Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations by Edward Hallett Carr

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics

Elaborate Description

Political verdicts shape how facts are seen. Political ideas are themselves a form of action. Political science describes what is and the potential changes. The focus of this book are the methods which shape the political landscape which are based on a dichotomy of utopian and realistic thought. While there is always a presence of both, the two methods are always shifting in prominence. Utopia thinking focuses on what ought to be at the expense of history and current situations. Reality thinking focuses on how history shapes what will become.

The political process is not like the realists’ vision of mechanical laws of causation. The political process is not like the utopians’ vision of application of theoretical truths from wise people. The political process is understood as a combination of utopia and reality. The division between utopian and realistic vision occurred with the break-up of the mediaeval system whose universal ethical and political system was based on divine authority. The realists used the state to substitute for the church as the arbiter of morality. The utopians denied external ecclesiastic or civil authority in favor of a secular law of nature based on individual human reason.

Utopian thought is devoted to visionary projects which a universal appeal but pays little attention to facts. The means of the vision are not analyzed as attention is mostly on the ends to be achieved. Facts are only examined should the visionary project fail. The assumptions of utopian outlook claim that the spread of knowledge would make it possible for everyone to reason for the benefit of the good. An interesting logical outcome of utopian thought is that war would disappear when people are under a republican form of government because they would not want war unlike the princes who waged war for their own interest. In this view, there is no divergence of interest in individuals or nations which thereby create the conditions of international peace.

Within the logic of realistic thought, theories are created to explain events rather than the reverse. For the realist, effective authority produces morality. Those who have a dominant voice in the community identify the communities’ interest as their own. To attack the interest of the dominant voice creates the illusion of attacking the interest of the whole community. Maintenance of the status quo is proclaimed to maintain the well-being of the community.

This book has a very powerful epistemological theme but fails to properly elaborate on the politics. Whether because of the sporadic examples or lack of context, most of the specific political claims are difficult to grasp in terms of the situation and response. The epistemology is based on Hegelian philosophy with the basic style of dichotomizing the ideas. Although there is an acknowledgment that politics is a combination of realistic and utopian thought, the author explains only the divergences and not the convergences. As in the examples are expressed as being more utopian or realistic which thereby limits effective policy making. Very little concentrated space is given what effective policy making should be within the dichotomy presented. Rather than showing a path of convergence into effective policy making, the author makes it easier to express which types of policies are realistic or utopian.

To be considered a science, any subject needs to acknowledge fallibility and understand the difference between an analysis of what is and aspiration about what should be. The realist accepts causal sequence of events which limits the options for changing reality. The utopian rejects causal sequence of events which reduces the understanding of the process in which change can occur and the change that is sought. There is a recognition that politics, morality, and economics cannot be separated as they determine who wields power.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  0061311227
Pages to read:   243
Publication:     2001
1st Edition:      1939
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     3
Content           4
Overall           3