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“The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr Essay (Book Review)


Introduction

Although the events of WWI and WWII are history, they must be remembered and analyzed to prevent similar mistakes in the future. While WWI and WWII are typically viewed from a political perspective, Edward H. Carr dissects the political and economic factors that have contributed to the development of the conflict, at the same time exploring them through the perspective of ethical and moral standards.

Although the phenomenon of WWI and WWII seems to have been explored extensively, there seems to be a range of blank spots in understanding the connection between the factors that have led to the development of the identified confrontation. Particularly, the sociocultural issues related to the enhancement of the Maxi and Fascist movements in Germany and Italy have been studied thoroughly,1 yet the connection between the political and economic factors that may have served as the platform for developing the problem could use a more profound analysis.

In his book, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, Edward Hallett Carr studies the political and economic factors that predisposed the creation of the conflict, at the same time viewing the problem through the prism of ethical standards. The tight focus on ethics as the basis for generating an argument centered around the importance of exploring both sociocultural and economic and political factors makes Carr’s work compelling and interesting. In turn, the introspect into the development of ethical standards and their application in making global political decisions adds a unique touch to his work and promotes a better insight into the nature of WWI and WWII.

The concept of utopia is used extensively in Carr’s work to explain the emergence of the ideas that ultimately led to the enhancement of the global confrontation. Thus, the author connects the concepts of morality and political thought in his work, specifying that the two should be viewed as not only compatible but also inseparable. Despite the fact that the specified idea makes Carr’s work somewhat naïve, the overall depth of his analysis and the insight into the nature of multicultural relationships in the global political arena make his book especially interesting and important for building future relationships on an international level.

Key Themes and Ideas

The elusive idea of utopia and its further reiterations through centuries and, particularly, during the infamous American crisis, should be deemed as one of the crucial themes in Carr’s work. Although the link between the notion of utopia, even in its political sense, and the economic turmoil that seized the world at the time might seem a bit tenuous, Carr puts the phenomenon into perspective, thus, allowing readers to make the necessary connection. For instance, the concept of utopia as the platform for the development of Utopian Socialism deserves to be mentioned among the key themes that Carr cleverly explores in his work.

Therefore, the conflict between the Utopianism perspective and the Realist interpretation of political, economic, and social interactions should be viewed as the central theme of the book. The author makes an extensive effort to explain why the idea of Utopianism has been so attractive to not only people but also governments, and at what cost the specified approach came in the early and mid-20th century.

The concept of a superstructure is another notion that underlies the line of reasoning constructed by Carr. In his endeavor to secure the political, economic, and sociocultural environment after the WWI and WWII, Carr explores the significance of superstructures as the bodies that will control political and social tension on a global scale. According to Carr, the specified “elegant superstructures”2 should also be interpreted as part and parcel of a utopia.3

At the core of superstructures as crucial components of a peaceful and well-regulated environment in the setting after the WWI and WWI, the theme of control needs to be considered. Although not rendered directly, the idea of executing control over political, economic, and sociocultural interactions in the context of the global realm is conveyed rather directly by Carr. According to the author, it is essential to coordinate the process of international and intercultural communication to prevent the instances of military confrontations.

The issues associated with crucial economic processes, particularly, the necessity to establish rigid control over them, also need to be listed among the key themes that Carr ‘s book contains. It should be borne in mind, however, that Carr focuses on the concept of control as not the tool for restricting the range of economic, financial, and political choices that the participants of the global economy and political field have but, instead, the means of reducing the existing threats to people’s safety and security.4

In regard to economics and the related issues, the idea of interconnectivity that exists between politics and economy must be considered another important theme that can be seen clearly in Carr’s work. Carr places a very strong emphasis on the fact that there is a tangible link between the exploration of economic opportunities, particularly, the expansion of the global market, and political choices made on the levels of both home and foreign policy. For instance, Carr indicates that it is imperative to consider economic goals of a certain power when defining its ostensible aftermath:

The struggle to control foreign markets provides a further illustration of the interaction of politics and economics; for it is often impossible to decide whether political power is being used to acquire markets for the sake of their economic value, or whether markets are being sought in order to establish and strengthen political power.5

Strengths

One must give Carr credit for emphasizing the gravity of failing to meet ethical and moral standards in the context of politics. In a very intelligent way, Carr traced down the development of morale in politics by examining the emergence of first utopian ideas, their further replacement by Christian ethics, Bentham’s revolutionary concept of ethics and the “absolute standard”6 as the measurement of ethical choices made in the realm of politics, etc. Carr’s elaborate and profound analysis of the changes that the current framework for analyzing ethical implications of political actions deserves appreciation.

