The Tragic Vision of Politics

Ethics, Interests and Orders

The Tragic Vision of Politics

Is it possible to advocate ethical policies to preserve national security? Contrary to some beliefs, Richard Ned Lebow demonstrates that ethics are conducive to the pursuit of national interests. Reinterpreting the writings of key figures in the history of "realpolitik", he argues that national interests are framed in the language of justice, and indicates the dangers arising from the unilateral exercise of American power in the post-Cold War world.


"Ned Lebow has written a book of exceptional reach, insight, learning and ambition. Thucydides provides a template and inspiration for a tradition of classical realism which Lebow elaborates through highly original, richly contextualized readings of Clausewitz and Morganthau. Lebow's critique is political as well as theoretical and methodological. He offers detailed examples and historical evidence to illustrate classic realist arguments..." J. Peter Euben, Duke University

"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

' ... 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


Winner, Alexander George Book Award of the International Society for Political Psychology
CHOICE Outstanding Academic Titles, 2005