Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Power and International Relations: Essays in honour of Coral Bell

Power and International Relations: Essays in honour of Coral Bell
by Desmond Ball &  Sheryn Lee (Editors)Coral

There isn’t a big tradition of festschrift’s in Australia, but thankfully it seems to be emerging. This is the third major book on a scholars work produced by my centre (The Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU) and last year Sydney Uni produced a volume on Neville Meaney.

They’re a welcome addition to the library of any scholar. While we tend to reach for the primary works to hear the author speak directly, it is very instructive -especially for early career researchers- to see a range of scholars focus on the work of another. A book review, or journal article can only ever cover so much, via a work like this you get a full range of opinions and insights into someone’s collected body of work.

This book provides a dozen short essays, from recollections of her early years in the Department of External Affairs, presence at the signing of ANZUS, academic roles in England and Australia and contribution to some of the leading questions of our time on the Cold War, US policy choice and Australia’s alliance relationships. Stand out chapters include Michael Wesley on Coral’s ‘Negotiation from Strength’, Rob Ayson’s chapter on her ‘The Conventions of Crisis’, and Ian Hall who locates her work in the British intellectual tradition of Martin Wight and Hedley Bull. Collectively the authors see Coral as a ‘Optimistic Realist’. A category so common to Australians, so rare anywhere else.

Coral was always someone who I had admired, and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to meet her for an afternoon coffee a few months before she passed away. For those that missed the chance, this is by far the best opportunity to engage with one of Australia’s leading academics, a woman who made major policy and academic contributions through her long and varied life. No less a figure than Henry Kissinger has cited her as one of the leading analysts of the era.

As one colleague has rightly said, “She was our George Keenan in think glasses, blue floral dress, white sneakers and a string of pearls”.

BTW, In fortuitous timing, ANU’s School of International, Political and Strategic Studies is becoming the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs in early February 2015. No better proof could be asked for than this book and the renaming of a major research centre for the respect with which Coral’s work is held by her peers. Hopefully through these changes more Australians will come to learn about this inspiring woman.

This is an ANU E-Press book. Electronic copies can be downloaded for free, or paperback copies purchased on the publishers website.