chapter  1
20 Pages

Getting theory? Realism and the study of religion in international relations


This volume is the product of interdisciplinary scholars working on international relations, picking up a rather uninvested field of international relations theory: the influence of religion on Realism as well as the power of Realism to address religious issues in international affairs. Although scholars of classical twentieth-century Realism (hereafter Realism) such as Hans J. Morgenthau rarely mention religion explicitly in their-at least most well-known-work, the contributions to this volume suggest that this tradition offers serious ground for taking religion and faith into account as well as evaluating the impact of religion on its theoretical framework. This is obvious if one considers, for example, Morgenthau’s concept of “the political,” which was developed along the lines of the one of Carl Schmitt.1 (Schmitt 1996; Scheuerman 2009, 32-39) Here, the challenge and benefit is to reconsider the Realist emphasis on the relational nature of human conduct-in opposition to purely rational choice approaches-as well as skepticism and power politics. (Morgenthau et al. 2012) It is thus not surprising that Morgenthau noted concerning religious norms that “The Decalogue is a code of ethical norms which cannot be derived from premises of rational utility.” (Morgenthau 1946, 209) Classical twentieth-century Realist theory does not represent a positivist

explanation of international relations.2 Instead, it stresses the importance of human and moral choices, even if they are tragic, and, most often, they are tragic. In doing so, Realism explores and addresses the tension between political and ethical imperatives. (Murray 1995, 106) Classical Realism is skeptical of empiricism and rationalism and instead points to the limits of reason in the construction of political order and in the constructive relational processes of self and other. At this point it is useful to bring religion in. Religion and faith as identity-related variables are essential parts of this relational process of constructing self and other. It is also therefore that Realism can teach us more on the state-that is, at the domestic and the sub-state level-than often assumed. The contributors of this volume offer a theoretical view on religion in

international relations in the context of Realism. In doing so, they always connect this with actual, real-world related political problems. The volume takes into account not only classical thinkers and approaches of Realism but also present-day authors dealing with ethical and normative questions of international relations in the aftermath of 9/11.