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The Social (and Religious) Meanings that Constitute War: The Crusades as Realpolitik vs. Socialpolitik


  • Author's note: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Chicago, February 21–24, 2001. I gratefully acknowledge the Halbert Program at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for their generous financial support. I am also indebted to Emanuel Adler, Sasson Sofer, Amnon Linder, and the editors and anonymous reviewers of ISQ for their helpful suggestions. Of course, I am solely responsible for any errors of substance or interpretation.


This paper aims to present a different, and thus a more complete, explanation for “wars” in general and the Crusades to the Holy Land in particular than the one given by realist and rationalist theories. It makes its theoretical contribution in the context of a recent debate among several IR scholars, such as John Ruggie, Marcus Fischer, Rodney Bruce Hall, and Friedrich Kratochwil, forwarding the constitutive nature of the explanation of war. Furthermore, it wishes to incorporate into IR research a more sensitive historical research on the Middle Ages and the Crusades, based on French historiography and the Annalists, highlighting the “mentalité” as a cognitive structure that constituted particular interests, patterns of politics, and ultimately the wars of the Crusades. To show the evolution of social institutions, such as norms of Just War, Christian chivalry, and the idea of the Last Emperor into social praxis, this paper also focuses on the crusading life itself through the Hohenstaufen Emperors, Henry VI and Frederick II.