Hans J. Morgenthau is generally considered to have been a political realist and the transmitter of continental Realpolitik into American letters. But he has also been claimed as an idealist, as a constructivist, and as an ethicist. Some of these claims make sense if we understand that Morgenthau was trained as a lawyer in the German historical tradition. Others can be made sense of if we understand that—self-consciously a “European”—he was continuously adapting his ideas to an American audience and, in the process, being socialized into an American experience. The essays in this roundtable illustrate the “Americanization” of Morgenthau.
The “Morgenthau in America” project was inspired by the English translation of Morgenthau’s 1933 La Notion du “Politique” (The Concept of the Political), undertaken and edited by Hartmut Behr and Felix Rösch, which appeared in 2012. That text, requiring extensive editorial annotations and with a truncated concept of the political, is somewhat obscure to the Anglo-Saxon reader and stands in sharp contrast to the bold, articulate, and crystalline presentation of politics as the quest for power that appeared fifteen years later in Politics Among Nations. At that point Morgenthau had been ten years in America, the most recent four at the University of Chicago, in a department dominated by the behavioral approach of Charles Merriam, the doyen of American political science and advisor to presidents.
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