The Twenty Years’ Crisis Thirty Years On (1969)

  • Kai Alderson
  • Andrew Hurrell


This paper represents an important stage in the evolution of Bull’s thinking on international relations. It was originally entitled ‘E. H. Can and the Fifty Years’ Crisis’. It provides a good indication of what he shared with realist thought, but also where he differed from it. It argues, first, that classical realism was a product of its time and that, whatever its earlier strengths, it had now ‘run its course’ and needed to be replaced by a focus on international society and on conditions of international order. Second, Bull argues against Can’s relativist and instrumentalist conception of morality. This prevented Can from providing a moral basis for his own analysis, but, more importantly for Bull, ‘excluded the elaboration of the notion of the good of international society as a whole’. As discussed in the introduction, this piece was written at a time when Bull was working on the question of ideas and ideology, especially in the work of Karl Mannheim. Finally, it is of interest because of Can’s analysis of the relation between Haves and Have Nots and of the importance of accommodating revisionist states in the interests of a stable international order — something that was to become a central theme of Bull’s own writing on the emergence of the Third World and the revolt against western dominance.


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  1. 1.
    E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: Macmillan, 1939), p. 303.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hans Morgenthau, ‘The Surrender to the Immanence of Power: E. H. Carr’, in Dilemmas of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This point is developed by Martin Wight in ‘Western Values in International Relations’, in Herbert Butterfield and Martin Wight (eds), Diplomatic Investigations (London: Allen & Unwin, 1966).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See, e.g., Klaus Knorr and James N. Rosenau (eds), Contending Approaches to International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Alderson
  • Andrew Hurrell

There are no affiliations available

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