The ideas of Hans Morgenthau dominated the study of international politics in the United States for many decades. He was the leading representative of Realist international relations theory in the last century and his work remains hugely influential in the field. In this engaging and accessible new study of his work, William E. Scheuerman provides a comprehensive and illuminating introduction to Morgenthau’s ideas, and assesses their significance for political theory and international politics.

Scheuerman shows Morgenthau to be an uneasy Realist, uncomfortable with conventional notions of Realism and sometimes unsure whether his reflections should be grouped under its rubric. He was a powerful critic of the existing state system and defended the idea of a world state. By highlighting Morgenthau’s engagement with the leading lights of European political and legal theory, Scheuerman argues that he developed a morally demanding political ethics and an astute diagnosis of the unprecedented perils posed by nuclear weaponry. Believing that the irrationalities of US foreign policy were rooted partly in domestic factors, he sympathized with demands for radical political and social change. Scheuerman illustrates that Morgenthau’s thinking has been widely misunderstood by both disciples and critics and that it offers many challenges to contemporary Realists who discount his normative aspirations. With the advent of the cosmopolitan goal of international reform, Morgenthau’s work serves up an unsettling mix of sympathy and hard-headed skepticism which remains crucially important in the development of the field.

Lucidly and persuasively written, this book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars seeking to understand the continued importance of Morgenthau’s thinking.

Show More
Buy Now


Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • June 2009
  • 208 pages
  • 160 x 237 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745636351
  • Paperback $28.00
  • 9780745636368
  • Open eBook $22.00
  • 9780745657974
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

List of abbreviations x

Introduction: Morgenthau’s uneasy Realism 1

1 Radical roots of Realism 11

2 Morality, power, and tragedy 40

3 Defending the national interest 70

4 Politics among nations and beyond 101

5 Utopian Realism and the bomb 135

6 Vietnam and the crisis of American democracy 165

Conclusion: Morgenthau as classical Realist? 196

Notes 199

Bibliography 233

Index 250

About the Author
William E. Scheuerman is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University.
Show More


"Once in a while a book comes along that breathes new life into an old topic. Scheuerman's book on Morgenthau accomplishes this task admirably."
Perspectives on Politics

"Scheuerman’s introduction is the introduction Hans Morgenthau deserves: focusing on the intellectual life of the Weimar Republic and on other émigré scholars such as Hannah Arendt not only shows where Morgenthau’s epistemology and ontology were grounded, but the author also does away with the still common misreading of Hans Morgenthau as the founding father of a
predominantly structural realism."
International Affairs

"As a scholarly endeavor teasing out the nuances and ambiguities and historical tendencies in Morgenthau's evolving corpus, Scheuerman's book does not disappoint."
SAIS Review

"Scheuerman rightly describes Morgenthau as an uneasy realist; he recognized the importance of power but also the dangers involved in the pursuit and exercise of power. His focus was accordingly as much on agency and ethics as it was on structural attributes of the international system. Scheuerman describes a thinker of particular relevance to our time and his thoughtful analysis of the evolution of Morgenthau's thought makes his book an essential read to anyone with a serious interest in international relations."
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College

"Few thinkers have been so influential and yet so misunderstood as Hans Morgenthau. William Scheuerman's superb study provides both a comprehensive reconstruction of Morgenthau's thinking and a challenging interpretation of its contemporary significance. Sweeping in its breadth and finely balanced in its judgments, this is not only a defining work of intellectual history; it is also a first-rate work of international political theory in its own right."
Michael Williams, University of Ottawa

"Once more the tired old cliche about realism being an apologia for power and a rationalization for the status quo is put to the sword in Bill Scheuerman's great new book. Indeed if he is right - and that twentieth century realism emerged out of debates on the inter-war left and not as the natural heir of some two thousand year tradition dating back to Thucydides - then we will have to rethink the history of contemporary International Relations in more ways than one. A brilliant and iconoclastic study of one of the greats of IR."
Michael Cox, London School of Economics and Political Science

Show More