The interplay of realism and idealism in the thought of Lionel Curtis : a critique of the conception of the 'first debate' in international relations
This thesis analyses the writings of Lionel Curtis (1872-1955), in particular his federation projects, from an International Relations perspective. It argues that the textbook versions of the so-called 'First Debate' between naive idealists and hard-boiled realists is inadequate for a meaningful conceptualization of Curtis's thought. Instead, a neo-Gramscian perspective is adopted here, in which the relations between state and civil society is the crucial variable distinguishing between different state/society complexes. In this interpretation, Curtis's federation plans had two aims: First, integrating the Lockean heartland against Hobbesian contenders and colonial independence movements. Second, stemming Britain's relative decline vis-a-vis the USA within the heartland. Chapter One summarizes the textbook characteristics of idealism and realism and discusses some criticisms of and alternative versions to this dichotomy. Chapter Two follows the revisionist interpretations of E.H. Carr's writings and argues that his position cannot be reduced to putting down idealism in favour of realism. Chapter Three provides an overview of Curtis's life and major activities. Chapter Four traces out textbook elements of idealism and realism within Curtis's writings and shows that he could be placed into both camps. Chapter Five introduces the neo-Gramscian framework used in the thesis, particularly the work of Kees van der Pijl. Chapter Six gives an overview of three political movements which are of relevance for understanding Curtis's thought: empire federalism, new liberalism and social imperialism. Chapter Seven shows how elements of these movements as well as of liberal internationalism and of the state monopoly tendency appear in Curtis's writings. Chapter Eight discusses what Curtis had to say about other state/society complexes of the Lockean heartland, the Hobbesian contenders and the colonial Prize area. The Conclusion summarizes the argument.