chapter  2
16 Pages

The influence of the Jewish experience on the liberal Realism of Hans J. Morgenthau


There is an increasing awareness of the impact of religion on the dynamics of international relations (Fox and Sandler 2006; Johnston and Sampson 1994; Thomas 2005) and its role in contributing to international conflict, and indeed its potential for conflict management. (Appleby 2000; Gopin 2000) It is thus of great importance that the impact of religion on international relations theory also be explored as part of this general trend. This is all the more the case in regard to the school of classical Realism, which is heavily philosophically based and has been influenced by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who was once termed the “father of us all.” (Thompson 1980: 31-2) In an effort to further contribute to the understanding of the impact of

religion on Realist international relations theory, this chapter will explore the impact of the Jewish experience on perhaps the most seminal thinker of international relations-Hans J. Morgenthau. This chapter will contend that the Jewish experience of the twentieth century was an important contributory influence upon Morgenthau’s tragic view of human and social existence, which is a basic premise of his conflictual view of the world, with its emphasis on the need for power to ensure international security. However, the chapter will also suggest that, in line with more recent evaluations of Morgenthau (Frei 2001; Mollov 2002; Rosenthal 1991; Russell 1990; Williams 2007), his Realism was not purely one-dimensional but was in fact more nuanced and complex and included moral and transcendent elements-which were also affected by the Jewish moral and intellectual heritage. Given Morgenthau’s status as perhaps the most seminal theoretician of the Realist school in particular and modern international relations in general, the identification of Jewish influences on Morgenthau’s thought and public activity would serve as evidence of the impact of religion and religious identity, through the Jewish experience, on the development of Realism in particular and IR theory in general. As Judaism combines peoplehood and faith, and as in the modern era Jews

have grappled with the significance of faith in a secular era, the Jewish experience as a whole can be considered to include: (1) the impact of searing anti-Semitism; (2) moral, cultural and intellectual offshoots of Judaism; and

(3) involvement in causes such as the Soviet Jewry movement and Israel as well as formal religious theology and practice. As a whole these elements can be considered as linked to the larger dimension of religious identity. Although not a formally observant Jew, Morgenthau had a clear connection to many of these elements, whose impact will be explored in this chapter.1