There is a special place in heaven for those senior scholars who produce those indispensable review essays that provide guidance for our own detailed reading and examination or, more often the case, allow us to take a brief tour of an intellectual battlefield that we must often teach but we will never have time to explore in great depth.
Some of my favorites, in no special order, are by Scocpol(1), Doyle(2), Dominguez(3), Betts(4), and Gourevitch(5). There are many more, of course, but I thought I should all take a minute to give thanks for some of my favorites.
This morning, I reread “Conflict or Cooperation? Three Visions Revisited,” by Richard Betts (Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2010, 186-194). I was stunned once again at how good an essay this is, not only in its excellent and balanced summary, critique, and synthesis of books by Fukuyama (Conflict or Cooperation), Huntington (Clash of Civilizations), and Mearsheimer (Tragedy of Great Power Politics) but also with the durability of the author’s perspective.
From the vantage point of 2010, Betts concluded: “The problem is that Davos-style liberalism and militant neoconservatism have both been more influential than the three more profound and sober visions of a Fukuyama, Huntington, and Mearsheimer.”
True as this was, it is far less true today and my fond hope is that President Obama will get the credit he deserves for being a profoundly sober leader whose prudential realism, anchored in a measured Kantian liberal internationalism, has revealed neoconservatism for the reckless enterprise that it was when the country became unhinged after September 11.
The question I have is whether President Clinton will be as prudent and restrained? I’m afraid that she’ll be too eager “to do something” and will be talked into dipping her toes into quagmires by the generals and admirals that she has worked so assiduously to woo since joining the Senate. My hope is that all that wooing was just good politics and networking.
(1) Skocpol, “A Critical Review of Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.” Check it out here.
(2) Doyle, Doyle. 1983. Kant, liberal legacies, and foreign affairs. Philosophy and public affairs 12 (summer and fall): 205-35, 323-53.
(3) Dominguez, “Samuel Huntington and the Latin American State” can be had here.
(4) “Conflict or Cooperation? Three Visions Revisited,” by Richard Betts (Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2010, 186-194).
(5) Peter Gourevitch, “The Second Image Reversed.”