The fact that Carr stresses the necessity to apply different approaches toward evaluating the choices made by states and governments compared to the decisions taken by individuals in the grand scheme of ethical principle should also be brought to audiences’ attention. Although ethics is typically interpreted as a set of universal principles based on which decision-making processes are carried out, it is essential to realize that ethical choices must support the needs of all stakeholders involved. Therefore, in contrast to the scenarios that involve two sides of an argument, the strategies designed for handling political and economic issues on a global scale require a different interpretation of a particular situation. As a result, the process of managing conflicts on a global scale is going to be significantly different from the one of addressing interpersonal issues. By explaining the specified nicety in political relationships, Carr creates a platform for understanding the fundamentals of global policy-making in the context of the world after the WWI and WWI.7

The shift toward analyzing political relationships between states from the standpoint of their economic interactions helps shed light on some of the most complex issues that arise from the current socioeconomic environment. The idea of viewing the political choices made by states in the context of the global landscape from the perspective of market interactions, in turn, should also be recognized as a rather important way of interpreting the current situation since it implies incorporating the phenomenon of competition into the overall analysis. Thus, the driving forces behind the decisions and steps made by governments in the realm of the global political arena become much easier to understand.8 Therefore, when determining the strengths of Carr’s argument, one must give the author credit for being able to depict political and economic factors affecting interactions on the global arena after the WWI and WWII as not only compatible but also inseparable.

In addition, the focus on the competition between states and the effects that the specified phenomenon has on the opportunities for peacemaking and friendly relationships between the states of the world needs to be addressed as one of the doubtless strengths of the book. Proving that the political choices made by states on the global scale cannot be detached from the economic circumstances in which the identified states existed, Carr delineates the effects that economic rivalry has had on the decision-making process in the environment of the global political landscape.

Finally, when considering the elements that make Carr’s argument especially compelling, one must mention the fact that he has no illusions about the effects that adjudication or arbitration are going to have in the realm of the global politics. Although Carr does not diminish the importance of negotiations and collaboration in the context of international communication and the possibility of a conflict, he also does not sugarcoat the reality. Particularly Carr specifies that there are very few opportunities for governments to accept a compromise unless they see it as a potentially lucrative or promising step to take.9 The specified perspective does not make the book too cynical or unpleasant to read; instead, it introduces its audience to the reality of international politics. Representing the propensity among state governments to choose the options that are likely to be beneficial to them and their states despite possible negative implications for others, Carr introduces an element of honesty into his book. The author does not address his readers in a condescending manner by sweeping inconvenient information under the rug; instead, he shares every bit of knowledge about interactions in the environment of the global politics that he has found. As a result, a detailed and clear picture of international relationships can be drawn from the conclusions provided by Carr.

The authors’ ability to conduct an objective analysis of the choices that were made at the identified points in time is also worth the praise. According to Carr, considering the decisions that were made during WWI and WWII by state governments cannot be analyzed outside of the context of their history and the combination of economic and political factors that affected the identified governments. For example, when exploring the problems that the entire world was experiencing with the necessity to introduce changes on a legal level yet at the same time make the required intervention as delicate and nonviolent as possible. The author’s ability to embrace both advantages and disadvantages of the political and economic setting in which decisions regarding foreign policy choices were made allows for an in-depth understanding of the motivations of key stakeholders. In regard to the specified ability of the author to approach even the most convoluted events in the history of the humankind, his statement concerning the necessity of peaceful communication as the basis for addressing international conflicts gains even more importance. Indeed, according to Carr, militant actions are unlikely to lead to any resolution and, in most cases, are going to aggravate a situation to an even greater degree. As a result, deplorable outcomes for all parties involved become practically inevitable. Consequently, it is imperative for governments to delineate the strategy that will help them reach an agreement on a political arena in a peaceful way.10

