argued, however, that some of the incoherence and confusion that has been associated with Morgenthau?s approach to international politics can be reduced by making the two dynamics explicit. Moreover, it also becomes easier to see why Morgenthau argues that there have been two fundamental transformation points in the development of international politics over the past five hundred years ? an assessment that shares some common ground with contemporary constructivist theorists.

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power (201), morgenthau (155), balanc (109), state (105), polit (93), intern (90), system (76), european (61), argu (53), nation (50), war (47), centuri (46), first (41), dynam (40), two (38), world (38), europ (37), also (35), dynast (33), great (29), relat (28),
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Name: International Studies Association
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http://www.isanet.org


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Little, Richard. "Hans J. Morgenthau?s Conception of the Balance of Power" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA, Mar 22, 2006 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p100822_index.html>

APA Citation:

Little, R. , 2006-03-22 "Hans J. Morgenthau?s Conception of the Balance of Power" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA Online <PDF>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p100822_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Although Morgenthau is regularly identified as the father of modern realism, and the precusor of neoclassical realism, there have been few systematic attempts to unpack the theory of international politics that is embedded in his central text - Politics Among Nations. The more prevalent tendency has been for analysts to ransack his writings looking for quotations that confirm their particular take on his approach to international politics. Such a strategy never proves to be convincing, however, because Morgenthau?s assessment of international politics is both complex and ambiguous. As a consequence, it is very difficult to pigeon hole him. The aim of this paper is to provide a sympathetic reading of Politics Among Nations that attempts to overcome the confusion and inconsistency that is frequently associated with Morgenthau's approach. To this end, two main moves are made. First, I approach the text from the perspective of the balance of power ? identified as the central concept in his theory. Second, I try to demonstrate that Morgenthau?s approach to the balance of power is more pluralistic than is generally recognised - conflating two distinctively different dynamic processes. One associates the balance of power with the unintended outcome of Great Powers engaged in a drive for hegemony. The other dynamic is associated with a complex set of social, ideational and material factors that ameliorate the effects of the first dynamic and assist the Great Powers in maintaining an equilibrium that promotes their collective security and common interests. In practice, Morgenthau makes no explicit attempt to distinguish these two dynamics, and so it needs to be acknowledged that this is a reading that is being imposed on his text. It is argued, however, that some of the incoherence and confusion that has been associated with Morgenthau?s approach to international politics can be reduced by making the two dynamics explicit. Moreover, it also becomes easier to see why Morgenthau argues that there have been two fundamental transformation points in the development of international politics over the past five hundred years ? an assessment that shares some common ground with contemporary constructivist theorists.

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Document Type: PDF
Page count: 20
Word count: 11246
Text sample:
The balance of power in Politics Among Nations Richard Little University of Bristol r.little@bris.ac.uk Paper prepared for 47th Annual International Studies Association Convention San Diego CA 22nd- 25th March 2006 Panel TB05 Realism Reconsidered 11 – Morgenthau and Realism Today ECPR/ISA Sponsored Panel Chair Michael C.Williams 1 Abstract Although Morgenthau is regularly identified as the father of modern realism and the precusor of neoclassical realism there have been few systematic attempts to unpack the theory of international politics that
of 1648: Class Geopolitics and the Making of Modern International Relations London Verso Thompson William R. ‘Dehio Long Cycles and the Geohistorical Context of Structural Transition’ World Politics Toynbee Arnold (1934) A Study in History Vol.111 Oxford: Oxford University Press Toynbee Arnold (1939) A Study in History Vol.V1 Oxford: Oxford University Press Waltz N Kenneth (1979) Theory of International Politics Reading Mass Addison- Wesley Wendt Alexander (1999) Social Theory of International Politics Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Whiteneck Daniel J.(2001)


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