Fortune and Irony as Experiential Acquisitions

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


Underlying Wight’s study on fortune and irony in politics is not a self-serving intellectual elaboration. Rather, there is a combination of that “urgency of the committed citizen with the philosophical detachment of a student of international politics” advocated by this thinker.1 We know that Wight thought that “one of the tests of a historian is his judgement on contemporary affairs.”2 Thus, his is not a mere exercise of erudition detached from present urgencies. Instead, his is an active commitment, aimed at providing interpretative categories to understand current political life, as well as the past one. For this reason Wight sometimes actualizes the past to speak about the present.


International Politics Political Agent Active Commitment Political Experience Experiential Acquisition 
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    Martin Wight, International Theory: The Three Traditions, ed. Gabriele Wight and Brian Porter (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1991), p. 268.Google Scholar
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    Martin Wight, review of Diplomatic History 1713–1933 by C. Petrie, International Affairs 23, no. 4 (1947): 574.Google Scholar
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    Arnaldo Momigliano, “After Gibbon’s Decline and Fall,” in his Sesto Contributo alla Storia degli Studi Classici e del Mondo Antico (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1980), 1:281–2.Google Scholar
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    This part is indebted to Edgard Morin’s extended reflection. A synthesis is Morin’s Au-delà du Déterminisme: Le Dialogue de L’Ordre et du Désordre, in Krzysztof Pomian ed., La Querelle du Déterminisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1991), pp. 79–101.Google Scholar
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    Karl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 87, emphasis added. The opposite assertion that “war is the breakdown of policy” does not change the fact that war and peace are not autonomous spheres. Both are included in the political domain. More precisely, they are subordinate to politics. Peace and war not only have to be thought together but one is existentially relative to the other and both to politics. “It is absurd to think peace in itself,” said Freund, since “such an attitude has as its corollary the idea of war in itself.” To say that is to talk “political nonsense” because it “exclude peace from political activity and leads to conceive it under the category of heavenly bliss”; Julien Freund, Politiqué et Impolitique (Paris: Sirey, 1987), p. 147.Google Scholar
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    Paolo Rossi goes on as follows: “But the progress of political knowledge could only be determined by binding it to the belief that the changing variety and plurality of elements, which make up and pervade the social dimension, can be finally explained only by interpretations, models, and theories that exclude any occult qualities”; “Introduzione,” in Francesco Bacone, Scritti Filosofici, ed. Paolo Rossi (Turin: Utet, 1999), p. 200.Google Scholar

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© Michele Chiaruzzi 2016

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  • Michele Chiaruzzi

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