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Kissing Cousins: Nationalism and Realism



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Kissing Cousins Nationalism and Realism John J Mearsheimer University of Chicago May 5 2011 This paper was prepared for the Yale Workshop on International Relations As it represents my preliminary thinking on the subject please do not quote from it without my permission Kissing Cousins Nationalism and Realism Nationalism is not a key component of any realist theory Yet most realists appear to believe that nationalism has been an especially powerful force in international politics E H Carr and Jack Snyder for example have each written books on the subject and Barry Posen and Stephen Van Evera have written important articles about nationalism 1 Robert Pape argues that nationalism is the key concept for understanding the causes of suicide terrorism 2 Both Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lippmann emphasized the importance of Asian nationalism over communism when they argued against American involvement in the Vietnam War 3 Similarly many realists who opposed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq argued that Iraqi nationalism would help prevent the United States from winning a quick and decisive victory It seems clear that there must be some affinity between nationalism and realism even if nationalism is not a key variable in realist theory The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between these two isms As every student of international politics knows there are numerous theories of nationalism as well as realism No two realists for example have identical theoretical perspectives on the workings of the international system Nevertheless there are certain essential features of world politics that are incorporated into almost all realist theories The same is true regarding nationalism I am not concerned with examining the differences among the various theories in each literature or making the case for any particular theory of nationalism or realism Instead my goal is to focus on the important features of 1 nationalism and realism that are common to both bodies of theory



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