From its inception as a separate field of study, International Relations has been the site of major theoretical debates. (We follow the academic convention of using ‘International Relations’ to refer to the discipline, and ‘international relations’ to refer to the structures, processes, episodes and events that the discipline investigates.) Two of the foundational texts in the field, E. H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis (first published in 1939) and Hans Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations (first published in 1948) were works of theory in three central respects. Each developed a broad framework of analysis which distilled the essence of international politics from disparate events; each sought to provide future analysts with the theoretical tools for understanding general patterns underlying seemingly unique episodes; and each reflected on the forms of political action which are most appropriate in a realm where the struggle for power was pre-eminent. Both thinkers were motivated by the desire to correct what they saw as deep misunderstandings about the nature of international politics lying at the heart of the liberal project – especially the belief that the struggle for power could be tamed by international law and the idea that the pursuit of self-interest could be replaced by the shared objective of promoting security for all. Not that Morgenthau and Carr thought the international political system was condemned for all time to revolve around the relentless struggle for power and security.
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