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The erotics of empire: love, power, and tragedy in Thucydides and Hans Morgenthau

Falkiner, Daniel (2015) The erotics of empire: love, power, and tragedy in Thucydides and Hans Morgenthau. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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A number of influential early International Relations (IR) theorists explicitly theorised politics in terms of ‘tragedy’ and their discourse was revived at the beginning of the 21st century. This thesis engages with this ‘tragic’ tradition of international political theory and pushes the debate in directions that have previously been hinted at but which have nonetheless remained largely unexplored. It is argued here that from the late archaic to the end of the classical period in ancient Athens, eros (‘sexual love’, ‘passionate yearning’) and its cognates came to form the conceptual basis of a political discourse that fused elements of sex, power, and gender into what we might call a kind of ‘erotic politics’. This discourse is clearly reflected in tragedy; many dramas take eros as a central theme and explore the role that the emotion could (and should) play in the community. Although it is usually transgressive and destructive, tragic eros is nevertheless redeemable in terms of the benefits it can bestow on the city when handled wisely. Using this contextualised reading of tragedy as a reference point, the dissertation critically analyses the texts of two influential commentators on international politics, namely, Thucydides and Hans Morgenthau. It is argued that both of these authors were heavily influenced by the Athenian discourse of erotic politics, especially as it appears in tragedy; love, power, and tragedy were central to both men’s understanding of international politics. This analysis will provide an original perspective on Thucydides’ and Morgenthau’s political philosophies and will open up new ways at looking at some of the ‘tragic’ situations that recent scholars have identified in contemporary politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Daniel Thomas Rothwell Falkiner
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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