IR Folks from Times Past

IR Folks from Times Past

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fear, Honor, Interest

Richard Ned Lebow’s A Cultural Theory of International Relations (Cambridge, 2008) is one of the most ambitious works of IR theory in this generation. It is also one of the most difficult. The second volume of what is planned to be a trilogy, it follows upon Lebow’s previous work, The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests and Orders (Cambridge, 2003). He projects a third volume that will develop “a full blown theory of political order.”  At over 700 pages, the Cultural Theory is not the sort of work that can possibly be used for undergraduate instruction without inducing revolt among the students, yet it is, at the same time, a work of cardinal importance whose fundamental propositions deserve attention. Lebow mounts a full-scale attack on regnant theories of IR, and is especially cutting in his analysis of neorealism and liberalism. He argues that IR theory needs to reacquaint itself with the wisdom of the classical writers of ancient Greece, whose fuller version of the human personality—and, by extension, of state and society—offers an alternative and more persuasive framework for the understanding of social action. (Article length: 5400 words).

My purpose here is to bring to the fore central elements of Lebow’s approach without, one hopes, simplifying it excessively or criticizing it unfairly. Responding to Lebow's call to bring the ancients back in, let us begin with the Greek historian Thucycides and his history of the Peloponnesian War, which contains the basic germ of one of Lebow’s key insights. In the speech of the Athenian envoys before the Spartan war assembly, on the eve of the great war, the envoys explain why Athens would not give up its empire. 
That empire we acquired not by violence, but because you were unwilling to prosecute to its conclusion the war against the barbarian, and because the allies attached themselves to us and spontaneously asked us to assume the command. And the nature of the case first compelled us to advance our empire to its present height; fear being our principal motive, though honor and interest afterwards came in. And at last, when almost all hated us, when some had already revolted and had been subdued, when you had ceased to be the friends that you once were, and had become objects of suspicion and dislike, it appeared no longer safe to give up our empire; especially as all who left us would fall to you. And no one can quarrel with a people for making, in matters of tremendous risk, the best provision that it can for its interest. . . . [I]t was not a very remarkable action, or contrary to the common practice of mankind, if we did accept an empire that was offered to us, and refused to give it up under the pressure of three of the strongest motives, fear, honor, and interest. (I. 75-76) 

For Lebow, too, fear, honor, and interest are fundamental, and the Cultural Theory is an exploration of the worlds of thought and action that this one scary emotion and these two fundamental motives produce. Let us take each of these concepts in turn:  

Fear. The power of fear has been self-evident from the beginning of civilization, if not before, and is probably a component of most social orders. Tyrannies are the regimes most dependent on fear (p. 4) . . . Aristotle defines fear "as a pain or disturbance due to imagining some destructive or painful evil in the future." It is caused “by whatever we feel has great power of destroying us, or of harming us in ways that tend to cause us great pain.” It is the opposite of confidence and is associated with danger, which is the approach of something terrible. It is aroused by the expectation, rather than the reality, of such an event and encourages a deliberative response. It is often provoked by another actor's abuse of its power and is threatening to the social order, not just to individuals. (89). Fear is an emotion, not a fundamental human drive. . . . It arises from imbalance and the application of human imagination to its likely, or even possible, consequences. Fear triggers a desire for security which can be satisfied in many ways. In interstate relations, it is usually through the direct acquisition of military power (and the economic well-being that makes this power) or its indirect acquisition through alliances (90). 

Interest. The interest explanation is associated with Hobbes and is central to modern social science. It assumes that people are willing to accept relatively inferior positions and benefits in return for the greater absolute rewards they receive by belonging to a society in which their physical security and material possessions are protected. (5)

Honor. Honor refers to the seemingly universal desire to stand out among one's peers, which is often achieved by selfless, sometimes even sacrificial, adherence to social norms. Homer might be considered the first theorist of honor, and his account in the Iliad is unrivaled in its understanding of this motive and its consequences, beneficial and destructive, for societies that make it a central value. In modern times, the need for status and esteem is described as "vanity" by Hobbes and Smith, and for Rousseau it is at the core of amour propre. (5)  

