Power Politics and the United Nations

  • G. L. Goodwin


The growth of international political institutions has been one of the more notable features of the twentieth-century diplomatic scene. Yet the United Nations, like the League of Nations before it, far from transforming a world of power politics into a more orderly and law abiding world society, threatens to become engulfed in a particularly tumultuous brand of power politics, what the present Secretary-General (J. Perez de Cuéllar) has called ‘the current tendency to resort to confrontation, violence and even war in pursuit of what are perceived as vital interests, claims or aspirations’.1 Both organisations were, of course, products not only of a concert of victorious powers only momentarily brought together by the needs of their wartime alliances, but also of the fleeting and often illusory hopes engendered by the ravages of war. Is it perhaps inevitable that, as power relationships shift and memories of the ‘pity of war, the pity war distilled’ (Wilfred Owen) grow dim, so confidence in the efficacy of these would-be world organisations as a basis for world order steadily wanes?


Power Politics Security Council International Development Association Collective Security Bretton Wood System 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Sir J. W. Headlam-Morley, Studies in Diplomatic History (London: Methuen, 1930) p. 6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Duff Cooper, Old Men Forget (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1953) p. 193.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    ‘International Humanitarian Law: Principles and Practices’, in G. L. Goodwin (ed), Ethics and Nuclear Deterrence (London: Croom Helm, 1982) p. 146.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    See Charles E. Osgood, ‘The GRIT Strategy’, in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 1980. (GRIT stands for Graduated Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension-reduction.)Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    As Nicholas Sims has observed: ‘Attempts through the United Nations even to raise the possibility of re-introducing the kind of register of arms transfers published by the League of Nations, let alone to restrict the trade, have met with anger and contempt from the majority of Third World countries’, Approaches to Disarmament, rev. edn (London: Friends Peace and International Relations Committee, 1979) p. 100.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    H. Butterfield, History and Human Relations (London: Collins, 1952) p. 21.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    E. Voeglin, The New Science of Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1962) p. 169.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© G. R. Berridge and A. Jennings 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. L. Goodwin

There are no affiliations available

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