Hans Morgenthau – A crosser between two worlds. On the development of Hans Morgenthau’s Weltanschauung

Project Leader(s): Felix Roesch
Staff: Supervisor: Prof. Hartmut Behr and Dr. Ian O’Flynn
Sponsors: Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation

Life and work of Hans Morgenthau (1904-1980) is the topic of my doctoral thesis. Hans Morgenthau was one of the most prominent scholars on international relations in the 20th century. In my doctoral thesis I explore especially Hans Morgenthau’s Weltanschauung. In the research related to Hans Morgenthau, surprisingly such an analysis is so far missing. The aim is not only to make a contribution to the study of classical thinkers of international relations and subsequently to its history of thought, but also provide a basis upon which realist analyses of international political affairs can be carried out (again). 

For a long time neo-realists scholars, like Kenneth Waltz, dominated the exegesis of Morgenthau’s work. Hence, it has to be remarked that Morgenthau was throughout the Cold War misread and this misreading is still commonly found in textbooks on international relations. However, since the end of the Cold War, neo-realism lost its attraction and there is renewed interest in the field of international relations to study its classical thinkers again. 

In order to unveil Morgenthau’s Weltanschauung, I will especially concentrate on Morgenthau’s work in Europe, before he had to leave Europe for good in 1937. Until now, his work in Europe hardly played a role in studies on Morgenthau which is manifested in the fact that his doctoral thesis and post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation) were so far never translated into English. I will argue that, in order to understand Morgenthau’s intentions, it is necessary to relate him to German intellectual life and debates of the Wilhelmine Empire and Weimar Republic. Having done this, it will be possible to observe that Morgenthau, despite his remarkable success in the United States, remained a stranger in the academy. Other than neo-realists claimed, Morgenthau’s epistemology was quite different to the one dominant in American political science at the time. One the contrary, he was one of the scholars, who introduced theorems, which are nowadays connected with social constructivism, into a political science which was heavily dominated by positivism.  

In order to grasp this topic, a particular sociology of knowledge version will be applied. A Weltanschauungsanalysis which was put forward in the 1920s by Karl Mannheim is an approach with which Hans Morgenthau was familiar as well. Through the hermeneutical and prosopographical method this analysis will be elaborated.