Duke University: Thucydides and the Realist Tradition

POLSCI 211S Thucydides and the Realist Tradition
Dr. John David Lewis
Spring, 2011
Monday 4:25 to 6:55  Perkins 307

Duke University: Thucydides and the Realist Tradition

This course will examine Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, with an emphasis on its place in a tradition of International Relations realism. “Realism” is itself a broad and contentious topic, and we must come to grips with its meaning. We need assume neither that there is a unified tradition of “realism” in international relations theorizing, nor that Thucydides would agree with those who are today categorized as “Realists.” We will spend about half of the class reading Thucydides, and considering his work in relation to selected articles. We will then move through Thomas Hobbes—an early translator of Thucydides, and an exponent of so-called political “realism”—and into a modern examination of several events in history.

We will read Thucydides and others as living guides to the most important questions still confronting us today. We will consider the norms and assumptions that guided Thucydides, Hobbes, and their critics, the implications of those assumptions for the development of political thought, and certain contrasting points of view. We will focus in particular on how Thucydides’ focus on human nature—including his concern for certain ethical norms—may bolster or challenge selected modern views of the relations between nations. In the end, students will be able to evaluate modern events with a deeper awareness of their historical and intellectual roots.

Course Requirements:
Attendance, preparation for class discussions, and active participation in those discussions. Note: participation can affect your final grade by up to a full letter point, plus or minus.
Midterm exam (10%)
2 short papers (1000 words each) (25% each)
Final exam paper (3000 words) (40%)

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. Walter Blanco (NY: W.W. Norton, 1998). ISBN 0-393-97167-8.
Kagan, Donald. On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (NY: Anchor, 1996). ISBN 0-385-42375-6
Articles as listed below. Each is available on-line through the Duke library system. It is your responsibility to print and read these in advance of the assigned week.

Class Schedule. All Classes Meet Monday Evening, except for the First Class

Week 1 (Monday class meets Wed., 1/13): Thucydides and Realism
Read: Blanco Introduction
Doyle, Michael. “Thucydides: A Realist?” (Blanco 489-501)

Week 2 (1/25): Thucydides’ Project, and the First Crisis
Read: Thuc. 1.1-23 (Introduction) (Blanco 4-12)
Thuc 1.24-55 The Epidamnus Affair (Blanco 12-23)
Fitzsimons, M.A. “Thucydides: History, Science and Power,” The Review of Politics 37.3 (1975): 377-397. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1406204
Crane, G. “Truest Causes and Thucydidean Realisms” (Blanco 501-522)

Week 3 (2/1): The Potideia Crisis, and the Background to the War
Read: Thuc. 1.56-88 The Potideia Affair and 1st Spartan Debates (Blanco 23-35)
Thuc. 1.89-117 The Pentekontaiteia (Blanco 35-45)
Heath, Malcolm. “Justice in Thucydides’ Athenian Speeches,” Historia 39 (1990): 385-400. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4436163

Week 4 (2/8): The 2nd Spartan Debates, and the Athenian Decision to Fight
Read: Thuc. 1.118-146 The Debates and the Decisions (Blanco 45-57)
Thuc. 2.1-2.65 Athens under Pericles
Forde, Steven. “Thucydides on the Causes of Athenian Imperialism,” American Political Science Review 80.2 (1986): 433-448. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1958267

Paper #1: What role, if any, did moral values play in the Spartan and Athenian decisions to fight? (1000 words) (Due 2/15)

Week 5 (2/15): The Mytilene Revolt and the Corcyrean Civil War
Read: Thuc. 3, esp. Mytilene (3.36-49) and Corcyra (3.70-85) (Blanco 102-143)
Reeve, C.D.C. “Thucydides on Human Nature” Political Theory 27.4 (1999): 435-446. http://www.jstor.org/stable/192300

Week 6 (2/22): The Truce, and the Melos Massacre
Read: Thuc. 4.117-5.116 (Blanco 186-231)
Morrison, James V. “Historical Lessons in the Melian Episode,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 130 (2000) 119–148. http://proxy.lib.duke.edu:2192/sici?origin=sfx%3Asfx&sici=0360-5949%282000%29130%3C119%3AHLITME%3E2.0.CO%3B2-%23
Seaman, Michael G. “ The Athenian Expedition to Melos in 416 B.C.,” Historia 46.4 (1997): 385-418. http://proxy.lib.duke.edu:2192/stable/pdfplus/4436483.pdf

Week 7 (3/1): The Sicilian Debates and Expedition
Read: Thuc. 6, 7 (Blanco 233-308); esp. 6.8-25 (Athenian Speeches)
Liebeschuetz, W. “Thucydides and the Sicilian Expedition,” Historia 17.3 (1968): 289-306. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4435034

Paper #2: Can the Melian and Sicilian deliberations be interpreted in a “realist” framework, or does “realism” fail here? (1000 words) (Due BEFORE you leave for break)


Week 9 (3/15): Machievelli and Hobbes (in brief!)
Read: Macchiavelli and Hobbes selections (Blanco 391-400)
Schlatter, Richard. “Thomas Hobbes and Thucydides,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 6.3 (1945): 350-362. http://www.jstor.org/pss/2707297
Evrigenis, I. “Hobbes’ Thucydydes,” Journal of Military Ethics 5.4 (2006): 303-16. http://proxy.lib.duke.edu:3939/smpp/section?content=a770211855&fulltext=713240928
Forde, Steven. “Varieties of Realism: Thucydides and Machiavelli,” The Journal of Politics 54.2 (1992): 372-393. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2132031

Week 10 (3/22): Thucydides and the Moderns
Read: Johnson Bagby, Laurie. “The Use and Abuse of Thucydides in International Relations,” International Organization, 48.1 (1994): 131-153. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2706917
Bull, Hedley “International Theory: The Case for the Classical Approach,” World Politics 18 (1966): 361-377. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2009761.
Walt, Steven. “International Relations: One World, Many Theories,” Foreign Policy; Spring 1998; 110: 29-46. http://proxy.lib.duke.edu:2192/stable/pdfplus/1149275.pdf

Week 11 (3/29):
Read: Kagan, Origins, “The Peloponnesian War,” (15-79)

Week 12 (4/5):
Read: Kagan, Origins, “Hannibal’s War: The Second Punic War 218-201 BC,” (232-274)

Week 13 (4/12):
Read: Kagan, Origins, “The First World War 1914-1918,” (81-214)

Week 14 (4/19):
Read: Kagan, Origins, “The Second World War 1939-1945,” (281-417)

Week 15 (4/26):
Read: Kagan, Origins, “The Cuban missile Crisis,” (437-548)

Week 16 (5/3): Final Exam Paper:

In what sense is Kagan a “realist” in his interpretation of the causes of war? Bring forth and develop one solid criticism of his approach, considered with reference to Thucydides. (3000 words) (Due 5/7)