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Harvard Colloquium For Intellectual History

Power Without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American Internationalist Experiment


October 4, 2017
4:00pm - 6:00pm
Lower Library, Robinson Hall, Harvard University
October 4, 2017
4:00pm - 6:00pm
Lower Library, Robinson Hall, Harvard University

Woodrow Wilson's efforts to create and promote a League of Nations at the close of World War I is often seen as a template for the interventionist foreign policies of his mid- and late-twentieth century successors in office, as well as the so-called liberal internationalist world order that emerged after World War II. Trygve Throntveit argues that this view is mistaken. Despite the racist and imperialist sins of its leading architect, the League as Wilson designed and envisioned it embodied a more egalitarian, cooperative, and adaptable--and thus more practical--version of "Wilsonianism" than did the comparatively hierarchical and adversarial UN architecture established under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Recovering its origins in philosophical pragmatism and progressive social thought, Throntveit argues that Wilson's Wilsonianism represents an aborted experiment in global governance, one that can prompt disturbing yet fruitful questions about a diplomatic tradition and international regime that many today are trying to reinforce.

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