'Apparently overtaken by events in the very days of its first publication, Carr's Twenty Years Crisis has never been more pertinent to the discussion of international relations than it is to-day: in a world beset by the twin extremes which he excoriated, a craven and short-sighted realism on the one hand, and an unanchored and irresponsible idealism on the other, Carr's astute arguments should be central to our analysis of, and response to, the world of the twenty-first century.' - Fred Halliday
'The Twenty Years' Crisis is one of those books that somehow never goes out of date. It brings into sharp focus a lot of the core questions that anyone grappling with the complexities of International Relations needs to confront, and it sets a standard of clarity and vigour of prose that has few competitors in the contemporary IR literature.' - Professor Barry Buzan, University of Westminster
'...now is the time to relaunch The Twenty Years' Crisis as a basis for rethinking the problem of world order in a time of greater complexity and uncertainty. [Carr's] exposure of the power relations underlying doctrines of the harmony of interests is especially pertinent to a serious understanding of the ideology of globalization today, while his careful discussion of the need to balance power and morality warns against the hypocrisy of contemporary great-power crusading.' - Professor Robert Cox, Emeritus Professor, York University, Canada
'In the 20th century E.H. Carr was one of the most original and interesting thinkers about international relations. Carr's insights into the nature of international affairs warrant attention. Everyone interested in international politics should read this book.' - Robert Gilpin, Eisenhower Professor Emeritus of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
'the net influence of the book...is mischievous.' - Norman Angell
'brilliantly reasoned.' - R.W. Seton-Watson
'A brilliant, provocative and unsatisfying book.' - Martin Wight
'Carr is the consummate debunker who was debunked by the war itself.' - Arnold Toynbee
'Professor Carr has shown the entire inadequacy of Professors Zimmern and Toynbee: who will demonstrate the entire inadequacy of Professor Carr?' - Richard Crossman--This text refers to an alternate
About the Author
E.H. CARR who died in 1982 at the age of ninety was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, UK, and an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, UK. His books include International Relations between the Two World Wars 1919-1939, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939, Nationalism and After, The New Society, What is History?, 1917: Before and After, Michael Bakunin, The Russian Revolution From Lenin to Stalin 1917-1929, the fourteen volume History of Soviet Russia and The Twilight of the Comintern 1930-1935.
MICHAEL COX is Professor of International Politics at University of Wales, Aberystwyth and editor of the Review of International Studies. His most recent publications include The Eighty Years' Crisis: International Relations 1919-1999 (1998) and E.H. Carr: A Critical Reappraisal (2000).
--This text refers to an alternate
This book is only around 200 pages long but expresses exactly what the author meant concisely and with style.
While it has been seen as a realist attack on idealism Carr actually sees realism and idealism as two concepts - the first epitomised by the bureaucrat who takes existing power structures into account in decision making and sees the differences between each case but has no interest in changing the system and no motivation to , the second epitomised by philosophers like Woodrow Wilson who are concerned only with the ideal they wish to achieve, treat every case the same as one to be changed to the ideal and don't pay enough attention to how they can get from the existing power structure to the new one they aspire to create.
Carr says pure realism would lead to stagnation with no-one having the motivation to make any change for better or worse - while pure idealism will always fail to achieve its aims because of its utopianism.
His solution is a balance between the two - having ideals to aim at but also taking into account existing power stuctures and thinking about how they can be changed to achieve ideals.
His analysis of the liberal theory of 'the harmony of interests' is interesting and pretty much an attempt to apply Marx's ideas of the 'false consciousness' of the 'proletariat' to international politics to explain why governments of countries harmed by the existing system often believe it is in their interests as much as the dominant states' interests - and why dominant states end up believing that what is in their interest is in every country's interest despite the inevitable conflicts of interest in reality.Read more ›
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This book can be summed up in one word, "elegent". The argument put forward by Carr is as important today as it was in 1939. He mercilessly cuts through Inter-war Idealism and lays its many flaws open for the reader to see. Carr then moves on to put forward his theory of International Relations which ultimately evolved into the Realist school of thought (which arguably is still to this day the most important school of thought in International Relations). If this was all Carr did then his book would be a masterpiece. However he does more and in my opinion achieves more than any other theorist from the realist school of thought. Although he criticises Inter-war Idealism he is still wise enough to accept that it does have important ideals that we should strive for in International Relations. Therefore The Twenty Years Crisis can in some ways be seen as a bridgeing book that takes the best aspects from Inter-war Idealism and joins them to his Realist theory. This is why I believe the book can be described as elegent and why any serious student of International Relations should read this book.
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This is a review of the first edition of 1939, written in July 1939 before the outbreak of the Second World War.
The post-1918 Anglo-Saxon world was dominated by liberal illusions. For British liberals, America's entry into the Great War heralded the Second Coming in the shape of Woodrow Wilson and a war for that most traditional of aims, the balance of power, was moralised into an evangelical crusade against Evil, where Good would triumph and Peace would reign. David Lloyd George claimed that the war was a war to end all wars. The League of Nations was established to prevent war. Liberal moralists believed the world was progressing towards a world where war was becoming obsolete.
In the first half of the book, Carr criticised these utopian internationalists. The League of Nations, based in Geneva, had no power in itself to enforce its Covenant. Nevertheless, it produced many documents couched in grandiloquent language on the prevention of war: "The metaphysicians of Geneva found it difficult to believe that an accumulation of ingenious texts prohibiting war was not a barrier against war itself." A leading British advocate of the League, Lord Robert Cecil, proclaimed: "What we rely upon is public opinion...and if we are wrong about it, then the whole thing is wrong."
Carr is clear sighted in seeing power, not treaties, as the foundation of international relations. All attempts to replace the realities of power with internationalist morality have failed for precisely the reason that it fails to take into consideration that it is force, not parchment, that governs. Public opinion is incapable of preventing armies crossing borders.Read more ›
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