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Covenants without Swords:
Idealist Liberalism and the Spirit of Empire
Jeanne Morefield

Paperback | 2016 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691171401
280 pp. | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Hardcover | 2004 | $75.00 | £62.95 | ISBN: 9780691119922
280 pp. | 6 x 9
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Covenants without Swords examines 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.

Jeanne Morefield is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Whitman College.


"Morefield has provided a sure-handed and tightly argued account of a body of liberal thought whose failings had unfortunate effects on world politics and whose paradoxes continue to be instructive."--Jennifer Pitts, Perspectives on Politics


"Covenants without Swords is a persuasive and elegant examination of the neglected current of liberalism as it relates to the possibilities of reform on the international scene. It will occasion a reassessment of what we thought we already knew about 'interwar idealists' and may inspire deeper thought about the resources modern liberalism can bring to bear on the possibility of order in the semi-anarchic milieu of the post-Cold War international system."--Michael J. Smith, University of Virginia, author of Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
CHAPTER ONE: Oxford Liberalism and the Return of Patriarchy 24
CHAPTER TWO: An "Oddly Transposed" Liberalism 55
CHAPTER THREE: Mind, Spirit, and Liberalism in the World 96
CHAPTER FOUR: Nationhood, World Order, and the "One Great City of Men and Gods" 136
CHAPTER FIVE: Sovereignty and the Liberal Shadow 175
CHAPTER SIX: Liberal Community and the Lure of Empire 205
Bibliography 231
Index 249

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