John Gray

Get Real

The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities


Yale University Press 328pp £20 order from our bookshop

‘Liberal hegemony’, writes John Mearsheimer, ‘is an ambitious strategy in which a state aims to turn as many countries as possible into liberal democracies like itself while also promoting an open international economy and building international institutions. In essence, the liberal state seeks to spread its own values far and wide.’ Mearsheimer believes that the pursuit of liberal hegemony has had a disastrous effect on American foreign policy. Since the end of the Cold War, the results have included a succession of costly and failed wars, a powerful backlash that has resulted in the emergence of nationalist and fundamentalist movements and a massive reduction in America’s global authority.

A long-standing advocate of realism in international relations, Mearsheimer argues that in the case of the USA the alternative to pursuing liberal hegemony is a much more restrained foreign policy that aims chiefly to promote the American national interest. Adopting this limited approach would enable needless wars to be avoided and in future allow the equivalent of the $5 trillion estimated to have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan to be used in renewing American infrastructure. A realist foreign policy might even restore the primacy the USA possessed in the unipolar world that followed the collapse of the USSR.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,