Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order

Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order

“The international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm,” writes Charles Hill in this powerful work on the practice of international relations. “It is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out.”A distinguished lifelong diplomat and educator, Hill aims to revive the ancient tradition of statecraft as practiced by humane and broad...

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Title:Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order
Author:Charles Hill
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Edition Language:English

Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order Reviews

  • Frank Kelly

    "The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book." This is the last line of Professor/diplomat Charles Hill's rich, robust and deeply enlightening book covering the classic Greeks to modern times and the role literature can (and should) play in inspiring and building civil society and credible international order amongst nations and states. The breadth of Hill's knowledge and ability to interweave so many of the classics of literature with history is extraor

    "The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book." This is the last line of Professor/diplomat Charles Hill's rich, robust and deeply enlightening book covering the classic Greeks to modern times and the role literature can (and should) play in inspiring and building civil society and credible international order amongst nations and states. The breadth of Hill's knowledge and ability to interweave so many of the classics of literature with history is extraordinary. This is not an easy to book to read, I must admit. But I read it in chunks and really enjoyed it -- and learned an great deal of the true meaning of literature throughout history. Moreover, it gave me new insights into the development of strategy - whether diplomatic, military or even corporate. Strategy, to be sucessful, should never be sterile. The narrative, the context of history in which we live and work, they all are important to achieving success. An amazing work of literature in and of itself. Highly recommend it.

  • Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton

    I'm always on the look out for new books to read (but what I really need is more time). Suggestions from friends, mentors, reviewers, blogs, and references in other books send me off on an endless cycle: hear about a book, find it on Amazon (or the library), purchase (or check out) said book, bring it home, put it on my bed-stand with great anticipation, read ten pages to a reference of another book, and...repeat. The result is a two-stack, five books per stack, "pile up" next to my bed that has

    I'm always on the look out for new books to read (but what I really need is more time). Suggestions from friends, mentors, reviewers, blogs, and references in other books send me off on an endless cycle: hear about a book, find it on Amazon (or the library), purchase (or check out) said book, bring it home, put it on my bed-stand with great anticipation, read ten pages to a reference of another book, and...repeat. The result is a two-stack, five books per stack, "pile up" next to my bed that has resulted in a reading bottle neck. And, believe me you, it's a bottleneck that affords me more enjoyable hours than I've ever passed in traffic.

    That's all really just a long way of saying that in reading Charles Hill's "Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order" I constantly found myself adding new books to some real or imagined book list that I may, or may not, ever get a chance to read. Every chapter of Grand Strategies was full of new books that sounded interesting and fascinating. Some--like Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Salmon Rushdie's "Satanic Verses," or Thucydides's "The Peloponnesian War"--I had read and could quickly relate. Others--Xenophon's "The Persian Expedition" or Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"--were new, at least to me. Worse, especially for my book list, Hill manages to craft his dialogue about each in such a way as to bestow meaning and insight beyond a cursory reading of the text.

    For example, though I've often heard it referenced and cited as powerful piece of poetry, never had I seen John Milton's "Paradise Lost" as a commentary on war and the modern polity. And yet, perhaps it is.

    "But far beyond the politics of the day 'Paradise Lost' is Milton's comprehensive commentary on modern warfare, revolution, founding a polity; on strategy, leadership, intelligence, individual choice under conditions of modern statecraft; and on the justification of God's ways to men."

    Suddenly, the war in heaven, through Milton's eyes, becomes a proxy for competing views of the world worked out during the Oliver Cromwell English Civil War.

    In Hill's eye, fiction is more than just a story. In literature, we see the great ideas and forces that move history worked out, argued, and recorded. The "international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm," he argues. "[I]t is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out." Nothing may come closer to a thesis for his opus. He continues:

    "A sacral nature must infuse world order if it is to be legitimate. that order is not to be identified with a particular social system, but to legitimate, the system must hint at the underlying divinely founded order. The modern Westphalian system was conceived when such was the case, but with the Enlightenment's addition of secularism, science, reason, and democracy, the system increasingly spurned , then forgot, its legitimizing sources of authority.[...] Revolutionary ideology radicalized secularism, science and reason into the task of erasing original sin, o perfecting humanity--all requiring terror to create "the New Man." Modern efforts to create a sovereignty potent enough to fill the void produced the statist monstrosities of Stalin and Hitler. America became an empire but never gained the understanding to go with it. China is now on its own misguided course."

