The international relations theory of G. Lowes Dickinson has long puzzled both critics and admirers alike because of what appears to be its complicated amalgam of “idealist” and “realist” sensibilities. For decades, International Relations (IR) scholars have attempted to identify Dickinson as one or the other. Thus, for E. H. Carr, Dickinson represented all that was most willfully ignorant about those League of Nations reformers he associated with the “utopian edifice.”1 Other realists such as Kenneth Waltz, by contrast, embraced Dickinson as a fellow realist and sympathetically tut-tutted the manner in which Dickinson was “blasted by liberals and socialists alike for reversing the dominant inside-out explanation,” that is, the idea that the behavior of states is best understood by looking at their form rather than at the power arrangements of international politics.2 More recently, Mearsheimer, has resuscitated Dickinsons work as an embryonic form of “offensive realism.”3 Scholars of the history of international thought, while taking a slightly more nuanced approach to Dickinson, continue to locate his notion of “international anarchy” along some point on the idealist/realist continuum. David Long, for instance, argues that Dickinson’s understanding of the current system of armed states best resembles an unalloyed form of “Hobbesian idealism.”4 Andreas Osiander, however, argues that aside from the “overtones of moralism and voluntarism” implicit in Dickinson’s analysis, there is little there that characterizes it as “IR Idealist if that label is to denote a specific type of IR theory.”5
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See Andrew Williams’s take on Carr and Dickinson in Failed Imagination? New World Orders of the Twentieth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 178.
John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton and Company, 2001), 21–22.
Although, as Long points out, Dickinson’s plans for this reconfiguring never went as far as David Davies’s proposal for an international force to, in a sense, “over awe” individual states. See David Long and Peter Wilson, Thinkers of the Twenty Years Crisis (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1995), 314–315.
Oslander locates his definition of “IR Idealism” in the “shared paradigm” of a belief in the “inescapable, directional historical process.” See Andreas Oslander, “Re-Reading Early Twentieth Century IR Theory: Idealism Revisited,” International Studies Quarterly 42:3 (September 1998), 413.
Brian Schmidt, The Political Discourse of Anarchy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998), 160.
R. M. Douglas calls Dickinson a “Cambridge classicist.” See The Labour Party, Nationalism and Internationalism, 1939–51 (London: Routledge, 2004), 18.
Martin Ceadel, “Gilbert Murray and International Politics,” in Gilbert Murray Reassessed, ed. Christopher Stray (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 226.
As the fictional Chinese official observes about the West, “Your poor, your drunk, your incompetent, your sick, your aged, ride you like a nightmare. You have dissolved all human and personal ties, and you endeavor, in vain, to replace them by the impersonal activity of the State.” See Lowes Dickinson, Letter from A Chinese Official (New York: McClure, Phillips and Co., 1903), 15.
Ian Hall, “World Government and Empire: the International Historian as Theorist,” International Affairs 82:6 (2006), 1161.
G. Lowes Dickinson, The Autobiography of G Lowes Dickinson (London: Duckworth, 1973), 164.
G. Lowes Dickinson, J.M.E. McTaggart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931), 83.
G. Lowes Dickinson, “On The Discovery of Good,” Journal of Philosophical Studies 3 (July 1928), 284.
George Santayana, My Host the World (London: Cresset Press, 1953), 31.
G. Lowes Dickinson, Justice and Liberty; A Political Dialogue (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1920), 226.
G. Lowes Dickinson, The Meaning of the Good (London: J.M. Dent, 1907), Book 2, Intro, xii.
G. Lowes Dickinson, Causes of International War (New York: Harcourt Brace and Howe, 1920), 9.
Letter to A.J. Grant, Dec. 3, 1925, King’s/PP/GLD/5/Correspondences, fol 8; G. Lowes Dickinson, The European Anarchy (New York: Macmillan Co., 1916/1920), 13.
John Dewey, Characters and Events (New York: Octagon Books, 1970), 812.
See Martin Wight, International Theory: The Three Traditions (London: Leicester University Press for The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1994).
David Armitage, “Foundations of Modern International Thought,” in Rethinking the Foundations of Modern Political Thought, eds. James Tully and Annabell Brett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
“M. le Marquie est si fin—on ne peut lui rien cacher.” From “Life of Salisbury,” quoted in G. Lowes Dickinson, The International Anarchy (London: The Century Co., 1926), 27.
Ironically, Michael Ignatieff would use this example in the life of his greatgrandfather over 60 years later to make the opposite point. Ignatieff thus begins the chapter on his great-grandfather in his family memoir The Russian Album with Salisbury’s remembrance. However, for Ignatieff, Salisbury’s exposure of the ambassador’s duplicity demonstrates not the deleterious impact of state interests on the individual but, rather, Nicholas’s savvy imperviousness to such interests. Here was a theatrical, blunt, cunning man, argues Ignatieff, whose deep self-confidence in the face of misdeeds revealed him to be a “diplomat with a policy of his own,” a rebellious egoist free from both the czar’s power and the niceties of ambassadorial protocol. For Ignatieff, Nicholas was simply playing himself on the violent stage of Balkan politics that, despite his legions of spies, he could never ultimately effect. Michael Ignatieff, The Russian Album (New York: Picador Press, 1997), 49.
G. Lowes Dickinson, The Greek View of life (New Jersey: Double Day Press, 1909 ), 100.
P.M. Kennedy, “The Decline of Nationalistic History in the West, 1900–1970,” Journal of Contemporary History 8:1 (Jan. 1973), 92.
Edward Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism ([plNew York, Columbia University Press, 2004), 42.
G. Lowes Dickinson, The Choice Before Us (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1917), 84.
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© 2009 Ian Hall and Lisa Hill
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Morefield, J. (2009). The Never-Satisfied Idealism of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. In: Hall, I., Hill, L. (eds) British International Thinkers from Hobbes to Namier. Palgrave Macmillan History of International Thought Series. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230101739_11
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