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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and brilliant but with flaws like all people and books
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...
Published on 9 Jun. 2006 by Mr. Duncan Macfarlane

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed classic
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,...
Published 15 months ago by Excalibur


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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and brilliant but with flaws like all people and books, 9 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: Reissued with new introduction (Paperback)
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.

The flaw in his argument is to personify states and assume that equality among states is the same as equality among individual people to the extent that he believed Germany and Italy should be allowed to have European and North African empires to match the British and French empires as a means of avoiding war.

This ignored the obvious unfairness and brutality of all empires towards the people of their colonies.

Carr's advocacy of a policy of appeasement also led to many shunning him at the time he wrote 'The Twenty Years' Crisis' and even today. To be fair to Carr the holocaust was not public knowledge in Britain in 1939. It's impossible to know what he would have written had he known about it - but very possible that it would have changed his mind.

His main point was that the status quo suited the countries which won the first world war and imposed an international system which benefitted them - free trade being 'the paradise of the economically strong' but not of countries with weaker economies which could not compete in it.

It might well be that if this unrestricted free trade regime hadn't been imposed the great depression and the surge in support for fascism and communism caused by mass unemployment could have been avoided.

Few if any people or books are perfect and 'The Twenty Years' Crisis' remains a masterpiece and relevant to this day despite any flaws in it or E.H. Carr.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed classic, 14 Dec. 2013
By 
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.

Unfortunately Carr adopted much of the liberal idealist viewpoint; he rejected "consistent realism" for its lack of morality and because "it fails to provide any ground for purposive or meaningful action." The answer to this is that the national interest provides the grounds for action for nation-states. During the eighteenth century, European statesmen needed no utopian or idealist spur to action, they held an unvarnished view of pursuing the interests of their state. The illogicality of Carr's position was evident to even himself: "Having demolished the current utopia with the weapons of realism, we still need to build a new utopia of our own, which will one day fall to the same weapons."

Interpreting the actions of the Western powers in the interwar period, Carr conceded that British appeasement of Germany was not always driven by self-interest but by the concept of international morality. Later on, he praised the Munich Agreement as a recognition of the existing power relationship between Germany and Czechoslovakia and said that it was preferable to war. In viewing the foreign policy of Nazi Germany, he seems to come close to the liberal position of supporting Germany's aims because Germany was supposedly mistreated by the Treaty of Versailles. Carr further claimed that the West adopting an attitude of resistance to German aggression offered no solution to the problem of establishing methods of peaceful change in international relations. For Carr, the desire to replace power as the motivation of foreign policy with "a common feeling of what is just and reasonable" is utopian in the right sense i.e. in proclaiming an ideal to be aimed at.

Considering what Carr wrote in previous chapters on the realities of power and self-interest, this is extremely odd. His advocacy of a British foreign policy of constantly conceding to German demands goes against British national interest, for a Europe under German hegemony would extinguish the independence of Britain. Maintaining the balance of power in Europe has nearly always been Britain's foreign policy objective. Carr does not address this point and does not betray any understanding of the ultimate aims of German foreign policy in creating a gigantic Eurasian Greater German Reich.

This book shocked moralists, who were horrified at having their utopian assumptions and their most dearest and cherished hopes exposed as a sham. At the same time, Carr still went some way to adopting the moralists' outlook. Despite this, much of what Carr wrote can still be read with profit.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Twenty Years' Crisis, 3 Dec. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: Reissued with new introduction (Paperback)
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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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foundational Text on IR, 5 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
Edward Carrs tretise is the foundational text for anyone studying IR from a western perspective. Cars gives the philosophical foundations behind the different schools of thought in IR academia. A must for IR stduents.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars genius, 4 Jun. 2007
This review is from: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: Reissued with new introduction (Paperback)
an IR bible for all students and faculty alike

short, easy to follow and very descriptive of the realpolitik that defines the world today, whether we like it or not.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 1 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: Reissued with new introduction (Paperback)
I hated this book. It froze my brain and has made my head hurt for the past 5 days,
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: Reissued with new introduction (Paperback)
Book arrived in great condition. Excellent.
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