    Thought provoking, insightful, and, of course, full of literature to read when you finish it (including a bibliography of primary and secondary sources that will keep you busy for several years), and reread, Hill's "Grand Strategies" is a worthy addition to your bed-stand stack. Just make sure you put it on top.

  • R. Smith

    I could probably put this book on a half-dozen different Goodreads bookshelves. Statecraft (particularly in international relations) is viewed through the lens of great literature. Until I read "Grand Strategies" it had never occurred to me how much about statecraft, international relations, politics, political philosophy, even warcraft could be learned from reading great literature beyond Shakespeare's historical plays. If I ruled the world, I'd require every national executive (i.e. President,

    I could probably put this book on a half-dozen different Goodreads bookshelves. Statecraft (particularly in international relations) is viewed through the lens of great literature. Until I read "Grand Strategies" it had never occurred to me how much about statecraft, international relations, politics, political philosophy, even warcraft could be learned from reading great literature beyond Shakespeare's historical plays. If I ruled the world, I'd require every national executive (i.e. President, Prime Minister, Chancellor) and every national foreign policy leader (i.e. Secretary of State, Foreign Minister) to read "Grand Strategies" then pass an oral and written examination on it before being allowed to touch the wheel of the ship of state. It's that good!

  • Charles Puskas

    I've been reading this book by scholar and diplomat, Charles Hill, for a year and taking notes on it (which I've lost). I've also been stopping along the way and reading or re-reading some of literature cited for illustrative purposes in his discussion of statecraft and world order, e.g., Dante, Thucycides, Shakespeare, Grimmelshausen, Gunther Grass, Dickens, Life of Bismarck, Kafka, Dostoevsky, even George MacDonald Fraser. So I have been slowly reading it as a reference or springboard to the r

    I've been reading this book by scholar and diplomat, Charles Hill, for a year and taking notes on it (which I've lost). I've also been stopping along the way and reading or re-reading some of literature cited for illustrative purposes in his discussion of statecraft and world order, e.g., Dante, Thucycides, Shakespeare, Grimmelshausen, Gunther Grass, Dickens, Life of Bismarck, Kafka, Dostoevsky, even George MacDonald Fraser. So I have been slowly reading it as a reference or springboard to the reading of other writings.

    I agree with the review. Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie, Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations, inspired by the conviction that “a grand strategist . . . needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan, to gain real-world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft, and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues.” This fascinating and engaging introduction to the concepts of international order not only defines what it is to build a civil society through diplomacy, justice, and lawful governance but also describes how these ideas emerge from human conflict and reflect human nature.

  • David

    This will be a difficult book to review. There are a number of reasons for this but let me mention just a few.

    1. Academically eloquent. The language, though beautiful and a pleasure to experience, lacked clarity and precision. Which is strange because, generally, eloquence is a function of clarity. However, in this case, this wasn't my experience.

    2.Readings of the books were ones that I had generally come across in the past but told through the lenses of statecraft and diplomacy. For myself t

    This will be a difficult book to review. There are a number of reasons for this but let me mention just a few.

    1. Academically eloquent. The language, though beautiful and a pleasure to experience, lacked clarity and precision. Which is strange because, generally, eloquence is a function of clarity. However, in this case, this wasn't my experience.

    2.Readings of the books were ones that I had generally come across in the past but told through the lenses of statecraft and diplomacy. For myself there was nothing new in these so this was, on numerous occasions, tedious to the point of redundancy.

    3. I was hoping for some explanation as to how these 'great books' could be applied to real word situations and though I got this occasionally more often than not I did not...least did not feel I did.

    4. Although the claim of the last sentence of the book was: The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book (location - 5715)...I do not feel this was or ever would be accomplished. As argued in the book, the computer/internet/web has put an end to this type of leisurely and challenging activity. People are too pressed for time and lack a solid grounding in the classics of world literature, philosophy, and political science. The complaint appears to be intellectually reactionary...instead of thinking how the new technologies might be exploited to offer this grounding or how they might offer new avenues of thought to counter the loss of the 'classical' canon. This issue needs to be addressed instead of bemoaning the loss of time and traditional literacy (literature, philosophy, political science).

