The misanthropy diaries: Containment, democracy, and the prejudices of George Frost Kennan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter studies George Frost Kennan’s diaries that the historian Frank Costigliola published in 2014. Kennan has long been renowned for having formulated the containment doctrine that guided American policymakers as they lurched through the Cold War, as well as for his significant role in shaping US foreign policy as both a diplomat and thinker. Over many decades, biographers, foreign policy hands, politicians, intellectuals, and journalists have showered Kennan with praise and hailed him as the prime example of a grand strategist. For all the scholarly disputes about Kennan, there is general agreement that he was correct about many of the most vital issues of his time, and his “realism” has often been treated as a model from which subsequent American policymakers departed at their peril. Still, as Kennanologists have long known, there is more to the story. His acclaimed 1951 study, American Diplomacy, included disparaging statements about democracy, and his writing exhibited nasty, misanthropic, and aristocratic currents. The chapter then considers the relationship between Kennan’s personal prejudices and his political ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRethinking American Grand Strategy
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780190695668
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • American policymakers
  • Cold war
  • Containment doctrine
  • Democracy
  • Diplomacy
  • George Frost Kennan
  • Grand strategist
  • Kennanologists
  • Realism
  • US foreign policy


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