Habit also explains some of the remarkable fact that “most people in most societies adhere to stipulated practices and rules,” but the force of habit, powerful though it is, “can ultimately be traced back to one or more of the other three explanations.” The relative importance of these universal drives (appetite and spirit) and a powerful emotion (fear) “varies within and across societies and epochs. Fear, interest and honor operate at every level of social aggregation. Each generates “different logics concerning cooperation, conflict and risk-taking.” They also give rise “to a particular kind of hierarchy, two of which—interest and honor—rest on distinct and different principles of justice."  

Lebow singles out honor as the neglected aspect of this triad. Incredible as it may seem, attention to the spirit and to its associated qualities of honor, standing, status, and prestige got practically expunged from IR theory over the last generation, as the false god of parsimony came to be worshiped among the denizens of that establishment. (It never went missing in diplomatic or international history, where attention to it and related factors arises naturally from consideration of the sources.) “Rational choice and other theories of strategic action, as Lebow argues,  

often derive preferences from substantive assumptions, as neorealists do when they stipulate that relative power must be the principal goal of states in an anarchic international environment. Deduction of this kind, whether in economics or politics, almost invariably leads to a single motive like wealth or power, or at least to its prioritization. By making human, institutional or state preferences unidimensional, theorists homogenize and oversimplify human motivation while divorcing it from contexts that give it meaning. 

Happily, Lebow can blame a widespread tendency since the Enlightenment, rather than one-eyed colleagues, for this baleful tendency. To recover a proper methodology, we need to go back to the Greeks and to their conception of the human personality.  

For Plato and Aristotle the psyche consisted of three drives: appetite, spirit, and reason, each seeking its own ends. They considered appetite dangerous and corrupting, valued the spirit because it motivated people to participate in civic life, but had the highest regard for reason. Reason sought to understand what made for a happy life and had the potential to constrain and educate appetite and spirit to collaborate with it toward that end. Moderns rejected the spirit altogether, largely because of its association with the aristocracy. They upgraded appetite, reconceiving it as the source of economic growth and political order. Reason was reduced to a mere instrumentality, "the slave of the passions," in the words of David Hume." (14-15) 

We cannot analyze means without knowing something about the ends they are intended to achieve. This truth was obvious to the ancient Greeks, who framed the problem of choice differently. Their principal concern was human goals, and from an early date they distinguished between two kinds of human motives: appetite and spirit. The former pertained to bodily needs, like food, shelter and sex, and the latter to the competitive quest for recognition as a means of building self-esteem. Plato and Aristotle maintained that reason also generates desires of its own, and was a third, independent motive. Reason had the potential to lead people to understand the nature of happiness and to constrain and educate appetite and spirit to collaborate with it toward this end. The ancients differ from the moderns in apportioning desires among three separate motives, each distinct in its character and consequences for human behavior and happiness. (47) 

If we need a modern analogy, fractals come closest to capturing the Greek understanding of human behavior. They replicate the same patterns at different orders of magnification. . . . Plato and Aristotle begin with a description of the individual psyche, whose categories and pathologies they then extend to the polis. People and poleis alike are motivated by appetites, spirit and reason. Order or disorder in either is attributable to balance or imbalance among these three motives. (52) 

Interest and fear are well-worn categories in IR theory, with the former being identified with liberalism and the latter with realism. Lebow gives detailed and insightful attention to the logic of interest-based and fear-based relationships, but his main innovation (which is also a throwback) is the importance he gives to the spirit and to reason. Here is what he means by these terms.  

