Covenants without Swords

Covenants without Swords: Idealist Liberalism and the Spirit of Empire

Jeanne Morefield
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Covenants without Swords
    Book Description:

    Covenants without Swordsexamines an enduring tension within liberal theory: that between many liberals' professed commitment to universal equality on the one hand, and their historic support for the politics of hierarchy and empire on the other. It does so by examining the work of two extremely influential British liberals and internationalists, Gilbert Murray and Alfred Zimmern. Jeanne Morefield mounts a forceful challenge to disciplinary boundaries by arguing that this tension, on both the domestic and international levels, is best understood as frequently arising from the same, liberal reformist political aim--namely, the aim of fashioning a socially conscious liberalism that ultimately reifies putatively natural, preliberal notions of paternalistic order.

    Morefield also questions conventional analyses of interwar thought by resurrecting the work of Murray and Zimmern, and by linking their approaches to liberal internationalism with the ossified notion of sovereignty that continues to trouble international politics to this day. Ultimately, Morefield argues, these two thinkers' drift toward conservative and imperialist understandings of international order was the result of a more general difficulty still faced by liberals today: how to adequately define community in liberal terms without sacrificing these terms themselves. Moreover, Covenants without Swords suggests that Murray and Zimmern's work offers a cautionary historical example for the cadre of post-September 11th "new imperialists" who believe it possible to combine a liberal commitment to equality with an American Empire.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2632-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    In 1921, classics scholar, liberal activist, and League of Nations advocate Gilbert Murray looked around at a Europe still reeling from the effects of World War One and boldly pronounced that “nothing but the sincere practice of liberal principles will save European society from imminent revolution and collapse.”¹ And yet Murray also maintained that European society should not apply these same liberal principles universally, that the post-war world needed a reestablishment of “World Order,” organized around extant relations of imperial power, in which all understood the differences between “leaders and led, governors and governed.”²

    Just three years earlier, Alfred Zimmern,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Oxford Liberalism and the Return of Patriarchy
    (pp. 24-54)

    In 1938, Gilbert Murray argued inLiberality and Civilizationthat liberalism was “not a doctrine; it is a spirit or attitude of mind . . . an effort to get rid of prejudice so as to see the truth, to get rid of selfish passions so as to do the right.”¹ Murray had suggested something similar fifty years earlier, while a young fellow at Oxford in 1888. In an unpublished speech to the Russell Club, he suggested that the foundational logic of what he described as the “new liberalism” was an emerging consensus that something other than self-interest—something other...

  6. CHAPTER TWO An “Oddly Transposed” Liberalism
    (pp. 55-95)

    In a 1940 obituary for his close friend and fellow liberal H.A.L. Fisher, Gilbert Murray recalled their days as young scholars at New College in the mid-1880s. “All of us,” he noted, “were then deeply under the German spell.”¹ Fisher had similar memories, noting in hisUnfinished Autobiographythat “Hegel, as interpreted by T. H. Green and Caird, was the reigning philosopher of my undergraduate days.”² And yet Murray’s own biographers later took great pains to remember him as impervious to the influence of German philosophy, whose liberalism was “more in sympathy with Mill and Millian Liberals than with any...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Mind, Spirit, and Liberalism in the World
    (pp. 96-135)

    Until fairly recently, disciplinary historians have regarded all British and American inter-war internationalists as cut from the same political cloth. In the words of Scott Burchill, “Founded in a climate of reaction against the barbarity of the First World War, the discipline was established with the conviction that war must never happen again; the Great War, as it was initially called, was to be ‘the war to end all wars.’ ”¹ Burchill’s words are fairly typical in this regard, and, indeed, the war did have a profound effect on the internationalisms of many inter-war thinkers, including Murray and Zimmern. Both...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Nationhood, World Order, and the “One Great City of Men and Gods”
    (pp. 136-174)

    As Alfred Zimmern remembered them, the early Foreign Office meetings that convened to discuss the impending creation of a League of Nations Covenant were generally confusing. Most notably, recalled Zimmern, he and his colleagues struggled with Woodrow Wilson’s insistence that the future League of Nations “reserve the right to take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations.” What constituted “wise and effectual,” Zimmern wondered, and justwhowas going to “prevent war?”¹ In the end, he mused, “There were many godfathers round the cradle; but none was ready with the appropriate name.”²...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Sovereignty and the Liberal Shadow
    (pp. 175-204)

    The International Organizing Committee, a special committee appointed by the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, officially drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations after the war.¹ Although representatives on the committee came from the five Great Powers (Britain, France, the United States, Italy, and Japan) and nine less influential states (Belgium, Brazil, China, Portugal, Serbia, Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania), from the beginning the drafting of the covenant was, in the words of Inis Claude, a “predominantly Anglo-American enterprise.”² In the mid-1930s, Zimmern’s recollections of that period went even further by describing the final draft of the Covenant as a...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Liberal Community and the Lure of Empire
    (pp. 205-230)

    Murray’s and Zimmern’s liberal internationalisms provide us with a highly suggestive set of lenses for analyzing contemporary political theory, in particular those theoretical approaches that seek to deepen our understanding of the relationship between liberalism and community. While both men consciously sought to reconcile liberal freedom and communal fraternity on a domestic scale, we can most clearly see thekindof community they thought best suited to liberal ethics and governance in their work on international relations. By audaciously claiming that international liberalism could function in the absence of a state, both men had to articulate clearly the form of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-253)