Is E.H Carr's Reputation as a Realist Deserved? Term Paper by Peter70

Is E.H Carr's Reputation as a Realist Deserved?
A discussion about E.H. Carr and whether he earned his reputation as a Realist.
# 102484 | 1,610 words | 5 sources | MLA | 2005 | GB
Published on Mar 26, 2008 in Political Science (General) , Political Science (Marx / Engels)

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This paper sets out to examine if E.H. Carr was a realist, a Marxist or a critic of Utopianism. After describing his background, the paper examines how much Carr conformed to the standards of a classical realist. The paper also examines why it has been so hard to answer the question about Carr's reputation as a realist and concludes that not only was Carr a realist, but he was also a utopian, a functionalist, and a romantic.

From the Paper:

"E.H Carr seems to be one of the most enigmatic writers in the field of International Relations. After looking up numerous sources, the position Carr came from still remains a mystery. Questions of whether he was a Realist, a Marxist or just a spiteful critic of Utopianism have still not been completely satisfactorily answered. Still, numerous answers have been out forward, and in this essay I will examine the ones I thought made most sense, and attempt to hopefully put forward my own opinion of exactly how much of a Realist Carr was. I will begin in relatively orthodox fashion, by looking at how much Carr conformed to the standards of a classical Realist, and juxtaposing that with how much he didn't conform to those same standards. I will then move on to an examination of exactly why it has been so hard to answer the question above, and then conclude by seeing how much of the question has been answered to date. First though, we need to put Carr's arguments into some sort of context by looking briefly at his history. Carr matured in a world where world security and peace was not really analyzed or commented upon. What changed this peaceful state was the First World War, and more importantly for Carr, the Bolshevik Revolution. This event proved to be a catalyst of sorts for Carr, and changed his vision of the world and to some extent his personality, dramatically. The world he inhabited became the one he commented the most upon, and most writers on his arguments have cautioned that this needs to be kept in mind in any examination of Carr. Thus, background duly noted, we can now move into answering the question itself.
To what extent was Carr a classical Realist? This question answered in different ways by different writers, but because space is limited, I will take here the two who seemed to answer the question best. The first answer I will put forward was originally thought up by Charles Jones, who said that Carr was a Realist who conformed to the standards of Realism he himself defined. The best example of this is the opening few chapters of The Twenty Years Crisis', in which Carr defines Realism as having two main tenants; Firstly, that sovereign states were the prime actors in an international system that was irremediably conflictual because of the flawed character of mankind and its own anarchic structure. Secondly, that statesmen were permitted to exercise amoral behaviour in the sphere of international politics because of these distinguishing characteristics which marked it off from the sphere of international politics . Thus according to Jones, Carr was a realist on his own terms, and not according to classically ascribed ones. Peter Wilson's argument for Carr being a Realist also runs along these lines. Wilson puts the version of Carr most commonly seen in IR forward first. According to this classical version of Carr, morality came about as a product of power, not vice versa; The diplomat was entitled to 'cloak the interests of his country in the language of universal justice '; The clash of interests between states was real and inevitable; Utopians were delusional dupes who only worked for their the fulfilment of their own vision; and that public interest was as wrong-headed as was it impotent . These two slightly views of Carr, though not completely identical do go some way towards showing why Carr was, prior to the in depth research done afterwards, seen as a hard-line classical Realist. Most basic realist assumptions and arguments are evident in the various points listed above, and as all of the points come from Carr's works themselves, it isn't hard to infer that he was in fact a hard-line Realist. But, Carr's arguments weren't confined to only the principles outlined above. In fact, they had much more depth to them than that, and this depth is what led to the 'Carr question ' being asked in the first place. How much then, does Carr not conform to the standards of a classical Realist?"

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Carr, E. H., The Twenty Years' Crisis: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: Macmillan, 1939).
  • Cox, M. (ed.), E.H. Carr: A Critical Reappraisal (London: Palgrave, 2000).
  • Howe, P., 'The Utopian Realism of E. H. Carr', Review of International Studies, 20, 3 (1994).
  • Jones, C., E. H. Carr and International Relations: The Duty to Lie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  • Wilson, P., 'E. H. Carr: The Revolutionist's Realist',, December 2000.

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