Michael J. Hogan, Thomas G. Paterson, eds. Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xiii + 366 pp. $74.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-83279-3; $26.99 (paper), ISBN 978-0-521-54035-3.
Reviewed by Jonathan Winkler (Department of History, Wright State University)
Published on H-Diplo (February, 2006)
A Handbook for the Initiate?
The guild of scholars who study the public and private foreign relations of the United States is an amorphous, extended band. Its members hail from the wide plains of history as well as from often removed vales of political science, sociology, area studies, literature, and probably even (somewhere) music. Entrance into the guild is relatively straightforward, but admittance to the inner mysteries is slightly more challenging--there is no sacred text or handbook, compulsory knowledge of which is required for acceptance. Instead, we have accumulated a body of works, the exact manifest different for each of us, which we urge upon initiates. Oh, says the professor to the graduate student, so-and-so's book must be on your orals list! One of the most important of those works is the new, revised second edition of Michael J. Hogan and Thomas G. Paterson's Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations.
Hogan and Paterson intended the work not as a historiographical survey or platform for debates, but as an overview of the current state of the field and its methodology. Their purpose was to provide scholars of American foreign relations--both historians and those in other disciplines--with highlights of the conceptual approaches and analytical models, both new and familiar, now being used. This volume is an updated edition of the 1991 original, with substantial new contributions and revisions of those earlier essays carried forward. Across twenty essays, seven of which are entirely new, the contributors largely accomplish what Hogan and Paterson set out to do.
If this updated work has a theme throughout its twenty chapters, it is that diplomatic history has moved significantly over the past decade beyond the initial realist/idealist or revisionist/postrevisionist schools about administration behavior, for example, into a much more broad conception of what the study of U.S. diplomatic history entails. Indeed, Hogan and Paterson push the idea that the subject is no longer "U.S. diplomatic history," in fact, but "U.S. international relations" or the "history of U.S. foreign relations." These general titles do more to emphasize that the history of the United States in the world is not just the foreign policies of the federal government but the entire range of public and private behavior, cultural as well as economic and political, in the world (p. vii).
As this volume intimates, there are two main currents of change that we can perceive in the field. The first is the far greater emphasis on what can be called "international" history. This involves placing the United States into the larger picture of world affairs, particularly by region (the Middle East), by concept (gender, culture) or by temporal framework (the cold war). The age of studying bilateral relations on a government to government level alone, it would seem, has passed. This current runs through several of the updated chapters: Akira Iriye's essential chapter on international cultural history; Ole R. Holsti's on political science and international relations theory; Melvyn Leffler's important chapter explaining the approach of national security; Michael Hogan's expansive chapter on corporatism; Thomas J. McCormick's chapter on world systems; and Louis A Pérez Jr.'s on dependency. Moreover, the revised or additional chapters by Nathan J. Citino on comparative history and borderlands; Nick Cullather on modernization theory; Emily Rosenberg on borderlands, real and imagined; Michael H. Hunt on ideology; Jessica Gienow-Hecht on cultural transfer; Gerald Horne on race and foreign relations; and Kristin Hoganson on gender and foreign relations all reveal this current particularly well.
The second main, related current is the extension of scholarly inquiry by diplomatic historians into conceptual areas of history, most significantly in fields relating to culture. Indeed, the most important development since the publication of the first edition, Hogan and Paterson argue, has been the dramatic expansion of cultural approaches to diplomatic history. Newer cultural works, it seems, take two general forms: an "international" one, i.e., cultural transfer between the United States and other countries; and a "domestic" one, e.g., culture affecting policymaking. Though amorphous and hard to quantify or specify at times, nonetheless these cultural approaches have contributed to a reinvigoration of the study of foreign relations. Graduate students especially will benefit from the myriad explanations laid out in the revised chapters by Richard Immerman on psychology, Hunt on ideology, Pérez on dependency, and J. Garry Clifford on bureaucratic politics. Graduate students and their professors will also find particularly revealing the new chapters by Citino on culture's importance to comparative history and borderlands, Cullather on modernization theory, Gienow-Hecht on cultural transfer, Costigliola on language, Hoganson on gender, Horne on race and diplomacy, and Robert Schulzinger on memory. The revised and expanded chapters by Akira Iriye and Emily Rosenberg are particularly noteworthy for their conceptual reach and encouraging tone. Indeed, Iriye uses his chapter to issue a call for the creation of a new field, international cultural relations or global cultural history.
Many of the contributors take heart from this cultural turn in foreign relations history, even if it does not directly shape their work, and from the overall apparent revival of the field. This enthusiasm gives the collection an upbeat, optimistic tone, in marked contrast to the earlier edition and to the benefit of those who would otherwise believe that our field continues to wallow on the margins. Yet while these two currents suggest that U.S. foreign relations is a river swollen by spring rains after a long drought, Robert J. McMahon's chapter on the study of U.S. foreign relations as international and national history suggests that some caution is still in order. McMahon echoes his colleagues' enthusiasm, yet cautions that at the same time "malaise, status anxiety and self-doubt co-exist in paradoxical tension with those signs of vitality" (p. 36).
