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The Lessons of Tragedy

Statecraft and World Order
Narrated by: Marc Cashman
Length: 6 hrs and 14 mins
Categories: History, World
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

An eloquent call to draw on the lessons of the past to address current threats to international order

The ancient Greeks hard-wired a tragic sensibility into their culture. By looking disaster squarely in the face, by understanding just how badly things could spiral out of control, they sought to create a communal sense of responsibility and courage - to spur citizens and their leaders to take the difficult actions necessary to avert such a fate. Today, after more than 70 years of great-power peace and a quarter-century of unrivaled global leadership, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. They have forgotten that the descent into violence and war has been all too common throughout human history. This amnesia has become most pronounced just as Americans and the global order they created are coming under graver threat than at any time in decades. 

In a forceful argument that brims with historical sensibility and policy insights, two distinguished historians argue that a tragic sensibility is necessary if America and its allies are to address the dangers that menace the international order today. Tragedy may be commonplace, Brands and Edel argue, but it is not inevitable - so long as we regain an appreciation of the world's tragic nature before it is too late. 

Cover image obtained from Ancient Sculpture Gallery (www.ancientsculpturegallery.com)

©2019 Hal Brands and Charles Edel (P)2019 Random House Audio

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  • Jeffrey D
  • 23-05-19

The authors should read Oedipus Rex and Aristotle

The authors remind us that the world is a dangerous place. So far, so good. But I would not recommend listening to this book. The authors' grasp of Greek tragedy is tenuous and tendentious. I was surprised that a professor of international relations or the like at a well-regarded university would write a book about global strategy as a melodrama. It also seemed very backward-looking, at a time of great technological, economic, and environmental change.