Spirit.  A spirit-based paradigm starts from the premise that people, individually and collectively, seek self-esteem. Simply put, self-esteem is a sense of self-worth that makes people feel good about themselves, happier about life and more confident about their ability to confront its challenges. It is achieved by excelling in activities valued by one's peer group or society and gaining the respect of actors whose opinions matter. (61) 

Self-esteem is a subjective sense of one's honor and standing and can reflect or differ from the esteem accorded by others. Tension and conflict can arise, internally and socially, when actors' self-esteem is considerably lower or higher than their external esteem. Esteem and self-esteem can also be described as respect and self-respect. The opposite of esteem is shame, an emotion that arises in response to the judgments, or expected judgments, of others. (63) 

Self-esteem is closely connected to honor (timē), a status for the Greeks that describes the outward recognition we gain from others in response to our excellence. . . . Honor is inseparable from hierarchy. Hierarchy is a rank ordering of status, and in honor societies honor determines the nature of the statuses and who fills them. Each status has privileges, but also an associated rule package. The higher the status, the greater the honor and privileges, but also the more demanding the role and its rules. (64)  

Honor is also a mechanism for restraining the powerful and preventing the kind of crass, even brutal exploitation common to hierarchies in modern, interest-based worlds. Honor can maintain hierarchy because challenges to an actor's status, or failure to respect the privileges it confers, arouse anger that can only be appeased by punishing the offender and thereby "putting him in his place." Honor worlds have the potential to degenerate into hierarchies based on power and become vehicles for exploitation when actors at the apex fail to carry out their responsibilities or exercise self-restraint in pursuit of their own interests. (65) 

Reason. The Enlightenment constituted a sharp break with past thinking and practice. Its rejection of Aristotelian telos (the end something is intended to achieve, and how that end drives its development) helped pave the way for modernity. Rejection of telos required a corresponding reconceptualization of reason. It was reduced from an end in itself to a mere instrumentality. . . . Max Weber would later coin the term "instrumental reason" to describe this transformation, which he recognized had come to dominate the modern world and our approach to it. . . . The modern conceptualization of reason as instrumentality was part and parcel of the shift in focus away from the ends we should seek to the means of best satisfying our appetites. (45) 

In Lebow’s view, this is a basic mistake; the ancients were right and modern thought took a wrong turn with the Enlightenment. Without denying the importance of instrumental reason, without which modern civilization would collapse, he draws our attention to the importance of what Aristotle called phronēsis, which calls for an integrated consideration of facts and values to determine proper action, and which “restrains actors because they recognize the extent to which the advancement of their goals depends on the preservation of the system and its norms. When it loses its hold over either spirit or appetite, systems are likely to undergo a phase transition into fear-dominated worlds.” (32) 

Lebow acknowledges that “reason-based worlds” cannot be found in reality and that, as Machiavelli said, “philosophers have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist, because how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live.” Lebow instances the Kallipolis of Plato’s Republic and Magnesia of the Laws as purely imaginary (because purely reason based) constructions. (76) Plato’s Republic (as opposed to Socrates’ Athens) always seemed to me a dreadful place in which I would not want to live, but we are not obliged to make The Republic the standard of what reason can provide us. More agreeable is Aristotle’s idea of “homonoia, a community whose members agreed about the nature of the good life and how it could be achieved.” Yet more modestly, but indispensably, a reason-based world is one in which “reason is able to constrain and educate spirit and appetite to work with it to achieve a happy life.” Whereas Lebow finds that “such a state of balance is rare among individuals, hardly ever approached by societies and has never been seen in regional or international systems” (27)—a truly grim conclusion—I think this sort of reason is far more powerful than he allows.  

Surely Lebow is incorrect in thinking that regional or international systems never display such characteristics; it enters often, I should judge, into their warp and woof. Perhaps I misunderstand his terminology, but the whole thrust of modern international relations can easily be conceptualized as a continual argument over how best to tame and regulate, educate and enlighten, appetite and spirit, which in international affairs involves interest, spirit, and reason in every diplomatic negotiation. Sometimes the more rational course succeeds, sometimes it fails, but these elements, by his own demonstration, are always in play (just as are, usually, competing conceptions of what reason dictates). “Appetite and spirit are universal drives whose expression varies across cultures and epochs. Reason is also universal, and the degree to which it constrains and educates appetite and spirit varies enormously within as well as across cultures.” (28-29) Very well said, but it supports the conclusion that reason has had its victories as well as its defeats. What else is a useful and properly drawn piece of legislation, a wise judicial decision, the artful negotiation of a peace treaty? The very important question from Federalist No. 1—“whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice”—is not one invariably answered in the negative, at whatever level of human affairs we wish to consider.  

