The Great Delusion


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Liberal Dreams and International Realities

John J. Mearsheimer

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A renowned scholar argues that liberal hegemony—the policy America has pursued since the Cold War ended—is doomed to fail

Named a Financial Times Best Book of 2018

“Idealists as well as realists need to read this systematic tour de force.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Return of Marco Polo’s World

It is widely believed in the West that the United States should spread liberal democracy across the world, foster an open international economy, and build international institutions. The policy of remaking the world in America’s image is supposed to protect human rights, promote peace, and make the world safe for democracy. But this is not what has happened. Instead, the United States has become a highly militarized state fighting wars that undermine peace, harm human rights, and threaten liberal values at home.

In this major statement, the renowned international-relations scholar John Mearsheimer argues that liberal hegemony—the foreign policy pursued by the United States since the Cold War ended—is doomed to fail. It makes far more sense, he maintains, for Washington to adopt a more restrained foreign policy based on a sound understanding of how nationalism and realism constrain great powers abroad. The Great Delusion is a lucid and compelling work of the first importance for scholars, policymakers, and everyone interested in the future of American foreign policy.

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His many books include Conventional Deterrence. He lives in Chicago, IL.

"This is the best of the many books that seek to explain how and why American foreign policy has gone so disastrously wrong.  Mearsheimer hits the sweet spot where theory meets the chaos of today's world."—Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

"John Mearsheimer’s The Great Delusion is policy-relevant scholarship at its best: a summation of a leading scholar’s accumulated thinking about international relations theory and American foreign policy."—Christopher Layne, University Distinguished Professor of International Affairs, Texas A&M University

"Liberal states have many virtues, but The Great Delusion explains, with rigorous logic and admirable clarity, why their efforts to spread their values are usually doomed to fail. Both liberal crusaders and unrepentant realists have much to learn from this compelling book.”—Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

“[An] accessible treatise . . . a disquieting critique.”—Publishers Weekly

“A dagger pointed at the heart of America’s governing philosophy.”—Robert W. Merry, The American Conservative

“A closely-reasoned case for the virtues of restraint.”—David Warsh, Economic Principals newsletter

“A . . . radical critique of the liberal foreign policy paradigm as a whole.”—Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept

“Mearsheimer believes that it is folly for a nation-state to try and remake and socially engineer a different nation-state in its own image. . . . [He} opts for clarity over ornate prose: he defines his terms, constructs tight arguments, anticipates and responds to counterarguments.”—Daniel Kishi, American Conservative

“A thought-provoking and bleak worldview.”—Gideon Rachmann, Financial Times (A Financial Times Best Book of 2018)

"Even dissenters of Mearsheimer's approach to an explanation of world politics and American foreign policy will find this book worthy of their attention and consideration as a comprehensive theoretical statement deserving of praise."—S. R. Silverburg, Choice

“Accessible and yet rigorous, The Great Delusion deserves to be read by policymakers, scholars and the public alike. . . . The case against liberal hegemony as a grand strategy for the United States that Mearsheimer offers is compelling.”—Michael Lind, National Interest

"Mearsheimer has been especially powerful, including in this new book, in pointing out that too many liberal internationalists have failed to contend with the enduring power of nationalism and identity. Recent history has proved him more right and the American foreign policy community more wrong.”—Jake Sullivan, Foreign Affairs

"Idealists as well as realists need to read this systematic tour de force. Even if you don't agree, it will discipline your own thinking."—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Return of Marco Polo's World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century

Winner of the the James Madison Award, sponsored by the American Political Science Association
ISBN: 9780300248562
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
328 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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