Nicolas Guilhot on when political theology became international relations theory:
While nobody would deny that international relations theory is a secular social science, especially in its “realist” guise, it is interesting to note that a number of commentators and historians of the discipline often turn to religious metaphors in order to characterize some of its core features or talk about its main thinkers. Such eschatological or theological references run indeed throughout the literature, like a faint but always present watermark. Recent titles are no exception: “wizards of Armageddon,” “theologians of war,” “new Leviathan,” “anti-Pelagian imagination…” These references are too pervasive, too ubiquitous to be treated as mere coincidences. They point at a theological substratum that once provided an explicit background against which a number of central concepts of IR theory resonated, when the discussion of international affairs still involved not only scholars but also public intellectuals, diplomats, historians, political theorists and, last but not least, theologians, many of whom considered themselves “Christian realists.” Obviously, the figure of Reinhold Niebuhr loomed large over these discussions. One of the most influential commentators of international events of the 1940s and 1950s and, in the words of Kennan expressing the feeling of his fellow realists, “the father of us all,” Niebuhr certainly represented a realistic approach to international affairs informed by moral and theological considerations. But such considerations pervaded the early search for a “theory’ and were common to a group of individuals who actively discussed the shape of the future discipline. Convened by the Rockefeller Foundation, this group included among others Kenneth Thompson, George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, Arnold Wolfers, none of whom shied away from the occasional foray into theological matters.
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