The danger here is that the increasing specialization and fragmentation of the field of U.S. foreign relations places its practitioners in an awkward position. Our success with the new approaches might also compound the marginalization. We have to tackle the subject in our research as well as our teaching from both domestic as well as international directions. Consequently in our historical practice we tend to exist in both domestic U.S. and international historical camps regardless of our own personal interests. It is the face of Janus we wear, as McMahon points out repeatedly. We therefore carry the exciting responsibility of bridging the gap between historians of the United States and historians of everywhere else. But the particularization wrought by these new analytic categories makes it increasingly difficult to engage both the domestic U.S. and international or area scholars with our conclusions. The task before us, therefore, in McMahon's view, is "to integrate our work and our perspectives" into the "fresh synthetic and holistic accounts not just of American but of global history" (p. 50). To evoke J. H. Hexter's terminology, it is perhaps time to lump a little after all of the splitting, if only to take stock of all that has been learned of late.
Tension between the particularization of the field and the need for some coherence is not new, of course, but what the contributions in this edition of Explaining make clear is that the tension has been taking on a new shape. Previous attempts to apply grand unifying frameworks failed when those frameworks often proved to be too rigid to apply across the entire chronology of U.S. foreign relations. Now the trouble is that the proliferation of approaches presents almost too many frameworks to pick from even in a relatively confined chronological period like the early Republic, the Gilded Age, or even the cold war. As a result, there is an inherent tension within the volume as different contributors make the case for their approach, or their group of approaches, to be the best hope for a useful overarching framework or interpretive synthesis.
Lingering beneath this tension are the deeper, untouched questions of what the final purpose of studying foreign relations is really to be and which approaches will best serve that purpose--questions that hiring committees evaluating the mountain of applications for the limited number of positions in our field implicitly confront. Just such questions of the pursuit of a grand narrative or utility of such syntheses underlie Frank Costigliola's and Thomas G. Paterson's bumpy primer on the practice of diplomatic history.
In the end, of course, academic inquiry survives and indeed thrives on such unresolved uncertainty. This is precisely why every graduate student or new guild initiate should read all or part of this volume, and scholars already familiar with the first edition should acquire this one as well. If nothing else, this edited collection will enable the newcomers to understand the breadth of the field, the extent of its transformation over the past decade and the growing debate over the way to reconcile the new approaches with the old approaches into some form of synthesis. Moreover, the authors in this work avoided sharp distinctions between approaches, and the pieces often blend into one another in ways that encourage further exploration into new areas. This collection also refreshingly avoids the "post-'45" syndrome that often affects the field, as many of the contributors pointed out the utility and validity of their approaches to the eighteenth and nineteenth as well as the twentieth centuries.
A work such as this one is not without its flaws, however. Hogan and Paterson do not claim to be exhaustive with their selection of approaches. Still, it would have been useful to have included several other distinct approaches that different contributors often subsumed under the larger rubric of "cultural." Environmental, scientific, and technological approaches seemed especially absent, given the great importance of this to the end of the cold war, the resurgence of globalism, and international cultural interaction. Moreover, the growing current importance of international law and international legal norms, on issues such as terrorism, narcotics, and slavery, would cry out for some treatment that would enable diplomatic historians to engage meaningfully with legal historians. Indeed, a glance at the pages of Diplomatic History for the last few years indicates that all of these are areas of interest to foreign relations scholars. At the same time, it appeared to this reviewer that some of the chapters (and even footnote references) overlapped so extensively that they might simply have been combined. Also so problematic as to be worthy of note are the surprising number of formatting and typographical errors that mar this major university press production. A final mention should be made of the strident concern for present affairs and the vehement assertions of political actors' motivations (based ahistorically on minimal evidence) that renders sadly dated an otherwise excellent chapter on what the study of U.S. foreign relations is all about.
Despite these flaws, however, the revised, second edition of Hogan and Paterson's Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations is an excellent, valuable work that should become one of the standard works initiates as well as established scholars read and understand. It will help them to comprehend where this field has come from, where it will be going in the future, and, perhaps, what role they might play in shaping the guild in years to come.
. Michael J. Hogan and Thomas G. Paterson, eds., _Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, First Edition, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
. J. H. Hexter, On Historians, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 241-43.
. See, for example, the debate on corporatism: John Lewis Gaddis, "The Corporatist Synthesis: A Skeptical View," and Michael J. Hogan, "Corporatism: A Positive Appraisal," in Diplomatic History 10 (Fall 1986): pp. 357-72.
. See, for example, the SHAFR Presidential Address by Walter LaFeber, "Technology and U.S. Foreign Relations," Diplomatic History 24, no. 1 (Winter 2000): pp. 1-20.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-diplo.
Jonathan Winkler. Review of Hogan, Michael J.; Paterson, Thomas G., eds., Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations.
H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at email@example.com.