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The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations [Paperback]

E. H. Carr , Michael Cox
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 7 2001 9780333963777 978-0333963777 0
E. H. Carr's classic work on international relations, published in 1939, was immediately recognized by friend and foe alike as a defining work. The author was one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the 20th century. The issues and themes he developed continue to have relevance to modern day concerns with power and its distribution in the international system. Michael Cox's critical introduction provides the reader with background information about the author, the context for the book, and its main themes and contemporary relevance.

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From Library Journal

In Carr's 1939 title, one of the first serious studies in the area of international relations, he discusses theories of society, the nature of politics, the military, and more. This edition has been updated by Michael Cox, a professor of international politics at the University of Wales, Aberstwyth, where Carr himself was a professor decades earlier. This is more for the academic crowd.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Professor Carr has shown the entire inadequacy of Professors Zimmern and Toynbee: who will demonstrate the entire inadequacy of Professor Carr?” —Richard Crossman

“Brilliantly reasoned.” —R.W. Seton-Watson

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tricky, but insightful and ahead of its time. Nov. 8 2001
Format:Paperback
Much of the appeal of realism stems from a belief that it's more grounded in reality and pragmatism. In this way, it's often the bias of choice for academics simply because it makes one's ideas appear more legitimate. Here's a case in point: Carr spends nearly the entire book ripping apart utopianism and pluralism, as any "good realist" would be apt to do, only to reach the last chapter where he declares liberalism is the only hope for mankind. So it's clear that he wasn't really a true Realist, but used it for improving his career prospects. It obviously worked, because The Twenty Years' Crisis is considered a classic work in realism. Nonetheless, Carr comes up with some great insights. He correctly predicts the rise of nonstate actors. Though he is wrong in thinking colonization would continue for the long haul in its current form, yet he predicts the move away from expansionism in favor of interchangeable puppet governments and international subversion. Carr has great advice when he says war will continue until nations begin sacrificing for one another, something that U.S. actions in Latin America and the United Fruit Company fiasco chose to disregard. My favorite point is when he says absolute peace is only possible when there is a larger, common threat that subunits can mobilize against. Earth cannot unite against the impending threat from the Planet Mars, for instance. Well, maybe there are no Martians, but perhaps there's someone else out there...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The work itself is too famous to be added with any non-professional accounts. This update, however, a very precious one in a sense, mainly because the fact that the author, E.H.Carr, did make a change from the 1st edition to the 2nd edition is lucidly explained. For some the change Carr had made is critical, since that was deeply concerned with his attitude on appeasement policy, especially the Munich Agreement in 1938. This is why M.Fox includes the both prefaces and his explanation on the difference as well as a well-written introduction to the work and others. I think this is a very important update we have been waiting for.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great look at early IR theory Jan. 23 2008
By Lehigh History Student - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
E. H. Carr provides an overview of international relations theory at a time when it was not a defined discipline. The real value of this book is seeing just how far sighted E. H. Carr was. The book itself is a basic overview of the tenants of international relations theory using the twenty years between the two wars as a case study. It looks primarily at the realist model but also brings in ethics and international law into his discussion. For those who are looking for an entertaining and fun read of IR Theory this is a great place to go. It has several updated introductions for the more serious scholar but Carr's work itself is a great study for those interested in IR and has a real love of it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defence for realism and support for pluralism Aug. 19 2007
By James Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book should be considered one of the `core' readings within the sphere of international relations, essential for any student of the subject. However Carr is not necessarily the diehard realist that he is sometimes made out to be. Despite being quoted by numerous texts as part of the realism school, Carr makes clear early on in his book that while he disagrees with pluralism and does a good job defending realism, he then goes onto state that firstly, pluralist theories go on to become realist ones and secondly, that pluralist theories are a necessary and essential element. An interesting observation, from which could be drawn the conclusion that there is no 'right' school of thought, simply revolving ideas and concepts.

An insightful and interesting work, that should be required reading for anyone serious about international relations.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Study of Realism in International Relations Par Excellence Oct. 7 2011
By A Certain Bibliophile - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book, perhaps the one for which Carr is best remembered, was written immediately before the start of World War II, and is considered one of the seminal texts of international relations. In fact, the preface to the first edition is dated September 30, 1939, a mere four weeks after the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. This is by no means incidental to the content, either. "Twenty Years' Crisis" is a thoroughgoing critique of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century international politics and especially the assumptions on which they rest.

It can be broken up into roughly two sections; the first is more theoretical in approach, while the second part analyzes certain instances of political structures, treaties, and international relations that support his theoretical assertions. I'm much more interested in the theory, so my focus in this review will be the first half, where Carr explores utopianism, realism, and their intellectual genealogies.

