Cambridge Catalogue  
  • Help
Home > Catalogue > The Tragic Vision of Politics
The Tragic Vision of Politics


  • Page extent: 424 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.79 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 172/.4
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: UA10.5 .L43 2003
  • LC Subject headings:
    • National security--Moral and ethical aspects
    • International relations--Moral and ethical aspects
    • Realism--Political aspects
    • Thucydides
    • Clausewitz, Carl von,--1780-1831

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521827539 | ISBN-10: 0521827531)

Is it possible to preserve national security through ethical policies? Richard Ned Lebow seeks to show that ethics are actually essential to the national interest. Recapturing the wisdom of classical realism through a close reading of the texts of Thucydides, Clausewitz and Hans Morgenthau, Lebow argues that, unlike many modern realists, classic realists saw close links between domestic and international politics, and between interests and ethics. Lebow uses this analysis to offer a powerful critique of post-Cold War American foreign policy. He also develops an ontological foundation for ethics and makes the case for an alternate ontology for social science based on Greek tragedy's understanding of life and politics. This is a topical and accessible book, written by a leading scholar in the field.

• Asks whether ethics has a place in international politics, and criticises US foreign policy • Accessibly written for a range of readers across subjects • Lebow is a leading US scholar of IR, political psychology and international history


1. Nixon in Hell; 2. Tragedy and politics; 3. Thucydides and war; 4. Thucydides and civilization; 5. Carl von Clausewitz; 6. Hans J. Morgenthau; 7. The wisdom of classical realism; 8. Running red lights and ruling the world; 9. Tragedy and scholarship.


'This is an important book. Brilliantly conceived and argued, Lebow analyzes in the original the texts of three 'classical' realists - Thucydides, Clausewitz and Morgenthau - to argue for a more humanistic and compassionate American foreign policy. Ethical behavior and justice, he argues, are not incompatible with Realpolitik. Fragmentation and compartmentalization have built a firewall between the humanities and social sciences. Lebow calls for a balance, a synthesis. He may, in his own words, be like a 'salmon swimming upstream', but in his case, the journey is worth the effort.' Holger H. Herwig, University of Calgary

'In this ambitious and always stimulating work Richard Ned Lebow avows that contemporary scholars and practitioners of international politics ignore the tragic sensibilities and 'wisdom of classical realism' at their-and our-peril … this is a fascinating work teeming with ideas and displaying an astonishing command of the literature across a wide range of what have unfortunately been marked out as disciplinary boundaries in the modern academy. Lebow's ability to range beyond them is undeniably impressive.' Mitchell Rologas, International Affairs

' ... a book worthy of reading. ... succeeds in creating a structured text that enables him to deal with different thoughts in different layers without breaking its logic. Thanks to it's richness and multidisciplinarity, Richard Ned Lebow's book will certainly attract a large audience. The text will help students get in touch with the classical realists for the first time in a course on international relations, as well their teachers. ... the deeper insights into the books meta-theme which are identity, ethics and norm compliance in foreign policy will inspire and provoke scholars and should also be noted by practitioners.' Journal of International Relations and Development

printer iconPrinter friendly version AddThis