Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory


"Jonathan Kirshner"

Titel: Classical Realism in World Politics. Précis to a Symposium
Autor: Jonathan Kirshner
Seite: 349-362

This paper introduces some of the major themes of An Unwritten Future: Realism and Uncertainty in World Politics, and provides a short illustration of how the analytical apparatus elaborated there can offer fruitful insights into understanding enduring puzzles in international relations. An Unwritten Future explores, illuminates and interrogates Classical Realism, an approach to the study of world politics that is contrasted with Structural Realism and with the ‘hyper-rationalist’ perspective associated with the ‘Rationalist Explanations for War’ school of thought. It elucidates the fundamental flaws of those two highly influential paradigms, and explains why Classical Realism, with its emphasis on what Structural Realism and Hyper-rationalism forbid—content, purpose, history, and irreducible uncertainty—provides a more promising and productive point of departure for students of international relations.

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Titel: What is Classical Realism?
Autor: Richard Ned Lebow
Seite: 215-228

Jonathan Kirshner misrepresents classical realism in fundamental ways. His wants to reclaim classical realism, but he never tells us what it is or engages other scholars who have developed the paradigm. He pleads for a more sophisticated realism but spends much of the book engaging neorealism and ‘hyperrationality.’ He foregrounds Thucydides but reads him superficially and indefensibly in terms of contemporary realist tropes. He asserts – incorrectly – that classical realism eschews abstract formulations but then offers his own. I critique his formulation, reading of Thucydides, and offer an overview of classical realism. I argue that classical realism is an ethical project embedded in a tragic understanding of life. It foregrounds human miscalculations, misjudgments, and their causes, sees tight connections between domestic and foreign policy, and the values that motivate both; and regards great powers as likely to be their own worst enemies.

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Titel: Classical Realism is not ‘Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’
Autor: Jonathan Kirshner
Seite: 237-248

In their assessments of An Unwritten Future: Realism and Uncertainty in World Politics, two distinguished scholars of World Politics engage in a spirited contestation about the role of classical realism in International Relations (IR) theory. Richard Ned Lebow aspires to defend the paradigm from what he suggests are barbarians at the gate. In this response I offer rejoinders to his treatment of E. H. Carr and Robert Gilpin, and his characterization of the ways in which we each engage Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War as an inspirational text. Stephen Krasner raises a number of thoughtful and savvy constructive criticisms of An Unwritten Future, some of which ring true. Yet he and I continue to markedly disagree about the importance of analytical uncertainty for understanding IR, and also with regard to the role of history in explaining behavior in world politics. And in an otherwise sophisticated critique, Krasner ultimately reduces classical realism to a caricature. In my response I clarify why in fact it is his preferred approach, structural realism, which, on its own, is irretrievably indeterminate and leaves scholars needing much more that its minimalist disposition can possibly hope to provide. I conclude with a short elaboration of why classical realism offers a more productive way forward.

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