    5. The idea of literature being 'unbounded' was great. [Of all the arts and sciences, only literature is substantially and methodologically unbounded - Loc. 163]. His attempt to make literature (including philosophy) relevant after the textual obscenities of post-structuralism is very compelling...and I am grateful for the effort....though it does not quite succeed.

    6. The author's observations, sprinkled through the book, about diplomats, statesmen/women, and ambassadors (such as: To be effective, ambassadors do not merely execute, “but frame and direct by their own advice and counsel, the will of their master.” They need leeway to distill, classify, clarify, and shape the essence of their mission - Loc. 317-19)are very astute and help the reader to understand their real job. Though these observations might have been more effective brought together in a single chapter.

    7. The general structure of the work appeared more chronological than logical. In the case of this book a logical argument, I believe, would have been more effective. But this may simply be an aesthetic gripe.

    Did I enjoy the book? Was this read enlightening? Not quite. For this reason I have only given this book 4 stars. Perhaps, considering my analysis, it only deserves three but my feeling is that four is much more honest an appraisal for this reviewer.

    I would recommend this book to those that have not read any surveys of literature or philosophy. As a work on the demands of the diplomat I feel it is lacking in clarity and could not recommend it on that level. Though deeply learned the trees sometimes get in the way of the forest and make the experience more problematic than it should have been.

  • Fred Leland

    I very good book I highly recommend. the lessons from literature as they relate to strategy, including modern day strategy are laid out very nicely by Charles Hill. The book will most definitely get you to thinking in ways you had not before.

    Fred

  • Jeffrey

    © Jeffrey L. Otto, September 8, 2013

  • Eduardo Garcia-Gaspar

    ¿Qué es eso que acabo de leer? Combine usted unas docenas de los libros clásicos de todos los tiempos en la mente curiosa del autor y obtendrá eso. Una serie cronológica de ideas, reflexiones y meditaciones acerca de temas como diplomacia, guerra, naciones, estados, gobierno, estadistas, orden mundial. Desde «La divina comedia» hasta «Los versos satánicos», pasando por «Los viajes de Gulliver», «La democracia en América» y «El jorobado de Nuestra Señora». Un abundante festín de especulaciones fu

    ¿Qué es eso que acabo de leer? Combine usted unas docenas de los libros clásicos de todos los tiempos en la mente curiosa del autor y obtendrá eso. Una serie cronológica de ideas, reflexiones y meditaciones acerca de temas como diplomacia, guerra, naciones, estados, gobierno, estadistas, orden mundial. Desde «La divina comedia» hasta «Los versos satánicos», pasando por «Los viajes de Gulliver», «La democracia en América» y «El jorobado de Nuestra Señora». Un abundante festín de especulaciones fundamentadas.

    ¿Qué es lo que buscan y ven los «dictadores, generales y estrategas» en los libros que tienen junto a sí? La literatura como un reflejo de la realidad de ma naturaleza humana que tiene aplicación en política con la ventaja de que ella, la literatura, se mueve más allá del «cálculo racional» y da entrada a la imaginación. Como lo expresa el autor: «[...] el argumento de este libro es que el mundo debería reconocer a las altas ideas políticas y a las acciones del arte de gobernar como aspectos de la condición humana que están enteramente dentro del alcance del genio literario y que los grandes escritores han explorado consistentemente de maneras importantes».

    Los modos puramente técnicos y meramente racionales de estos temas no son suficientes y llevan a errores. La literatura, esos libros clásicos, llenan el vacío de lo que no es accesible por otros caminos. Una idea fascinante.

    De lectura sencilla, aunque llena de citas (difíciles de precisar en la edición de Kindle), el libro me dio la sensación de que terminé siendo un poco más sabio que antes. No, mejor dicho, terminé siendo un poco menos ignorante que antes de leerlo.

  • Ziad Razak

    A fascinating and engrossing book that makes you regret not having read more systematically when you were younger. Makes you want to read Virgil, Milton and Proust all at the same time. Melding together the great texts of Western literature into a tour d'horizon of global diplomacy, this book is one of those classics you wish someone had given to you for your 21st birthday.

  • Michael

    Very interesting survey of books of historical importance through the ages and how they were influenced by -- and how they influenced -- the political movements of their times. Ultimately a summons to a more thoughtful, creative, and educated approach to the management of global affairs. The reader cannot help but feel at times that the author's musing are too airy and somewhat disconnected from the task at hand. Nonetheless, there are strong insights here.

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