Professor S. N. Jaffe on Risks and Rewards of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War
A scholar of Thucydides as well as of American foreign policy, Dr. Jaffe is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at John Cabot University and the author of Thucydides on the Outbreak of War: Character and Contest (Oxford University Press, 2017). His research focuses on Classical Political Thought, International Relations, and the History of International Political Thought. In Fall 2017 Prof. Jaffe will be teaching World Politics, Introduction to Political Theory, and the International Affairs Senior Seminar.
The article opens with a reflection on the influence of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War on the Trump White House and explains the concept of a “Thucydides trap,” a phrase coined by political scientist Graham Allison to describe the phenomenon of a rising power inspiring fear in a maintaining power, which can all too easily lead to war.
Prof. Jaffe offers a theoretical framing of the Thucydides trap and provides suggestions as to how to approach Thucydides profitably. An Athenian citizen, Thucydides was a younger contemporary of Socrates, a military man, a political exile and a profoundly astute observer of human events. His book, now known as the History of the Peloponnesian War, is arguably the greatest extant prose work from the fifth century B.C.E. in Greece, a masterpiece of Greek political thought, and a revealing study of the first democracy at war.
Read Jaffe’s article “The Risks and Rewards of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War”