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Lebow spends the first quarter of his book—about 165 densely packed pages--detailing his overall theoretical approach. He in effect acknowledges that he received criticism from readers as he circulated his manuscript, noting: 

Some readers may be troubled or confused by the use of several different but related typologies: the three-fold nature of the psyche, and the four kinds of ideal-type worlds, and, in my follow-on volume, four principles of justice. I struggled without success for ways of dispensing with the first or second of these typologies, or of merging them in some elegant manner. The typologies are related but different, and both, I am convinced, are necessary. All three psychic drives give rise to ideal-type worlds, but so does fear, which is not a drive of the psyche, but an emotion that comes to the fore in proportion to reason's loss of control over spirit and appetite. Dispensing with the psyche would eliminate reason, essential to explain balance and imbalance, and equally critical to account for learning. Doing away with my four-fold typology of ideal-type worlds would eliminate fear, which is the basis of the realist paradigm. (113-14) 

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Taking due note, then, of the three-fold nature of the psyche—of appetite and spirit roiled by fear but capable of enlightenment through reason and experience, and of similar tendencies in larger human communities---the way is open to investigate the role in international history of fear, honor, and interest, each of them needing the application of prudence to limit the excesses of which they are capable, the descents described by Thucydides to which they are susceptible. That prolegomena puts us in a position to see the force of Lebow’s objections to conventional IR paradigms:  

Conventional paradigms of politics and international relations are rooted in appetite. Liberalism and Marxism describe politics as driven by material interests, and realism acknowledges their primacy after security. Scholars who work in these paradigms attempt to penetrate what they believe to be the smokescreen of culture and ideology to get at the political, economic and military realities they are understood to obfuscate. (15-16) 

Liberalism assumes that people and states seek wealth, and use reason instrumentally to design strategies and institutions conducive to this goal. Realism differs from liberalism in arguing that concern for security must come first in an anarchical world. . . . The spirit has not been made the basis for any paradigm of politics or international relations, although, as Machiavelli and Rousseau recognized, it has the potential to serve as the foundation for one, and Hobbes described "vanity" — his term for the spirit — as a powerful, fundamental drive and principal cause of war. (60) 

Any theory of international relations must build on or be rooted in a theory of society and must address the constitution of actors, not only their behavior. Existing paradigms are inadequate in this regard. Realism all but denies the existence of society at the international level and treats the character of international relations as universal, timeless and unchanging. Liberalism posits a strong two-way connection between the domestic structure state actors and the nature of their relationships. It says little to nothing about what shapes the structure of these actors, and is restricted to one historical epoch: the modern, industrial world. It is also wed to a parochial Anglo-American telos that assumes that only one kind of state structure (liberal democracy) is a rational response to this world. (2) 

Liberalism is the quintessential paradigm of politics and international relations based on the motive of interest. Theories and propositions rooted in this paradigm, including those associated with the democratic peace research program, do a comprehensive job of laying out the assumptions of an interest-based world and the behavior to which it gives rise. Many liberals nevertheless make the mistake of confusing their ideal-type descriptions of an interest-based world with the real world, in which interest is only one important motive. Liberals further err in thinking that the world they describe — one composed of capitalist democracies — is the only efficient response to the modern industrial world. A compelling argument can be made that it is only one of several possible interest-based responses, and that its emergence was a highly contingent outcome. (76) 

Realists do not think of their paradigm as an ideal type, but as a description of the real world of international relations. The validity of this claim depends very much on the formulation in question. Strong claims, like Waltz's assertion that "In international politics force serves, not only as the ultima ratio, but indeed as the first and constant one," describe few, if any, actual worlds, and can only be considered ideal types. Weaker claims bear a closer relationship to reality. Robert Gilpin contends that anarchy and the primacy of the state do not imply a world of constant warfare, only the recognition that "there is no higher authority to which a state can appeal for succor in times of trouble." By relaxing their assumptions, realist, liberal or Marxist theories can make a better fit between their claims and real worlds. In doing so, they must give up making determinant claims and acknowledge that there is more going on in the world than can be described by their respective theories. (94-95) 

