Raymond Aron: Too Realistic to Be a Realist?

Pierre Hassner, "Raymond Aron: Too Realistic to Be a Realist?" Constellations, 14, no. 4 (2007): 498-505.


Was Raymond Aron a realist? Certainly the answer is obvious if one understands realism in the nonacademic sense of analyzing situations accurately, of not pursuing utopian goals with an adequate means, of acting with prudence and moderation but without allowing moralism or idealism to prevent one from using the means, from violence to cunning, necessary for avoiding defeat. Very few analysts in the 20th century have shown Aron’s  skill and lucidity in analyzing international situations and in recommending the most reasonable course of action.

But was he a realist in the sense of international relations theory? Here the answer becomes much more complicated. He is generally classified as belonging to this school, even though he has carried many polemics with some of its most illustrious representatives like Hans Morganthau and George Kennan.  and American author has called the theory of his major treatise, Peace and War,  a Gaullist theory of international relations. Yet the Gaullists,  including the General himself,  have never considered him as one of them and, indeed, his political image is more that of a defender of the free world against totalitarianism than that of a defender of the French national interest.

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