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Definition: Morgenthau, Hans J(oachim) (1904–1980) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German-born political scientist. He emphasized a ‘realistic approach’ to foreign policy, one in which national interests preside over global concerns. He was a fierce critic of US involvement in Vietnam.

Born in Coburg, he left Germany in 1932 and immigrated to the USA in 1937. He taught at several universities including the University of Chicago, where he was director of the Center for the Study of American Foreign and Military Policy (1944–61).


Summary Article: Morgenthau, Hans J. (1904-1980)
from Encyclopedia of Power

Hans Joachim Morgenthau was born and educated in Germany. After studying philosophy and law at the University of Munich and the University of Frankfurt, he received a doctoral law degree from the latter in 1929. He taught in Switzerland and Spain before emigrating to the United States in 1937. In 1943 he received an appointment at the University of Chicago.

The publication of Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace in 1948 established him as the leading academic proponent of the theory of realism in international relations. This book was the most widely used text in American university courses in international relations for many years. Morgenthau rejected a legalistic- moralistic approach to international relations in favor of one emphasizing power. He saw the desire for power as rooted in human nature, and politics as a struggle for power. He defined power as control over the minds and actions of other people.

Morgenthau identified nine elements of national power, including geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, military preparedness, population, national character, national morale, quality of diplomacy, and quality of government. Each of these elements was evaluated in terms of its potential contribution to a country's ability to fight a war. Morgenthau viewed all nations as constantly preparing for war, fighting a war, or recovering from war.

The concept of balance of power was central to Morgenthau's theory of realism. He rejected the idea that nations had a choice with respect to the balance of power. In his view, the balance of power was a necessary consequence of the struggle for power among nations. Thus, the balance of power and policies to preserve that balance are not only inevitable, but also desirable in the sense that they serve as stabilizing factors in international relations. Some confusion inevitably resulted from Morgenthau's use of the phrase balance of power to mean four different things: (1) a policy; (2) a state of affairs; (3) an approximately equal distribution of power; and (4) any distribution of power.

In the 1970s, Morgenthau's theory of realism was challenged from two directions. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye attacked three realist assumptions with respect to the dominance of states as actors, the utility of military force as an instrument of statecraft, and the hierarchy of issues confronting states in Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Kenneth Waltz found the roots of the balance of power in the nature of the international system rather than human nature and asserted international politics to be a struggle for security rather than a struggle for power in his Theory of International Politics.

See Also

Balance of Power, Carr, E. H., Defensive Realism, Idealism in International Relations, Interdependence Theory, Neorealism, Realism in International Relations, Sprout, Harold

Further Readings
  • Claude, I. L. (1962). Power and international relations. New York: Random House.
  • Keohane, R. O. (Ed.). (1986). Neorealism and its critics. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Morgenthau, H. J. (1948). Politics among nations: The struggle for power and peace. New York: Knopf.
  • Waltz, K. N. (1979). Theory of international politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Baldwin, David A.
    © SAGE Publications, Inc

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