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A Cultural Theory of International Relations


  • 5 tables
  • Page extent: 776 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 1.2 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521691888)

In this volume, Richard Ned Lebow introduces his own constructivist theory of political order and international relations based on theories of motives and identity formation drawn from the ancient Greeks. His theory stresses the human need for self-esteem, and shows how it influences political behavior at every level of social aggregation. Lebow develops ideal-type worlds associated with four motives: appetite, spirit, reason and fear, and demonstrates how each generates a different logic concerning cooperation, conflict and risk-taking. Expanding and documenting the utility of his theory in a series of historical case studies, ranging from classical Greece to the war in Iraq, he presents a novel explanation for the rise of the state and the causes of war, and offers a reformulation of prospect theory. This is a novel theory of politics by one of the world's leading scholars of international relations.

• World famous author, Ned Lebow develops a novel theory of politics based on the universal human drive for self-esteem and explores its implications for foreign policy and international relations • Makes historical comparisons across epochs and cultures, from the ancient Greeks to the present day, to develop and demonstrate the utility of the theory • Presents international relations in a broader philosophical and sociological perspective, highlighting the history and limitations of existing approaches to its study


1. Introduction; 2. Fear, interest and honor; 3. The spirit and its expression; 4. The ancient world; 5. Medieval Europe; 6. From Sun King to Revolution; 7. Imperialism and World War I; 8. World War II; 9. Hitler to Bush and beyond; 10. General findings and conclusions.

Prize Winner

Susan Strange Book Prize, British International Studies Association 2009 - Winner

Jervis and Schroeder Best Book Award, International History and Politics Section, American Political Science Association 2009 - Winner


'In this successor volume to The Tragic Vision of Politics, Ned Lebow sets out ... a new Grand Theory for the social sciences... This project involves historical studies ranging over two and a half millennia, and in depth readings of many great thinkers; I am quite certain that everyone will enjoy the ride – it would be impossible to read this tour de force without having one's horizons widened.' Chris Brown, London School of Economics

'Ned Lebow's record of research and publication in IR is second to none. What distinguishes it most of all above the common herd are not just its range and sophistication but also that it is genuinely crosscultural. Entirely in the same spirit of virtue-ethical inquiry as his outstanding The Tragic Vision of Politics, Lebow here interrogates the vital underpinnings of human interstate relations from spirit-based Greek and Roman antiquity to the anxious, threat-based strategies of modernity from Hitler to Bush and beyond.' Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

'Drawing on ancient Greek thought and practice, Richard Ned Lebow has produced a book of great theoretical power and historical sweep. This is the sort of study that can only be done after years of thought and research, and it will be read for many years to come.' Robert Jervis, Columbia University

'In this impressive follow up to The Tragic Vision of Politics, Ned Lebow continues and further elaborates his ground breaking fusion of Ancient Greek thought, historical imagination and contemporary social science to offer a rich and provocative theory that places culture at the centre of the explanation of international relations. Powerfully written, theoretically sophisticated and full of important historical and contemporary insights, this promises to be a major theoretical departure in the human sciences.' Nicholas Rengger, St Andrews University

'A Cultural Theory [of International Relations] is the capstone of Lebow's unceasing commitment to restoring a dynamic and historical dimension of international relations and to reinstating values and motives to their proper place at the center of enquiry. It also is a milestone in the effort to transform constructivism into a genuinely theoretical enterprise.' Richard Mansbach, Iowa State University

'Lebow's writing is a model of clarity and accessibility and he provides neat, if not short, summaries of his arguments and conclusions at both the beginning and the end of A Cultural Theory of International Relations.' Geoffrey Roberts, H-Diplo

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