Twenty years ago the first edition of this book was published as a general text for college and university courses in International Relations. It ran on, shamelessly, to 1,026 pages. But costs were then less, prices were lower, and many people, including students, had more time to read. The work was received with sufficient enthusiasm to warrant successive revised editions, of which the current version--more succinct and designed to appeal to "general readers" as well as to students and teachers--is the fifth. The recasting has, I trust, been executed with the loving care appropriate to a celebration of a twentieth anniversary.
The experience of two decades offers some basis for an evaluation of the type of analysis of world affairs attempted in these pages. Content and style have changed over the years in successive editions. Yet structure and interpretation have remained remarkably constant--not because the author is conservative or obstinate but because the "frame of reference" employed in the first edition as a basis for comprehending the origins, forms, forces, and prospects of the Western State System has, I believe, been vindicated by the test of events.
In 1933, when the first edition appeared, I had already spent some years in teaching, lecturing, and writing about international politics. I was then completing a study of the Rotary Club of Chicago ("Old No. 1") in collaboration with Beardsley Ruml and preparing to spend most of a year in Germany studying the conduct of foreign policy and the Nazi dictatorship. It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that adequate understanding of the world community of our time can best be acquired by exploring its cultural antecedents and historical development; by examining the tapestries of international law, diplomatic practice, and international organization which people have pieced together in an effort to serve their needs; by recognizing that politics among nations in a State System lacking common government is essentially a struggle for power, manifesting itself in Realpolitik and finding expression in the attitudes and behavior patterns of "nationalism" and "imperialism"; and by reviewing the foreign policies of the major "Powers" in terms of internal and external stimuli and responses and the choices available to policy makers in each hour of decision. These premises, set forth in the Preface to the First Edition, are also the premises of this revision.
This approach to world politics furnishes a method of ordering the multitudinous and confusing data of international relations. It also offers tools of analysis and prediction. And this, pragmatically speaking, is the whole point . . .