After the end of the Great War, a popular idea in diplomatic circles was that only irrationality and aggression could possibly start another war, and only the construction of a set of international institutions, like the League of Nations, could prevent a similar breakout. That certainly is a pleasing thought, considering how much carnage and loss of life there was. This hope, which Carr identifies as a naïve and empty sentiment, is perhaps the most conspicuous symptom of what he calls "utopianism." Utopians "pay little attention to existing `facts' or to the analysis of cause and effect, but will devote themselves wholeheartedly to the elaboration of visionary projects for the attainment of the ends they have in view - projects whose simplicity and perfection gives them an easy and universal appeal" (5). Carr associates utopianism with the more intellectual strains in international relations, imputing the label to those with "the inclination to ignore what was and what is in contemplation of what should be." Utopians put their moral ideals before political observation and empiricism. He traces utopianism to the willed, persistent belief in "the harmony of interests" - the common assumption that the pursuit of individual self-interest will necessarily dovetail with the interests of the nation as a whole. This idea is similar to the social Darwinism which also populated much nineteenth-century European social thought.

Realism can in many ways be thought of as the antithesis of utopianism. Realists let observation, national interests, and power inform their view of international policy. Realists have "the inclination to deduce what should be from what was and what is." Whereas utopians let morality inform their politics, realists let their politics inform their morality. Because of the rationalist, Weberian strains Carr associates with realism, he associated realism with the bureaucrat instead of the intellectual.

While this book is often listed as the first defense of realism, Carr is extraordinarily fair-minded, and openly admits that there are problems with this approach, too. Importantly, realism fails to provide the idealism that any international policy must have. As Carr says, "Most of all, consistent realism breaks down because it fails to provide any ground for purposive or meaningful action. If the sequence of cause and effect is sufficiently rigid to permit of the `scientific prediction' of events, if our thought is irrevocably conditioned by status and our interests, then both action and thought become devoid of purpose" (92).

Because of the respective strengths and weaknesses of utopianism and realism, Carr concludes the theoretical portion of the book by suggesting that any meaningful, pragmatic political approach must rest somewhere near the middle of the realist/utopian continuum. "We return therefore to the conclusion that any sound political thought must be based on elements of both utopia and reality. Where utopianism has become a hollow and intolerable sham which serves merely as a disguise for the interests of the privileged, the realist performs an indispensable service in unmasking it. But pure realism can offer nothing but a naked struggle for power which makes any kind of international society impossible" (93).

In the second part of the book, Carr asserts that utopians were so concerned with preventing another Great War, they began to completely ignore the element of power in international relations. For example, utopians assumed that all nations had the same interests in maintaining peace, and for the same reasons. A simple look at the actual milieu of European politics leading up to both World Wars I and II will suggest something different.

He also spends a good deal of time pointing out how the three kinds of power that operate in international politics - economic, military, and public opinion - can't be analyzed separately and have to be considered interdependently. Also, because (at least at that time) the international community has not agreed upon a means of resolving international disputes, treaties are barely worth the paper they're printed on since countries can opt out on trivial conditions. It would have been interesting to see how the formation of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice would have changed Carr's option on this point, if at all.

For being over seventy years old, Carr's analysis is still fresh, fascinating, and convincing. The only part that dates the book is the second half that looks at actual international events, since nothing after 1939 is covered. I did have to read up a little on the some of the treaties that are now lesser-known, like the Treaty of Locarno and the Franco-Soviet Treaty, but Carr very much rewards the reader's effort in this respect. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in the history of international relations, or anyone who wants a full-throated defense of realism and its place in the field.
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Realism Lite Feb. 1 2000
By Ashok Karra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When we talk about realism, we often think about Kissinger or Morgenthau, both of which are awfully boring when one really tries to keep focused on their work.
But E.H. Carr preceded both these fine gentlemen, and Carr is at his finest here displaying a sarcastic wit and overall nasty tone in ripping apart the overly idealistic liberal position adopted by Wilson, Kellogg or Briand, who really thought that world peace could be had through ineffectual action via international organizations and lots of talking between nations.
Carr, in true realist guise (pre-Morgenthau, at least), doesn't elaborate on any principles that could be used to form a coherent theory. But the strengths of this book are in helping those who don't fully appreciate why WW2 came about understand the failure of liberalism, and in entertaining those of us in IR who are bored with the standard IR readings. This book is hilarious, and is certainly worth reading. Just don't expect it to be terribly profound.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic April 14 2014
By Kolanji - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have any interest in International Relations; this book is a must read. The format of the book is very good for teaching, and Edward Carr's writing is wonderful to read.
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