Wight’s Intent: Text, Context, and Method

  • Michele Chiaruzzi
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan History of International Thought book series (PMHIT)


“A ‘reversal’ is a change of the situation into the opposite”: this is Aristotle’s peripeteia, a cardinal concept for this study.1 The importance of imponderable elements on human affairs is well understood, at least since the dawning of Western culture, and we are thus not discussing it here. A passage from the Old Testament gives a clear example: “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”2 The peremptory close “time and chance happeneth to them all” is appropriate for the circumstances in which Martin Wight’s “Fortune’ Banter” emerged and is published here, almost 60 years after it was written.


International Relation International Politics Human Affair Political Thinker Inaugural Meeting 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Aristotle, Poetics, trans. William H. Fyfe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932), 1452a.20.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    This is Christopher Hill’s eloquent appraisal in his “History and International Relations,” in Steve Smith, ed., International Relations: British and American Perspective (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1985), p. 130. To my knowledge, only two monographs, both derived from doctoral dissertations, have so far been written on this thinker: Ian Hall, The International Thought of Martin Wight (New York: Palgrave, 2006) and Michele Chiaruzzi, Politica di Potenza nell’Età del Leviatano. La Teoria Internazionale di Martin Wight (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2008).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Raymond Aron, Mémoires (Paris: Julliard, 1983), p. 456.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Ibid. From the incomplete and abridged English edition, this passage was cut out, as many others, including the lines on Carl Schmitt’s letter to Aron and Golo Mann’s review in Die Zeit; cf. Raymond Aron, Memoirs, trans. George Holoch (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1990), pp. 301–3. Perhaps another publisher will someday have more respect for the integrity of Aron’s life.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society. A Study of Order in World Politics, 2nd ed. (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), p. xiii.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Richard Devetak, “Introduction,” in Michele Chiaruzzi, “The Three Traditions in History: A Dialogic Text,” Global Change, Peace & Security 22, no. 1 (2010): 122.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Report of the discussion of the British Committee, September 1959; quoted in Brunello Vigezzi, The British Committee on the Theory of International Politics (1954–1985): The Rediscovery of History, trans. Ian Harvey (Milan: Edizioni Unicopli, 2005), p. 48.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Roger Epp, review of International Theory by M. Wight, International Journal 48, no. 3 (1993): 561.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Quoted in Hedley Bull, “Introduction: Martin Wight and the Study of International Relations,” in Martin Wight, Systems of States, ed. Hedley Bull (London: Leicester University Press, 1977), p. 15.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Karl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 86.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Arnaldo Momigliano, Storia e Storiografia Antica (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1987), p. 21. For a slightly different translation and the whole text in English, see the appendix in Daniel R. Schwarz, Reading the First Century. On Reading Josephus and Studying Jewish History of the First Century (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), pp. 182–9.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Bloomsbury, 2004), p. 474.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Dawn: Thoughts on the Presumptions of Morality, trans. Brittain Smith (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp. 6–7. But there is, in contrast, a fragility of words: “Words strain, crack and sometimes break, under the burden / Under the tension, slip, slide, perish / Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place / Will not stay still”; Thomas S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” in his Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943), section 5, lines 13–16, pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Needless to say, there are completely different ways to investigate complexity in political studies. For example, Robert Jervis, System Effects. Complexity in Political and Social Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997). Awareness of system effects can help to understand how the human ideational element inserts uncertainty and unpredictability in social life, giving to political prediction the unmanageable format of an unanswerable question.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Norberto Bobbio, Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law Tradition, trans. Daniela Gobetti (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. xi.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Martin Wight, Four Seminal Thinkers in International Theory. Machiavelli, Grotius, Kant & Mazzini, ed. Gabriele Wight and Brian Porter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 22. According to Gabriele Wight and Brian Porter, these lectures had been composed at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1959–60. If this is correct, they are practically coeval with “Fortune’s Banter.”Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Martin Wight, “Some Reflections on the Historic Antichrist,” undated paper, MWP 43, pp. 1–39. There is a correspondence with Alec Vidler, historian and theologian, dated June 13, 1942. Vidler insists for the paper’s conversion into a book, though unsuccessfully. A version dated February 10, 1956, was expanded to 70 pages and perhaps used for seminars. Interestingly, Wight continued to collect materials on the subject for 39 years, at least until 1971, including some reviews of Christopher Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Martin Wight, review of The New Science of Politics by E. Voegelin, International Affairs 31, no. 3 (1955): 336.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Luciano Canfora, Totalità e Selezione nella Storiografia Classica (Bari: Laterza, 1972), p. 21, note “*”.Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    Virgil, The Aeneid of Virgil, ed. Archibald A. Maclardy (Reading, PA: Handy Book, 1901), 1.132.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michele Chiaruzzi 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Chiaruzzi

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations