Reframing the interwar peace movement: The curious case of Albert Einstein

Ofer Ashkenazi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The diversity of transnational interrelations within the peace movement has been commonly overlooked in studies on the anti-war struggle in the interwar years. Consequently, these studies have often provided an over-simplified view of the formation of anti-war ideologies, worldviews, and objectives. Contrary to this tendency, this article examines Albert Einstein's engagement with the peace movement in a way that emphasizes its transnational facets. Associating Einstein's worldview with ideas that were prevalent in transnational organizations in the decade preceding the second world war, it explains the scientist's propensity to endorse seemingly incompatible ideas as inherent to the nature of these organizations. Focusing on his relationships with two apparently contradictory organizations-the War Resisters' International and The New Commonwealth Society-I argue that Einstein's views reflect a set of principles that were held by many supporters of both organizations. Mainly, these principles constituted a revision of nineteenth-century liberal thought which sought to marginalize the impact of nationalist sentiments, redefine the social responsibilities of the state, and restrict its sovereignty. Thus, shifting the emphasis to the transnational aspects of the peace movement would not only make sense of Einstein's 'confused' politics, but also shed new light on interwar pacifism, its objectives, popularity, and enduring influence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)741-766
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Volume46
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Albert Einstein
  • Hans Kohn
  • Herbert Runham Brown
  • intellectual crisis
  • pacifism
  • world army

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