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The Great Delusion with Professor John Mearsheimer

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The Great Delusion with Professor John Mearsheimer

The Bush School of Government & Public Service,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

An eminent political scientist says America’s pursuit of liberal hegemony has made the world less safe. 

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Overview
  • Visionary


The United States has pursued a series of costly and ineffective wars since the 1990s and now finds itself at a foreign policy and domestic political crossroads. How did it get to this point? Political theorist and professor John Mearsheimer blames America’s predicament on its pursuit of liberal hegemony after the end of the Cold War. In this thought-provoking video, his “offensive realist” take on geopolitics sets aside partisan labels in favor of the defining identities of liberalism and nationalism, and he outlines how those worldviews play out on the world stage.


Liberalism and nationalism are two distinct political worldviews.

Liberalism is based on two assumptions: first, that humans voluntarily enter into a social contract and second, that individuals are unable to agree on a common set of principles that binds them together. To prevent perpetual religious or political feuds among factions, liberals came up with a three-part solution: First, each individual has inviolable rights and freedoms. Second, freedom of speech arises from the notion that everybody is entitled to an opinion and must tolerate others’ opinions. And third, liberals task the state with protecting people’s rights and freedoms.

Unlike liberalism, nationalism posits that humans are social animals who start out as part of a group or tribe. The nation-state is the prominent form of collective identity today. Nationalists believe that each nation-state...

About the Speaker

John Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

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