Community and Political Thought Today

By Peter Augustine Lawler; Dale McConkey | Go to book overview

4
The Universal and the Particular: Of Nations and Empires in Raymond Aron's Thought

BRIAN C. ANDERSON

The advent of atomic weapons and the ruins of the twentieth century force us to pose the question: Is it possible to leave international politics behind? While international relations have always been possessed by the efficacity of immorality, can we imagine a "historical transformation of states and their relations" so profound as to constitute the preconditions for universal peace, ending the "immemorial order of collectivities"?1 In the final pages of his longest book, the French political theorist Raymond Aron asks what would be required for this to take place and how plausible it would be for these requirements to be achieved. As we reconstruct Aron's arguments on universal peace, we shall explore within his thought the tension between the universality of human nature and the particularity of nationhood, raising the question of what is common?2 In so doing we will encounter the deeply political nature of Aron's reflection, its refusal to collapse the tensions which characterize the human world, and by extension, the world of politics.

Aron set forth two categories through which power politics could be transcended: peace through law and peace through empire. In each case sovereign states submit their right to render justice to an external arbiter; without this submission states "cannot live within a definitive peace, unless they have changed their very nature or unless the world itself has essentially changed."3From the outset, Aron points to the unlikelihood of either approach succeeding, and their possibly selfundermining character. Industrial modernity had lessened the economic causes of war by opening paths to growth for nations independent of blood and conquest. But if we posit for the sake of argument the existence of an indisputable tribunal or irresistible political will, will not the economic and social causes of conflicts

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