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Morgenthau Reconsidered: The Origin and Meaning of Morality in Political Realism
Unformatted Document Text:  1 “Morgenthau Reconsidered in the German Context. The Origin(s) and Meaning of Morality in Political Realism” Alexander Reichwein, Goethe University Frankfurt ( ## email not listed ## ) Paper presented at the ISA’s 49th Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, March 26-29, 2008. “You are not the harsh realist you are painted but the most moral man I know.” (Walter Lippmann to Hans Morgenthau, cited according to Rosenthal 1991: xv) 1. Introduction 1 The realist paradox – power politics versus moral concern Realists consistently criticize US foreign policy. In doing so, they become confronted with a substantial problem: the contradiction between theorizing and policy action. Realists claim to perceive and formulate objective, valid, and universal laws of international politics. As Hans J. Morgenthau formulated in the first of his six principles of Political Realisms in the second edition of “Politics among Nations” (1954: 3-13): “Political Realism believes that politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. [ …] Realism […] must also believe in the possibility of developing a rational theory that reflects, however imperfectly, these objective laws” (1954: 4). The realist tradition in International Relations has been constructed around their main claim, namely that politics is an immutable struggle for power among states. The assumption that states struggle for power, is the essence of politics as emphasized in Morgenthau’s second and third principle of Political Realism: “We assume that statesman think and act in terms of interest defined as power, and the evidence of history bears that assumption. […] The concept of interest defined as power […] makes the theoretical understanding of politics possible. […] The idea of interest is indeed of the essence of politics and is unaffected by the circumstances of time and place” (1954: 5, 8). Structural realists, too, do not differ from this way (Waltz 1979: 1-17). Realists arguments stretch beyond the realm of their theoretical capacity when they criticize US foreign policy conflicts with the alleged laws they have formulated. Nevertheless, they continue to scathingly remonstrate with statesman for ignoring these laws and judge US foreign policy to be wrong. 1 I am grateful to Heather Taylor for her comments.

Authors: Reichwein, Alexander.
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1
“Morgenthau Reconsidered in the German Context.
The Origin(s) and Meaning of Morality in Political Realism”
Alexander Reichwein,
Goethe University Frankfurt
(
## email not listed ##
)
Paper presented at the ISA’s 49th Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, March 26-29, 2008.
“You are not the harsh realist you are painted but the most moral man I know.”
(Walter Lippmann to Hans Morgenthau, cited according to Rosenthal 1991: xv)
1.
Introduction
1
The realist paradox – power politics versus moral concern
Realists consistently criticize US foreign policy. In doing so, they become confronted with a
substantial problem: the contradiction between theorizing and policy action. Realists claim to
perceive and formulate objective, valid, and universal laws of international politics. As Hans
J. Morgenthau formulated in the first of his six principles of Political Realisms in the second
edition of “Politics among Nations” (1954: 3-13): “Political Realism believes that politics,
like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature.
[
…] Realism […] must also believe in the possibility of developing a rational theory that
reflects, however imperfectly, these objective laws” (1954: 4). The realist tradition in
International Relations has been constructed around their main claim, namely that politics is
an immutable struggle for power among states. The assumption that states struggle for power,
is the essence of politics as emphasized in Morgenthau’s second and third principle of
Political Realism: “We assume that statesman think and act in terms of interest defined as
power, and the evidence of history bears that assumption. […] The concept of interest defined
as power […] makes the theoretical understanding of politics possible. […] The idea of
interest is indeed of the essence of politics and is unaffected by the circumstances of time and
place” (1954: 5, 8). Structural realists, too, do not differ from this way (Waltz 1979: 1-17).
Realists arguments stretch beyond the realm of their theoretical capacity when they criticize
US foreign policy conflicts with the alleged laws they have formulated. Nevertheless, they
continue to scathingly remonstrate with statesman for ignoring these laws and judge US
foreign policy to be wrong.
1
I am grateful to Heather Taylor for her comments.


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