Tag: in memoriam

Stanley Hoffmann’s approach to studying politics: in memoriam 1928-2015 .

[Note: This is a guest post by Peter Gourevitch, Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Watson Institute, Brown University.]

Stanley Hoffmann influenced the study of international relations greatly. From the 1960s on, generations of professors in training read his work. All were affected by doing so. Some reacted negatively, some positively, some indirectly, but all were affected because of its clarity and utility. He laid out argumentation in the sharpest way — stereotypical of the best part of French analytic training — defining all the variables, categories, dimensions, and their combinations. It was perfect for preparing comprehensive exams, or defining issues for a thesis prospectus or an article. Contemporary Theory in International Relations, (Prentice-Hall, 1960) and The State of War: Essays on the Theory and Practice of International Politics, (Praeger, 1965) were the most notable examples.

At the same time, Hoffmann did not like the trend toward social scientific theorizing of international relations. He believed in his French mentor Raymond Aron’s comparative historical sociology: the rich systematic comparison of situations in historical context, a kind of Weberian construction and comparison of ideal types. Some books were written following Aron’s approach, but not many. The field was moving against Hoffmann. Mostly the study of international relations went the way of most social science in those days, ever sharper definition of dependent and independent variables and their testing, or careful construction of deductive reasoning (think, game theory , Schelling, Waltz. ) That was not Hoffmann’s approach, so while he was widely read, he was not widely followed in a self conscious way. Continue reading


Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1941-2013

elshtain2The New York Times recalls her as a post-9/11 public intellectual who served as an “intellectual beacon” and “guiding light for policymakers” during a tumultous political era. The Atlantic describes her as a uniquely non-secularist scholar, whose “greatest legacy” was her “serious intellectual commitment to including God in discussions of politics.” At Crooked Timber, Corey Robin counters the notion that she was a “realist” and criticizes her support for Bush-era policies under the mantle of “just war theory.”

As I sifted through some of the official obituaries, it surprised me how few of them lauded Elshtain for her pioneering work putting gender on the IR security studies agenda. I did not know Elshtain well, and I did not engage with her later corpus as closely as a scholar of humanitarian affairs should have. Yet her writings on gender, war and feminism impacted me greatly as a graduate student – in fact her book Women and War was one of the three that most shifted my thinking in my formative years as a scholar between 1996 and 1999 – the other’s being Tickner’s Gender in International Relations and Enloe’s The Morning AfterElshtain’s thinking on gender later diverged significantly from much of the IR feminist canon, and the normative tenor of her writings on war and peace shifted after 9/11.  Nonetheless her progressive impact on IR in opening up a space for security studies scholars to take gender seriously is not doubted by anyone I know of. Continue reading


Kenneth Waltz (1924-2013)

Kenneth Waltz died last night. From an email sent by Robert Jervis:

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Ken Waltz died last night.  As many of you know, his health had been uncertain ever since he lost much of his sight a year ago, and about a month ago he was hospitalized with pneumonia.  While he recovered enough to be discharged to rehab, a combination of a return of pneumonia and congestive heart failure sent him back to the hospital a few days ago.

He was a few weeks short of 89 but until the very end remained fully lucid and engaged. Indeed he was looking forward to a trip to the UK with his daughter-in-law in the fall, and the day before he went into the hospital had lunch with Les Gelb & Henry Kissinger (& remarked that the latter’s age was showing).  Despite being unable to see well enough to read, his spirits remained high until the end, which came quickly.

We will all miss him greatly both for his scholarship & his personality.

Continue reading


© 2021 Duck of Minerva

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