Lebow does not press his claims against Marxism in this work, but instead presents a straight-forward tripartite scheme divided into fear-based worlds (realism), interest-based worlds (liberalism) and spirit based worlds (constructivism). Each has  

distinctive characters that give rise to a range of related behaviors, but real worlds only resemble such an ideal-type world in part and so do their behaviors. Real worlds generally contain some elements of all three, are unstable and are constantly in flux. Over time, they move toward or away from one or more of these ideal-type worlds. Reality is further complicated by the fact that these societies and the systems in which they interact almost invariably contain considerable local variation, making them "lumpy," more difficult to describe and correspondingly more volatile. (58) 

Those obstacles alone might seem enough to frustrate the theoretical enterprise, but there are other factors as well which increase the difficulty. For one thing, as Lebow acknowledges, appetite and spirit are often difficult to distinguish in practice.  

Plato describes appetite and spirit as two distinct drives or motives. He provides examples to show how they can come into conflict, as when someone is thirsty but drinking in the circumstances would be socially inappropriate. In this example behavior allows a culturally informed observer to determine which motive is dominant. In other instances this might not be apparent, as wealth and honor have been implicated with each other from the beginning of human history and are sometimes difficult to disentangle. In ancient Greece, as in many societies, wealth was a prerequisite for honor. In Europe, titles were not infrequently sold or awarded on the basis of wealth, and in seventeenth-century France conferred privileges that were a vehicle for increasing one's wealth. In much of Western Europe by the mid-nineteenth century, and earlier in some countries, aristocrats were primarily distinguished from the rich bourgeoisie by the age of their wealth. More confusing still is the seeming fusion of wealth and standing in our epoch. Rousseau describes amour propre, the passion to be regarded favorably by others, as the dominant passion of modernity. In contrast to savage man, who sought esteem directly, his "civilized" counterpart seeks it indirectly, though the attainment and display of material possessions." According to Adam Smith, we better our condition "to be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation." Modernity, at least in the West, has arguably transformed wealth into an ever more instrumental good because it has become the chief source of standing. (74-75) 

The difficulty of distinguishing appetite and spirit is paralleled by some confusion of terms with regard to the relationship between spirit and the pursuit of power. Hans Morgenthau, in his Politics  Among Nations, famously made the pursuit of power the centerpiece of his theory, but as Lebow points out Morgenthau’s conception of ends was confused. States, Morgenthau wrote, seek to increase, maintain or demonstrate their power. The first, expanding power, mandated what he called a policy of imperialism; the second, maintaining power, called for “a policy of the status quo,” but when Morgenthau treated the third goal—a policy of prestige—he could only understand it as a means to either the increase or maintenance of power, not something pursued as an end in itself because intrinsic to respect and standing: 

Morgenthau's relegation of prestige-seeking from an end to a means is all the more surprising given his interest in Aristotle, who considered striving for recognition a fundamental human drive. He attended Weber's lectures at the University of Munich and made his conception of power the foundation of his own theory of international relations. Weber's understanding of the drive for power, which Morgenthau calls the animus dominandi, is best understood as an expression of the spirit. The lust for power “concerns itself not with the individual's survival but with his position among his fellows once his survival has been secured.” Committed to constructing a parsimonious theory, Morgenthau reversed the relationship between power and prestige, making the former subordinate to the latter, and theorized about how the power was achieved and maintained. He ignored Weber's admonition that power was a means to an end, not an end in itself, and that any theory about politics must be rooted in some understanding of those ends. (21-22) 

This is an excellent and revealing critique, but in identifying the drive for power as an expression of the spirit Lebow implicitly provides further evidence of the difficulties of the theoretical enterprise. What seemed a coherent division between appetite and spirit, especially as these have larger theoretical significance, has gotten further muddied. The most famous realist of the twentieth century is now a constructivist.     

