Imaginary dialogues may have been a persistent feature of political and international thought from Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War and Plato’s Republic to Hobbes’s Behemoth, but they are far less common in modern times.
In a little-known, obscure essay published in 1952, Martin Wight seems to have embraced this method in an effort to analyse Europe’s balance of power as it was precariously poised in March 1939. But Wight does more than just analyse the balance of power here, he also dramatizes it; breathing life back into the protagonists of Europe’s 20 years’ crisis as they face the consequences of Hitler’s 15 March invasion of Czechoslovakia. By putting words into the protagonists’ mouths in the style of Thucydides, Wight is able to reconstruct the situation, with all its ideological disagreements, political grievances and strategic interests.
Michele Chiaruzzi’s article is a reflection on this dialogic text written by Wight for the Royal Institute of International Affairs’s Survey of International Affairs, a series under the editorship of Arnold J. Toynbee.
The article that follows appears as an Epilogue to Chiaruzzi’s eloquent recent book, Politica di Potenza nell’Età del Leviatano: La Teoria Internazionale di Martin Wight (Power Politics in the Age of Leviathan: The International Theory of Martin Wight). This book straddles two bodies of literature: the ever-expanding literature on the English School and its key protagonists, and the Italian study of international relations theory.