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A Cultural Theory of International Relations 1st Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521691888
ISBN-10: 0521691885
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Editorial Reviews


"In this successor volume to The Tragic Vision of Politics, Ned Lebow sets out an even more ambitious project, aiming to develop not just a new paradigm for the study of International Relations, but a new Grand Theory for the social sciences as a whole built on the classical Greek understanding of the psyche as composed of spirit, appetite and reason, and of behaviour as driven by fear, interests and, given special emphasis, the search for honour. This project involves historical studies ranging over two and a half millennia, and in depth readings of many great thinkers; I suspect few readers will follow Lebow all the way to the conclusions he draws, but I am quite certain that everyone will enjoy the ride - it would be impossible to read this tour de force without having one's horizons widened."
Chris Brown, International Relations Department, London School of Economics

"Ned Lebow's record of research and publication in IR is second to none. What distinguishes it most of all above the common herd are not just its range and sophistication but also that it is genuinely crosscultural. Entirely in the same spirit of virtue-ethical inquiry as his outstanding The Tragic Vision of Politics, Lebow here interrogates the vital underpinnings of human interstate relations from spirit-based Greek and Roman antiquity to the anxious, threat-based strategies of modernity from Hitler to Bush and beyond."
Paul Cartledge, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge

"Drawing on ancient Greek thought and practice, Richard Ned Lebow has produced a book of great theoretical power and historical sweep. This is the sort of study that can only be done after years of thought and research, and it will be read for many years to come."
Robert Jervis, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

"In this impressive follow up to The Tragic Vision of Politics, Ned Lebow continues and further elaborates his ground breaking fusion of Ancient Greek thought, historical imagination and contemporary social science to offer a rich and provocative theory that places culture at the centre of the explanation of international relations. Powerfully written, theoretically sophisticated and full of important historical and contemporary insights, this promises to be a major theoretical departure in the human sciences."
Nicholas Rengger, Professor of Political Theory and International Relations, University of St Andrews

"In this long and wide-ranging book, Richard Ned Lebow delivers a valuable contribution to the study of international relations and international history...It is an excellent book, serving many purposes...This is a book worth reading, and one whose impact will endure."
Ian Hurd, Northwestern University, Perspectives on Politics

"A Cultural Theory is the capstone of Lebow's unceasing commitment to restoring a dynamic and historical dimension of international relations and to reinstating values and motives to their proper place at the center of enquiry. It also is a milestone in the effort to transform constructivism into a genuinely theoretical enterprise."
Richard Mansbach, Iowa State University, H-Diplo/ISSF

Book Description

A novel theory of politics and international relations rooted in ancient Greek theories of human motives. Lebow offers a framework for understanding transformations of regional and international systems as well as original explanations for the rise of the state, the causes of war, and the reformulation of prospect theory.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 776 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521691885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521691888
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,369,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
anyone familiar with international relations (ir) scholarship should, i think, also be familiar with at least this author's name. and if they are serious students they may perhaps recall some of the theses of his research. i only have a masters degree in the subject, yet am compelled (for the first time...) to add here less a review and perhaps more a word or two in recommendation of what i found to be an outstanding work of scholarship.

in a nutshell, the argument of this rich book might be put thusly: ir scholarship has a marked tendency (especially in work done in the u.s., i'd say) to emphasize, particularly when seeking to explain the outbreak of war, economic interests and military capabilities, thereby neglecting the rather critical role of 'the spirit,' seeking self-esteem through honor, prestige, and social standing, as a motive for human (and state...) behavior. (he attempts, then, to perhaps dissolve the so-called 'levels of analysis problem' in ir.)

lelbow uses basically aristotelian concepts of human motives (or 'psychic drives'), which explains the just mentioned central notion of 'the spirit'.

his theoretical apparatus is, for me, alone worth the price of admission (which is perhaps a bit steep). and on top of that, he performs admirably in applying this apparatus to his many case studies, which span some thousands of years, from the ancient greeks to the present.

so i highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in ir, social theory, history, etc.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a tour de force showing rare erudition. The range of historical examples covered is extremely impressive. Yes, it is difficult and for advanced readers only, but there is tremendous value here for anyone wanting to make the effort. Lebow's focus on honor--and associated ideas of prestige--sheds a powerful light on the history of international relations. No student of diplomatic history can fail to be swayed by Lebow's impressive marshaling of evidence for his thesis. He also gives a withering and well-deserved critique of alternative theories, showing how they reflect a stunted conception of the human personality and don't explain a great deal. This is certainly one of the most important books written in the field of International Relations over the past decade. Though the theoretical apparatus can be labyrinthine, the lengthy historical studies are much more approachable and quite good.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An extremely detailed analysis of human behaviour in the modern world. It would be improved if suggestions were made of how shortcomings could be corrected!
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