Disenchantment and re-enchantment in Hans J. Morgenthau's theory of international relations

Neacsu, Mihaela (2008). Disenchantment and re-enchantment in Hans J. Morgenthau's theory of international relations. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fd79


This thesis represents a re-evaluation of Hans Morgenthau’s theory undertaken in the context of a revived interest in classical realism, and in the normative elements of Morgenthau’s thought in particular. This reading is built on a recognition of the central place occupied by morality in Morgenthau’s thought, and points to Nietzsche’s and Weber’s role in the articulation of Morgenthau’s perspective. The thesis contributes to the ongoing reinterpretation of Morgenthau’s theory by introducing and discussing the following topics and concepts: the centrality of the issue of meaning in Morgenthau’s account, and its relevance to the modemity/postmodemity dichotomy; Morgenthau’s commitment to the Nietzschean and Weberian diagnosis of the ‘death of God’; Morgenthau’s interpretation of power as meaning imposition; his examination of the disenchantment of politics; his vision of man as the source of both destruction and construction; Morgenthau’s concept of thoughtful leadership, which represents the constructive force of re-enchantment in politics.

The thesis will also address the supposed tension in Morgenthau’s account between his endorsement of Nietzschean and Weberian assumptions regarding the plurality of values and truths which follows the death of God, and his arguing in favour of a renaissance of tradition with all its metaphysical certainties. The present interpretation will show that this is a superficial tension, and will argue that Morgenthau advances a viable solution to the challenges raised by contemporary politics, which tries to reconcile identity with difference, unique creativity with universal humanity, while also justifying the continuing relevance of tradition, perceived as a barrier against the proliferation of action for action’s sake. The key role is held by the statesman, whose responsible imposition of meaning transcends differences and leads to order and construction in an otherwise anarchic environment. As the thesis will show, in Morgenthau’s interpretation the practical skill of political leadership resolves the dichotomous choices of modemity/postmodemity and the contemporary predicament that Morgenthau perceived of the disenchantment of politics.

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