One might define the identified approach as pacifist and, thus, dismiss it as lacking efficacy. However, Carr makes a valid argument for his case by pointing to the necessity maintain alert and ben able to spot political tensions in the environment of global interactions for the further prevention of scenarios such as WWI or WWII. Therefore, from the perspective of the political landscape that could be observed since the ending of WWI and WWI, the use of a more rigid framework for managing international relations and exerting control over the agents of international communication is a legitimate step in enhancing the security and well-being of the global population. The proposed point of view offers a range of advantages, the opportunity for learning crucial lessons and identifying the threat of a possible global confrontation being the key ones. Indeed, with the focus of the global population’s attention being constantly peeled to the management of cross-cultural conflicts and the means of addressing current global concerns such as economic challenges faced by impoverished populations, opportunities for determining the presence of an issue in the political or economic development of a particular state are created successfully.11 As a result, people become less prone to the influence of economic factors that would have a tangibly deplorable effect on them in the opposite scenario.12 The unwillingness to engage in a global conflict seems a rather wise decision that Carr determines as the essential characteristic of keeping the contemporary political landscape devoid of any significant military confrontation or, at the very least, manage issues associated with violence and militant actions as fast and efficiently as possible.

Eventually, the fact that the author explores primarily the fundamental aspects of international relationships without getting into detail about interactions between states in the international environment must be brought to attention. Because of the wide range of issues that the process of interacting in the setting of the global politics and economy implies, it would have been very tempting to describe the problem in excessively great detail and make huge detours into other aspects of international communication. However, much to his credit, Carr manages to stay on point and does not deviate from the subject matter in the slightest. Instead, he focuses on determining key scenarios that could possibly occur in the setting of the global politics and economy, therefore, providing opportunities for avoiding the development of the specified outcomes efficiently.

Weaknesses

One must admit, however, that the approach used by Carr also has its disadvantages. The comparatively short time period chosen by the author to determine the relationships that have been developing over decades will have to be acknowledged as one of the major problems of the book. Carr extrapolates the factors that must have led to the development of a global political crisis based on the information that was received from the data collected over a couple of decades. While the specified sample can be used to make a statement about mistakes that were made on the specified time slot, using them to delineate a strategy for managing conflicts for an undetermined amount of time does not seem reasonable.13 Admittedly, there are some general ethical principles that can be received based on the data that Carr provides. However, the identified information does not represent the global audience fully since the events that he studies do not allow for a deep insight into an array of cultures and their specifics. Furthermore, the economic and political conditions to which people were exposed during the WWI and WWII were unique for the specified time period and, therefore, can hardly be deemed as the appropriate setting for determining a comprehensive and all-embracing framework.

Although Carr’s ability to maintain the focus of his discussion on the problems associated primarily with international communication, the relevant political issues, and the connected economical problems, the book clearly lacks culture-related factors that may define the decisions made by the participants of international communication. Thus, Carr’s argument fails to include an opportunity to introduce a multilateral perspective on the development of the issue. By tying the problems of international politics to economic challenges, Carr makes an important step in analyzing the problems of the issues that could be witnessed at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe.14 However, Carr’s analysis could have made a better use of incorporating the factors such as technological advancement of the most influential global states, intercultural issues and especially the inconsistencies between the worldviews of participants, etc. Carr approaches the latter issue very closely by pointing to the fact that differences in ideologies and especially different interpretations of utopia contributed extensively to the development of global political issues at the beginning of the 20th century, However, instead of studying the issue in depth, Carr simply provides an overview thereof, which makes the analysis somewhat shallow.