A third problem is that “appetite” is by no means equivalent to “interest.”  

Appetite is the drive with which we are all familiar. Plato considered wealth to have become the dominant appetite in Athens, a development that has found an echo in all societies where some degree of affluence becomes possible. There are, of course, other appetites, including sex, food, drink, clothing and drugs, but contemporary economists and liberals either ignore them or assume their satisfaction depends on, or is at it facilitated by, wealth.”  

Lebow, however, is unavoidably forced to basically ignore these other appetites as well, for the good reason that at the state level “the pursuit of plenty” does have a kind of instrumental primacy for the satisfaction of all the other appetites. It provides, too, a material basis in the search for standing. But the major difficulty is the huge gap that separates appetite from interest in the history of political and economic thought, a point that requires some elaboration.

The concept of interest, when it was introduced into the political lexicon by Renaissance theorists, covered a far wider domain than simply the pursuit of material well-being, bound up as it was with the concept of state interest, of which recognition, respect, and standing were surely a part. So it appeared in the vast literature of reason of state. Remarkably, Guicciardini emphasized that people should always keep their own best interests at heart, but condemned those who thought that such interests always lay "in some monetary advantage, rather than in honour and in knowing how to preserve one's reputation and good name." He used it, in other words, in a sense opposite to that of Lebow.

When the concept of interest was narrowed to the pursuit of wealth, as by the eighteenth century it was by many thinkers, it came to be associated with a set of qualities—predictability, honesty, constancy, good faith and reciprocity—that formed part of “the political argument for capitalism before its triumph,” as Albert Hirschman expressed it in his classic study of The Passions and the Interests (Princeton, 1977). As Hirschman went on to show, the heroic ideal, with its associated ideas of glory, underwent severe criticism in the 17th century: "All the heroic virtues were shown to be forms of mere self-preservation by Hobbes, of self-love by La Rochefoucauld, of vanity and of frantic escape from real self-knowledge by Pascal. The heroic passions were portrayed as demeaning by Racine after having been denounced as foolish, if not demented, by Cervantes" (p. 11). Such writers scarcely denied the prominence of this spirit; their emphasis was on its perniciousness. In a long and roundabout intellectual development, by the eighteenth century thinkers were pointing to the possibiility of a more pleasant and profitable mode of interaction, founded on reciprocity and mutual interest, that held promise of a better pattern of relations among men and nations that would tame glory seeking and associated manifestations of an untractable spirit. Attesting to his own submerged liberalism and the attractions of an interest based paradigm, Lebow himself argues that this was a great achievement.  

Material well-being is generally abetted by the well-being, even prosperity, of other actors. This is a hard-won insight. Early efforts at wealth accumulation often involved violence, as it appeared easier and cheaper to take other people's possessions than to produce them oneself or generate the capital necessary for their purchase. Until recent times piracy was an honored profession, and slavery, often the result of raiding expeditions, was considered an acceptable means of acquiring wealth. Riches gained through conquest became an important goal of empires, and the norm against territorial conquest only developed in the twentieth century. Even trading economies (e.g. the Carthaginians, Portuguese and British) historically viewed wealth as a zero sum game and sought to exclude competitors from access to raw materials and markets they controlled. Recognition dawned only slowly that generating surplus through production and trade made societies and their rulers richer than obtaining it through conquest, that production and trade benefited from peace, and that affluence was as much the result of cooperation as it was of conflict. (72-73) 

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The last two thirds of the book are an ambitious tour through world history, beginning with antiquity and continuing to the contemporary period (from Homer to “Hitler to Bush"), tracing fear, honor, and interest across the centuries. This was truly a prodigious labor on the author’s part, requiring  familiarity with a vast historical literature.

At each juncture, Lebow assesses the cogency of explanations rooted in his three paradigms of interest, fear, and honor. The following portraits of Republican Rome, Louis XIV’s Europe, the European world that existed before the deluge of 1914, and Bush's America give the general thrust of an argument he makes throughout.  

