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Review Essay

Realism's Illiberal Roots

And Its Revival in American Politics

In This Review

After the Enlightenment: Political Realism and International Relations in the Mid-Twentieth Century
After the Enlightenment: Political Realism and International Relations in the Mid-Twentieth Century
By Nicolas Guilhot
Cambridge University Press, 2017, 258 pp. Purchase

For a U.S. president who supposedly lacks a coherent ideology, Donald Trump has surrounded himself with political ideologues of the first order. Commentators, in turn, have shown a continued fascination with what Trump’s advisers are reading. Part of this curiosity is because of the unfamiliarity, and the perceived political danger, of the extreme-right thinkers whom White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon admires—Julius Evola, Alexander Dugin, and Charles Maurras, for example—and the promise that their works will elucidate the intellectual currents driving Trump’s policies.

As Bannon’s power in the administration has decreased, there has remained a fervent desire to discover the ideas influencing the administration. The most recent case in point is journalist Michael Crowley’s highly cited Politico article “Why the White House Is Reading Greek History.” Crowley reported that Trump’s advisers have a marked obsession with the writings of the ancient Greek

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