In addition, detailing minor flaws that could have been addressed to make Carr’s work truly impeccable, one must mention the issue of quotations. As a rule, citing or quoting from sources used in a book is regarded as important since it helps one avoid plagiarism and, therefore, affects the quality of one’s work directly. By referencing the sources that were used during the process of search and analysis, Carr makes his paper truly scientific by enhancing its credibility and trustworthiness. However, at some points of his analysis, the author tends to overuse quotations, especially when providing references to regulations and legal standards. The identified approach toward referring to his sources makes Carr’s work a bit clumsy and rather bulky. Furthermore, the identified strategy of referencing legal standards complicates the process of reading and, therefore, understanding the arguments of the author. In some cases, the overuse of quotations damages Carr’s arguments since the statements made by the author are quite difficult to see behind the pile of quotes that he utilizes to support his statement. The propensity toward using citations of regulations and laws cannot be technically viewed as a fault – quite the contrary, it is regarded as an important tool in substantiating one’s claims and providing proof of their validity. However, in Carr’s case, introducing a more well-balanced approach toward using direct quotations and providing their subsequent analysis could be considered a slight improvement.

Furthermore, when considering the statements made by Carr and the way in which he furthers his argument, one must admit that the claims that Carr makes are largely quite naïve. Despite the fact that the specified characteristic of his work should not be viewed as solely negative, it does make his study less practical than it should be based on the effects that it is supposed to produce (i.e., improve the political environment on the global scale and prevent global conflicts). Indeed, by presuming that morality and politics should be deemed as not only compatible but also inseparable, Carr adds a distinct sense of naivety to his paper. Even though it would be wrong to dismiss the current approaches to foreign politics and negotiations as entirely deprived of morale, governments clearly pursue their own interests rather than attempt at making acts of altruism for the same of moral principles.

Nevertheless, when considering the disadvantages of the book, one must mention that most of them can be regarded as not direct flaws but, rather, the areas and issues that could have been explored deeper or could have used a different perspective. Nonetheless, most of the identified concerns should be regarded as minor dents in an overall impressively strong body of Carr’s work. Despite being somewhat distracting, the specified issues do not become a massive obstacle on the way to understanding Carr’s plight.

Conclusion

In his book, Carr addresses the events that occurred on the political arena at the beginning of the 20th century by scrutinizing economic and political issues in tandem. As a result, an in-depth analysis of the process of creating the platform for utopian ideas that led to WWI and WWII becomes a possibility. Carr analyzes the impact of Utopianism ideas on the enhancement of Nationalist movements in Europe, particularly, Germany. The author’s propensity toward examining the issue from the economic perspective and especially the process of new markets creation can be considered as one of the key strengths of the argument.

Although the book has several problems, such as the tendency to create an all-embracive framework for determining political and social inconsistencies and conflicts based solely on the analysis of three decades, ti still offers a profound overview of the subject matter.

Carr’s work has had a profound effect on the overall evaluation of the events that took place during WWI and WWII on an international level. Instead of seeking out the parties to blame, Carr provides a calm and convincing explanation of why the events took place the way in which they did. As a result, an impartial assessment of WWI, WWII, and the decisions made by the state governments that were involved becomes a possibility.

It would be wrong to claim that Carr’s work is an apologia for the conflict and especially the ethically dubious Nationalist motives by which the members of the Axis were guided at the time. Indeed, while offering his readers a new and impartial way of looking at the events that took place during WWI and WWII, Carr does not make an attempt at whitewashing the philosophical tenets of the Nazi ideology of Germany, the Fascist movement that could be witnessed in Italy, etc. Instead, Carr strives to provide an objective evaluation of the quality of political interactions by looking at how state governments choose specific responses and behaviors for managing the international conversation at the beginning and in the middle of the 20th century.

The resulting exploration of the connection between global economy and politics can be defined as exemplary. It is essential to encourage people to notice the links between different aspects of their political and business-related activities; thus, a better understanding of the implications of operations carried out in the identified realms will become a possibility. Therefore, the book by Carr should be viewed not as a guide to preventing the instances of economic and political crises but as an experiment in analyzing the environment in which the WWI and WWII emerged. Thus, the book provides an overview of the economic, political, and financial situations in which the states participating in WWI and WWII could find themselves at the specified point in time.

It could be argued that, by providing the opportunity of looking impartially at the events that occurred during WWI and WWII, Carr helps his audience approach international conflicts in a mature and objective way. Instead of blaming a particular state and its population or government for the choices that were made at the specified point in time, Carr makes the statement about the need for an objective analysis compelling and convincing. As a result, his readers are persuaded to revisit and reassess the events of WWI and WWI.

