This book stands as a masterpiece of analytical thought - as such, it is no surprise that it is a required text for International Relations courses in many of the top universities around the world. Joseph Nye discusses the evolution of international conflicts from past to present, drawing lessons from history and thereby teaching the reader how to analytically and critically evaluate the challenges and conflicts of tomorrow. This book wisely chooses not to discuss specific conflicts in great depth, leaving the details to more specialised texts. Nye has instead chosen to focus on concepts and principles, which ultimately are the key to achieving the stated aim of the book -- understanding international conflicts. This book should be read by anybody with an interest in international relations, from the amateur armchair general to the professional student of world affairs.
The basis for "Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History" is, as the author explains in the preface, a course on international conflicts in the modern world he taught for a long time in Harvard. Nye says that the aim of the book is "to introduce students to the complexities of international politics by giving them a good grounding in the traditional realist theory before turning to liberal and constructivist approaches that became more prominent after the Cold War". I believe he excels at doing exactly that... I found the book very interesting, and full of examples taken from history that made the concepts easier to grasp. Moreover, it takes into account the three levels of causation: the individual, the state and the international system. It also includes suggested reading material, that allows the reader to delve deeper in those subjects she/he finds more interesting... All in all, I strongly recommend this book to those interested in international relations. I think the author did exactly what he set out to do: not give all the answers, but help the readers to look for them. In his own words: "provide our students with conceptual tools that will help them shape their own answers as the future unfolds". On the whole, I strongly recommend this book to you... Enjoy it !!! Belen Alcat
I ordered this book to aid me in my 'War and Peace since 1914' first year university module, and it has been essential to my learning!! So useful, well written, and not to mention clear and concise. It's so nice to read a history book which is this concise, as often it it's hard to find the specific or general ideas when it gets lost in the detail, yet Nye writes skilfully and informatively.
I would recommend this book not only to history students, but also to anyone with an interest in history as it is so easy to read and so interesting!