The Tragedy of Great Power Politics by John J. Mearsheimer
A decade after the cold war ended, policy makers and academics foresaw a new era of peace and prosperity, an era in which democracy and open trade would herald the "end of history." The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, sadly shattered these idyllic illusions, and John Mearsheimer's masterful new book explains why these harmonious visions remain utopian.
To Mearsheimer, great power politics are tragic because the anarchy of the international system requires states to seek dominance at one another's expense, dooming even peaceful nations to a relentless power struggle. Mearsheimer illuminates his theory of offensive realism through a sweeping survey of modern great power struggles and reflects on the bleak prospects for peace in Europe and northeast Asia, arguing that the United States's security competition with a rising China will intensify regardless of "engagement" policies.
Author Biography: J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy.
The Tragedy of Great Power Politics 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
This is a college level text but it reads smoothly and clearly. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in understanding the deeper workings of international affairs. The hisorical information alone is fun reading and the conclusions reached are significant. Overall an accessable book for those who have the time.
More than 1 year ago
In "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" John Mearsheimer endeavors to affix a new branch to the tree of Realism - the controversial, yet well-supported theory of international politics. Hypothesizing that states will seek to maximize their relative power in an anarchic international system which incentivizes security prioritization, Mearsheimer methodically makes his case examining great power relations since the 1790s. (Disclosure: this reviewer is an ardent realist.) At the time of its publication, "The Tragedy" was staring upstream as the river of momentum in international political theory flowed toward Liberalism. Optimistic following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, IR theorists were celebrating "the end of history" and US policy-making elite seemed intent on testing Liberal theory in a world free from the realpolitik of bipolarity. Nearly a decade hence - and several Liberally-informed policy decisions later - realism is making its return and "The Tragedy" deserves to move straight to the top of the reading lists for anyone interested in the arc of international relations in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Mearsheimer's iron-fisted grip on the logic of interstate relations results in a veritable handbook for how to view the post-Cold War international system. Specifically, for how the United States ought to approach a rising China. According to Mearsheimer, China's rise - if untempered and unchallenged - will likely result in a security competition unlike any before it. Because of the unprecedented combination of population and potential wealth, and the absence of sufficiently powerful regional rivals, China presents the most dangerous threat for revision since Nazi Germany attempted to establish hegemony in Europe in the late 1930s. Moreover, Mearsheimer argues, the augmentation of these concerning factors with the presence of nuclear weapons makes the proper management of China's rise the most important security issue in international relations. The compelling case made in "The Tragedy" is that system structure is a strong predictor of security competition and that the current, and likely future, system structure of northeast Asia should give pause to those who see in China's rise an opportunity for cooperation. If history is any guide, China's rise is likely to present challenges to international peace on a scale never before experienced.