“Political Theories of International Relations: From Thucydides to the Present” by David Boucher is interesting and useful book for those who want to deepen their knowledge in the field of international relations and political theories. Boucher has taken the ideas of the western thinkers to trace the history of the political theory as the part of the international relations study. He challenges the modern conception of the transformation of relations between the communities, nations and states and offers the new approach to the subject without omitting the historical perspective.
The language used is easy to understand and the book is structured in the logical way to ensure the better understanding of the materials presented. The book can be useful for the students studying the history of the international relations as well as for any person willing to enrich the knowledge in the field of the political theory. The major principles are based on the idea that the great philosophers looked for the criterion of the state actions using the theories of the human nature for justification and injunctive purposes. The theories of the thinkers from Thucydides to Marx are formulated to understand the changing international system. The author concludes showing how modern theories can be compared with their predecessors.
The book is organized into three parts: empirical realism, universal moral order and historical reason. In the introductory part Boucher talks about the character of the philosophy of the international relations and provides an insight on the three following parts. As the author has mentioned, the decision to write the book was made because most of the modern courses do not provide the details of the major political theories, there is no reference to the classical political thinkers and their views on the international relations.
Thus the intention of the book is to retrieve the political theory of international relations. Boucher specifies that in order to interpret any theory, the historical background should be understood. For example, when analyzing the theory of justification or condemnation of the American colonization, the theories of property, the land policies, the difference between the landed and landless should be raised and discussed. The author has achieved this goal in his book.
The book has been criticized for not presenting the information in the chronological order which is very important for the historical writings. However, the author has intentionally avoided the chronological structure, but rather organized the information thematically. It allows the conceptualization of the history of the international relations. It was the purpose of the book to illustrate characterization of the global political theories with the referencing to philosophers and contributors of the international theory.
It is the first time the political theory of international relations has been referred to as philosophical study. Boucher does not say even once that international relations theory is a part of philosophy. No, he stresses that it is strictly historical science nut is based on the ways of thinking and perception of various events and decisions.
In the introductory part the author says that all of the philosophers has based their political theories on three claims: the need to relate conduct to interests, the need to constrain that conduct with the ethical standards, and the need to allow these principles to be responsive to the changing historical pressures. Thus, each philosopher has balances the above three needs designating greater or lesser degree of importance to one or another of them. However, when the author discusses each theory further in the text, there is no specification which need is stressed more by the philosopher. I think that Boucher should have added at least one sentence regarding these needs to the discussion of each theory of international relations.
In addition, the author devotes a couple of pages defining the difference between the political theory and international theory. For example, he defined political theory as analysis of the state, while the international theory as dealing with the international communities. Both of the theories are considered to be progressive. In this part of the book, the author makes a clear distinction between the political and international relations theories, while in the next chapters the political theory is regarded as the part of international relations which is very confusing. For example, Boucher examines political theory as the study of the civil and political matters, while the international relations theory is allied closely to the law. The questions rises: is political theory not allied to the law; has international relations theory nothing to do with the civil matters?
The book contains information about such political philosophers as Hobbes, Rousseau, Hegel; international jurists Grotius, Pufendorf, Vattel; polemicists Cobden, Bright, Hobson; political writers Tolstoy, Wells, Huxley; statesmen Lincoln, Bismarck, Gladstone, Churchill. Therefore, the author did not limit his research to explanation of the political philosophies but included the opinions of different groups of profound political individuals.
In conclusion, Political Theories of International Relations: From Thucydides to the Present by David Boucher is like an encyclopedia for information about the international relations theory. The structure of the book allows the reader quick search of the information. This is the book the reader wants to read several times and find the new details each time. Boucher has conducted an intensive research and presented the reader with the full information about the theories of international relations.