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Edward Hallett Carr: Policy Recommendations for a World of Change Edward Hallett Carr: Policy Recommendations for a World of Change
by Rene Wadlow
2021-06-28 09:42:12
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Edward Hallett Carr (1892 -1982) whose birth anniversary we note on 28 June, was a British diplomat, a professor of international relations at the University of Wales and from 1940 to 1947 the chief editorial writer for the London Times, a period during which the Times was taken in foreign capitals to be the "voice of the Foreign Office". Carr's style lent itself to the serious but short editorials linked to current events but with a longer view perspective.

car01_400The perception that the Times editorials were the voice of the Foreign Office played against Carr when his views were considered too pro-Soviet - "the Red Professor of Printing House Square" - created worries in the U.K. government and Washington. Carr was disliked by Winston Churchill and became the "bete noire" of the post-war Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. Thus Carr was eased out of his Times post by 1947 and spent most of the rest of his life until his 1982 death in writing a fourteen-volume History of Soviet Russia 1919 -1929.

Carr's reputation in international relations rests largely on his The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919-1939 (London: Macmillan, 1940) , a sharp analysis of the weaknesses of the League of Nations which by 1939 was obvious to others as well. As Carr wrote "In the post-war world, the common interest in peace masks the fact that some nations desire to mintain the status quo without having to fight for it, and others want to change this status quo without having to fight in order to do so... Just as pleas for "national solidarity" in the domestic politics always come from the dominant group which can use this solidarity to strengthen its own control over the nation as a whole, so pleas for international solidarity and world union come from those dominant nations which may hope to exercise control over a united world."

However, today with the rise of narrow nationalist voices in many countries and calls for economic protectionist policies, it is his short 1945 book Nationalism and After (London: Macmillan, 1945) which is most relevant. "The contemporary challenge to the nation as the final and accepted unit of international organization comes on two fronts; from within and from without, from the standpoint of idealism and from the standpoint of power. On the plane of morality, it is under attack from those who denounce its inherently totalitarian implications and proclaim that any international authority worth the name must interest itself in the rights and well-being not of nations but of men and women. On the plane of power, it is being sapped by modern technological developme,ts which have made the nation obsolesent as the unit of militry and economic organization and are repidly concentrating effective decisions and control in the hands of great multi-national unities...The main unifying purpose in the contemôrary world is the common ideal of social justice based on such slogans as 'the common man ' ..

If we seek to analyse what is meant today by social justice, we shall find it composed of three main elements - equality of opportunity, freedom from want, and as the dynamic factor lending reality to both the other elements, full employment... Thus the driving force behind any future international order mist be a belief, however expressed, in the value of individual human beings irrespective of national affinities or allegiance and in a common and mutual obligation to promote their well being."

While narrow nationalist voices play on protectionist policies and the lack of coordination within the European or African Union, narrow nationalism will not lead to freedom from want. E.H. Carr's rich understanding of history can be a useful contribution to current policy making.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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