Thinkers of the Twenty Years' Crisis: Inter-War Idealism Reassessed

Thinkers of the Twenty Years' Crisis: Inter-War Idealism Reassessed

Thinkers of the Twenty Years' Crisis: Inter-War Idealism Reassessed

Thinkers of the Twenty Years' Crisis: Inter-War Idealism Reassessed

Synopsis

This book reassesses the contribution to international thought of some of the most important thinkers of the inter-war period. It takes as its starting point E.H. Carr's famous critique which, more than any other work, established the reputation of the period as the "utopian" or "idealist" phase of international relations theorizing. This characterization of inter-war thought is scrutinized through ten detailed studies of such writers as Norman Angell, J.A. Hobson, J.M. Keynes, David Mitrany, and Alfred Zimmern. The studies demonstrate the diversity of perspectives within so-called "idealism" and call into question the descriptive and analytical value of the entire notion. It is concluded that "idealism" is an overly general term, useful for scoring debating points rather than providing a helpful category for analysis.

Excerpt

This book reassesses the contribution to international thought of some of the most important writers on international relations of the inter-war period. Since the publication in 1939 ofE. H. Carr The Twenty Years' Crisis, these writers have been widely, and pejoratively, known as 'utopians' or 'idealists'. The impetus for the book was the feeling, partly brought on by recent reassessments of realism, and increasingly borne out by our research, that the 'idealists' were not as naïve in their assumptions, as simplistic in their analysis, nor as uniform in their outlook, as the received wisdom suggests. The central purpose of the volume is to examine the extent to which it is still, in the post-Cold War world, either accurate or appropriate to label these thinkers in this way.

We began to request papers for the volume while in the early stages of doctoral research at the London School of Economics. In the long process of producing it we have incurred many debts of gratitude. We are particularly grateful to the contributors and to our colleagues at Carleton and LSE. Their encouragement has been invaluable as have the numerous comments and suggestions they have provided. We are also much indebted to Hugh McNeill for his help with the bibliography; Alec Tedder for his work on the index; Elaine Childs, Elizabeth Leslie, Chris Parsons, and Judy Weedon for their extensive secretarial assistance; and Henry Hardy, Tim Barton, Dominic Byatt, and Milica Djuradjević at Oxford University Press for making the process of producing the volume such a smooth one. We also tender our sincere thanks to Debra Mo and Frances Woolley who have been unfailing in their encouragement throughout.

Earlier versions of the chapters by Brian Porter and Christopher Brewin were first published in the Review of International Studies (15/1 (1989), and 18/2 (1992) respectively). We are grateful to the editors and publishers for permitting us to reproduce some of this material here.

Finally, we are deeply indebted to the late R. J. Vincent whose enthusiasm for the notion and typically perceptive comments on . . .

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