At the heart of the political realist ethic of international politics which Niebuhr developed through the 1930s and 1940s to replace his pacifism was a belief that without coercion there could be no order, and without order there could be no justice. This chapter examines these claims and the bases on which they rest, namely, Niebuhr’s view of human nature and of human community.


Human Nature Human Community International Politics Political Realism Natural Impulse 
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  1. 4.
    Niebuhr, Europe’s Catastrophe and the Christian Faith (London: Nisbet 1940) 28.Google Scholar
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    Niebuhr believes that faith makes clear very important elements of reality which rationalism misses. We must admit that we do not know, on the basis of rational analysis alone, all we need for our collective life. There is dogmatic hubris of reason which blinds us to important elements of reality such as evil and self-regard. We cannot understand our discordant nature or the world without ‘suprarational’ religion. This conclusion was reached by the mathematician, physicist, engineer and philosopher Blaise Pascal who decided that there is ‘nothing so consistent with reason as this denial of reason’ (A. J. Krailsheimer, Pascal: Pensées [Harmondsworth: Penguin 1966] no. K182).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Colm McKeogh 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colm McKeogh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Science and Public PolicyUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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