The Realist Case for Global Reform
The Realist Case for Global Reform
Does a hard-headed realist approach to international politics necessarily involve scepticism towards progressive foreign policy initiatives and global reform?  Should proponents of realism always be seen as morally complacent and politically combative?  In this major reconsideration of the main figures of international political theory, Bill Scheuerman challenges conventional wisdom to reveal a neglected tradition of progressive realism with much to contribute to contemporary debates about international policy-making and world government. 

Far from seeing international reform as well-meaning but potentially irresponsible idealism, progressive realists like E.H. Carr, John Herz, Hans J. Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr developed forward-looking ideas which offer an indispensable corrective to many presently influential views about global politics.  Progressive realism, Scheuerman argues, offers a compelling and provocative vision of radical global change which - when properly interpreted, can help buttress current efforts to address the most pressing international issues.

After recovering key subterranean strands in mid-twentieth century realism, Scheuerman underscores their relevance to contemporary international theory.  Criticizing more recent realists for abandoning their tradition's best insights, he also demonstrates that reform-minded international theories - including versions of cosmopolitanism, constructivism, the English School, liberalism, and republicanism - could all benefit from taking Progressive Realism seriously. 

A major contribution both to the history of international relations and contemporary debates in international theory, <i>The Realist Case for Global Reform</i> concludes by considering how progressive realism informs the foreign policies of US President Barack Obama.


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  • April 2011
  • 200 pages
  • 160 x 237 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745650296
  • Paperback $28.00
  • 9780745650302
  • Open eBook $22.00
  • 9780745637792
Table of Contents

Preface vi

Acknowledgments x

Introduction: Meet the Progressive Realists 1

1 Why (Almost) Everything You Learned About Realism is Wrong 15

2 Realists Against the Nation State 39

3 Realist Global Reformism 67

4 What Cosmopolitans Can Learn from Progressive Realism 98

5 What Other Global Reformers Can Learn from Progressive Realism 126

6 Who’s Afraid of the World State? 149

Conclusion: A Niebuhrian President? 169

Notes 174

References 191

Index 209

About the Author

William E. Scheuerman is Professor of Political Science and West European Studies at Indiana University.

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"An excellent corrective to the simplistic realism so often taught to students of international relations at both the undergraduate and graduate levels."
Global Policy

"Stimulating and thought-provoking ... all those interested in contemporary, “policy-driven” debates on global governance should read it."
Ethics and International Affairs

"This fusing of radical and Realist ideas remains the most intriguing development in international theory of the past decade."
International Affairs

"Very persuasive ... undoubtedly a rewarding read."
Political Studies Review

"This book offers fresh insight into a school of thought largely seen as unyielding, and offers renewed hope to the concepts of global reform and postnational governance."
Australian Journal of International Relations

"A challenging account of how realism can influence existing international relations, which have undergone a major transformation in recent decades."

"A really provocative read - very much a book in the best Polity tradition. This is an intellectual winner, and deserves to have an impact."
Michael Cox, London School of Economics

"The Realist logic of world government has been substantially enhanced by William Scheuerman in this thorough and well-written analysis. No one can now deny that the intellectual founders of contemporary Realism were far more willing to look beyond the interstate system than their Neorealist successors."
Campbell Craig, Aberystwyth University

"Scheuerman's brilliant presentation of classic Realists as proponents of a Progressive Realism radically transforms the way in which we can and should understand the Realist tradition, and links Progressive Realism to advocacy of a form of world government that is a welcome alternative to an anemic ‘governance without government'."
Peter Stirk, Durham University

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