Therefore, Carr’s book can be viewed as the source of learning about the importance of compromising, as well as locating the links between economic and political factors that define the decisions made by governments of the leading states in the realm of the global economy. Instead of taking the traditional route of proving the wrongfulness of totalitarian regimes that were established in the Axis states or focusing on the political changes that occurred in the world at the time, Carr provides a deep and philosophical insight into the nature of political and economic interactions in the identified environment. By viewing the economic and political factors in tandem, Carr managed to embrace the array of details and niceties by which the relationships in the global environment were characterized. Furthermore, Carr traced the development of ethical standards based on which ideologies of the earl 20th century were created. Thus, the platform for a profound analysis of the events of WWI and WWII was created.

Bibliography

Carr, Edward Hallett. The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. London: MacMillan & Co, Ltd, 1946.

Dumas, Lloyd J., and Amitai Etzioni. The Socio-economics of Conversion from War to Peace. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015.

Gershoni, Israel. Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2014.

Groen, W. J. Mike, ‎Nicholas Márquez-Grant, ‎and Rob Janaway. Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Heywood, Andrew. Global Politics. New York, NY: Macmillan International Higher Education, 2014.

Katz-Rosene, Ryan, and ‎Matthew Paterson. Thinking Ecologically About the Global Political Economy. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018.

Pierskalla, Jan H. “The Politics of Urban Bias: Rural Threats and the Dual Dilemma of Political Survival.” Studies in Comparative International Development 51, no. 3 (2016): 286-308. doi:10.1007/s1211

Pui-Lan, Kwok. “Postcolonial Intervention in Political Theology.” Political Theology 17, no. 3 (2016): 223-225. doi:10.1080/1462317X.2016.1186443

Xue, Charlie Q. L. Hong Kong Architecture 1945-2015: From Colonial to Global. New York, NY: Springer, 2016.

Footnotes

  1. Israel Gershoni, Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2014), 28.
  2. Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: MacMillan & Co, Ltd, 1946), 239.
  3. Axel Van den Berg, The Immanent Utopia: From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism (New York, NY: Routledge), 311.
  4. Charlie Q. L. Xue, Hong Kong Architecture 1945-2015: From Colonial to Global (New York, NY: Springer, 2016), 23.
  5. Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: MacMillan & Co, Ltd, 1946), 127.
  6. Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: MacMillan & Co, Ltd, 1946), 23.
  7. W. J. Mike Groen, ‎Nicholas Márquez-Grant, and ‎Rob Janaway, Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 27.
  8. Lloyd J. Dumas, and Amitai Etzioni, The Socio-economics of Conversion from War to Peace (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 287.
  9. Kwok Pui-Lan, “Postcolonial Intervention in Political Theology,” Political Theology 17, no. 3 (2016): 224.
  10. Ryan Katz-Rosene, ‎and Matthew Paterson, Thinking Ecologically About the Global Political Economy (New York, NY: Routledge, 2018), 11.
  11. Jan H. Pierskalla, “The Politics of Urban Bias: Rural Threats and the Dual Dilemma of Political Survival,” Studies in Comparative International Development 51, no. 3 (2016): 291.
  12. Kwok Pui-Lan, “Postcolonial Intervention in Political Theology,” Political Theology 17, no. 3 (2016): 225.
  13. Andrew Heywood, Global Politics (New York, NY: Macmillan International Higher Education, 2014), 35.
  14. Jan H. Pierskalla, “The Politics of Urban Bias: Rural Threats and the Dual Dilemma of Political Survival,” Studies in Comparative International Development 51, no. 3 (2016): 301.
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IvyPanda. (2020, September 4). “The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-twenty-years-crisis-1919-1939-by-e-carr/

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"“The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr." IvyPanda, 4 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-twenty-years-crisis-1919-1939-by-e-carr/.

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IvyPanda. "“The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr." September 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-twenty-years-crisis-1919-1939-by-e-carr/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "“The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr." September 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-twenty-years-crisis-1919-1939-by-e-carr/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '“The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939” by E. Carr'. 4 September.

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