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Behind Clio's Mask: Philosophic History and Its Uses Today


Buultjens examines the utility of history as a paradigm on which to build a prognosis of the future. With examples from the past, the discussion centers around two fundamentals. First, historical patterns may prove to be faulty models as they tend to focus on clusters of events and, usually, on the leaders/victors of that era, hence not representing the entire picture. These leaders, says Buultjens, are typically MCGA-egoists who influence international politics through their personal motives. Second, these historic clusters seldom contain elements yielding enduring or transferable conclusions upon which to build valid prognoses for the future. From historical patterns, several trends emerge: (1) the phaseout of conflict after the Cold War; (2) modern government and media culture prevent the emergence of “political supermen” and minimize disruption; (3) democracy, in its familiar form, curtails its rate of expansion; and (4) the spirit of separatism permeates as a result of collapse of yet another empire. The author is not in favor of disregarding historical analyses, but rather in questioning messages it provides so as not to extract erroneous lessons.

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1 Burrow John W., Gibbon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 2223.

2 Montesquieu's Considerations on the Greatness and Decline of the Romans was published in French in 1734. Several translations exist including The Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, trans. D. Lowenthal (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1965). Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. Several single volume abridgments are in print.

3 Quotation from The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. See Porter Roy, Gibbon: Making History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), 157.

4 For a fuller discussion of Marx's conception of history see McLellan David, Marx (London: Fontana Press, 1986), 3849.

5 Carlyle Thomas, On Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, ed. Niemeyer Carl (Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 1, 77.

6 Hall John A., Powers and Liberties (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 17.

7 For a useful discussion of this proposition see ibid., 1621.

8 Ibid., 19.

9 In 1922 an abbreviation, A Short History of the World, was published. (Reprinted with a new introduction [London: Penguin Books, 1991])

10 Wells , A Short History of the World, 309–10.

11 Hall , Powers and Liberties, 4.

12 Tuchman Barbara, Practising History (London: PaperMac Books, 1983), 149.

13 Pipes Richard, “Seventy-Five Years On—The Great October Revolution,” Times Literary Supplement (London), Nov. 6, 1992, p. 4.

14 Hall , Powers and Liberties, 6.

15 Kennedy Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (London: Fontana Press, 1990); Fukuyama Francis, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).

16 Coll Alberto R. in an address entitled Prudence In Statecraft, Miller Center Imprimatur VII (Charllottesville VA: White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia, November 1991).

17 Hans Morgenthau, quoted in ibid.; extracted from Morgenthau Hans, Scientific Man vs Power Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946).

18 Lippmann Walter, “Ten Years: Retrospect and Prospect,” Foreign Affairs 11 (October 1932), 51.

19 Watson Adam, The Evolution of International Society (London: Routledge, 1992), 320, 106.

20 See Bell's essays on “The End of Ideology,”“Notes on the Post-Industrial Society I,” and “Notes on the Post-Industrial Society II,” Public Interest, Nos. 6 and 7 (1967).

21 Phrase used frequently by President George Bush in 1989–91. See, among other speeches, his address at Texas A & M University, New York Times, May 3, 1989.

22 Dunn John, preface to Democracy—The Unfinished Journey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), v.

23 Kissinger Henry, A World Restored (Boston MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), 331.

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
  • URL: /core/journals/ethics-and-international-affairs
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