WORLD DISORDERS by Stanley Hoffmann


Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era
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Nuanced meditations on the nature of world politics in the post—Cold War era. For a generation now, Hoffmann (Harvard), a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, has been one of this country’s most respected students of foreign relations. This collection of essays written over the past decade clearly shows why; his analyses are unfailingly insightful and compassionate, attributes often missing in the discipline of political science. Overall, Hoffmann has two concerns here: to examine the state of current international relations, to critique the methods and approaches used to understand these relations. We live, Hoffmann notes, “in a world of great originality, complexity, and uncertainty.” It remains a world of sovereign states, but these states are buffeted by forces often beyond their control. The increasing globalization and privatization of economics both creates international interdependence and further polarizes the “have” and “have not” nations. Ethnic and religious conflicts tear at national cohesions, as does the rise of intense nationalist and separatist aspirations. Older tools of understanding the world no longer suffice. The “realist” approach that sees only competing, absolutely self-interested states captures neither the current reality of cooperation, at times, among states nor the weakness of the state in many instances. The “liberal” approach, which assumed a more peaceful world would evolve through, among other things, the spread of markets, has ignored the harm the world market has done. Hoffmann’s own approach to international relations is itself liberal yet—embracing Kant, Rawls, and others—is focused on ethical and normative considerations. Individuals have the right to autonomy and integrity, and states have the duty to insure this right. While this might seem merely a simplistic adage, Hoffmann deliberates carefully on what such an ethos means and how it might be applied to understanding and judging myriad world situations and problems, from immigration to armed intervention in the affairs of another state. Sophisticated and provocative, Hoffmann’s writing gives the reader much to consider.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8476-8574-8
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999