For Polybius, the First Punic War was evidence that Rome "aimed boldly at universal domination" and that this was an end in itself. Roman historian Sallust and Church Father Augustine attribute Roman expansion to the passion for glory that animated almost every level of Roman society. So do many modern historians. William Harris, author of a highly regarded study of Roman conquests, attributes expansion to the warrior culture of Rome, and only secondarily to ways in which plunder could enrich tribunes, generals and their armies. Luxuria and avaritia, pronounced in the late Republic were unfairly read back into Roman history by Sallust, Livy and later historians to explain empire. In a case-by-case examination of Republican wars, Harris reviews alternative explanations for empire, including the desire for plunder, defensive imperialism and efforts by the aristocracy to protect or expand their wealth and power, and finds them wanting. For whatever reason, Rome underwent a transformation in the mid-fourth century which led to an increase in warfare, lengthier, longer and more successful confrontations with its enemies, and conflicts fought further away from home. (207)

During [the period in Europe between Westphalia (1648) and French Revolution (1789)], the quest for gloire was the dominant dynastic motive, and found expression in expansion and war, although economic considerations and security were of course present as well. Striving for standing and honor provides the basis for an alternative explanation for the rise of the state. Leaders extracted resources to fight wars, but for their initiators most of these wars had little to do with security; they were waged to gain territory to increase dynastic standing and served as a vehicle for individual combatants to obtain honor and wealth. Leaders also extracted resources and developed bureaucracies for purposes of display, another means by which they gained honor and standing. In the eighteenth century, there was an enormous increase in resources European states devoted to palaces and other kinds of display, and in some cases a corresponding decline in funds allocated for war. (30) 

Down to 1914 the majority of political leaders, diplomats and generals were aristocrats imbued with many of the values that had motivated their predecessors. The quest for honor and standing, initially a preserve of the aristocracy, penetrated deeply into the middle classes, many of whose members took their cues from the aristocracy and sought to assimilate its values and practices. . . . [T]he spirit offers a better account for the origins of World War I than explanations based on fear and interest. (30-31) 

American intervention in Iraq [in 2003] cannot be explained with reference to material well-being or security. We must look to spirit-based explanations that stress anger and the desire to exploit America's comparative advantage in military power to prevent or deter future challenges to its hegemony. (32-33)

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One curious omission in Lebow is any bow toward a principle of love, benevolence, or sympathy as also expressing, in addition to fear, honor, and interest, perduring aspects of humanity. Oddly, he does not seem to see law and morality as expressing devices by which reason proposes to both recognize and limit appetite and spirit. His reservation of certain questions to the third volume, dealing with four principles of justice, makes one hesitate to criticize him on the matter, but if we are going to delve deep into the nature of the human being cannot we have a bit more of the milk of human kindness?  The love of our fellow creatures is a command of "nature's God" that fear, honor, or interest may subordinate but cannot expunge. By adding love, benevolence, or sympathy to fear, honor, and interest, we might without guilt make reason the slave of the passions, to be employed not in building castles in the sand (a purely love based world) but to modify and restrict the asperities otherwise resulting from the untrammeled pursuit of self interest or honor.

Lebow's project is usually denominated as “constructivist.” He notes at the outset that “constructivist scholars have not as yet produced a full-blown theory of international relations," though he seems to be making great strides in providing one. Yet students should beware of pigeon-holing a thinker as rich as Lebow, who is open to insights from all three traditions. Once the peculiar neopositivist fixation on parsimonious laws is put aside, we have a rich vein of insights from realism as well as liberalism that he incorporates into his work. Thus, Lebow can be found denouncing realism, by which he largely seems to mean Kenneth Waltz and other writers in his vein, but loving Thucydides, fount of the realist tradition. Though sometimes harsh in his criticism of liberal verities—overly so, in my view—he acknowledges and treats almost as a gift the liberal insight that prosperity could not be achieved through plunder, but had to rely in its constituent articles on mutual interest and reciprocity. Cragged though the path may sometimes be, Professor Lebow is an excellent companion in the search for wisdom.

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