I am not a realist, classical or otherwise. A pragmatist? Perhaps, depends what you mean. But not a realist. I’m also not anti-realist necessarily.
Still, unlike most IR scholars today, my PhD training encouraged me to adopt a classical realist perspective. I was exposed to this tradition in depths that most are not, leaving me with some sympathies for it, but just as many critiques.
Basically, I would love for my political opponents to be classical realists but I see nothing but tragedy in leftists and progressives outsourcing their judgments about world politics to a tradition that skews so conservative.
As an early release for upgraded subscribers, I wanted to share Part I of my two-part conversation with Jonathan Kirshner about his new book, An Unwritten Future: Realism, Uncertainty, and World Politics.
Kirshner checks all the boxes of what we expect from a top-tier international relations scholar, but the book is written in a way that’s both accessible and manifesto-like.
He’s planting a flag in defense of classical realism, a misunderstood intellectual tradition that goes against the dominant thinking in international relations as a field today. Part of what makes it so engaging is that he’s ideologically pluralistic, and simply wants classical realism to be in the mix of ways to make sense of the world; he’s not seeking converts per se.
We get into:
Why realism recruits dead people into their intellectual tradition.
What we can learn from Thucydides, and why an armchair understanding of the Peloponnesian War does more harm than good.
Why realist pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why international relations has somewhat lost its way.
How we should think about the “national interest.”
Teasing out distinctions between realist and progressive political economy.
Nerd out! Part II next week.
Quick side note: To all the recent subscribers—welcome! So many of you appended kind notes to your subscription upgrades—I read them all and really appreciate the sentiments. In fact, I tried to reply to them individually but couldn’t figure out how.