• Created by: KDallers-
  • Created on: 10-05-19 01:29


Realism operates on THREE OBJECTIVE FACTS

- Sovereign nation-states at the core of politics, - a lack of world government, and - a lack of an orderer; leads to INTERNATIONAL ANARCHY

Forde: ANARCHY AND FEAR ARE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT; Thucydides: 'fear is the ultmiate motive for warfare'

- Has a pessimistic view of human nature

- Discussion of power, security dilemmas, and war - tries to answer the question "WHY DO WARS OCCUR?"

- Different types: CLASSICAL AND NEO; also strategic, offensive, neoclassical

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Classical Realism

Developed post-WWI, interwar and World War II; wanted to answer 'why do wars occur?'           - Thucydides: power is the reason for warfare - Peloponnesian War - Melos; should not have resisted Athenian invasion

- Machiavelli - should remove ethics from politics; morality has no place in international relations; need to use cunning and be a 'lion or fox'; PRIVATE ETHICS not linked to PUBLIC ETHICS

- Morgenthau - KEY THEORIST - critical of idealism in US foreign policy; - Proposed a rational theory which discusses the role of power; power is the central concept to international relations; - Power helps achieve goals

- NEGATIVE VIEW OF HUMAN NATURE - this is central - Morgenthau 'man is tainted' and men believe badly due to Hobbes' state of nature - have to act with self-interest and amorality to escape this

- Human interests emerge from power; power = international politics; also a normative theory, recommending how states should act; sees a need for a BALANCE OF POWER for a state to be happy                                                                                                                                                - 6 principles; nation-state interest, universal power, amorality, autonomous politics, self-centred  human nature, power is amoral also - ATTEMPTS TO BE PRAGMATIC

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Predicated on the absolute dominance of security as an interest and self-preservation; as there is no international 'orderer' to facilitate this, force is central and CONFLICT IS CENTRAL - developed during the COLD WAR

- WALTZ - key theorist - rejects human nature argument of classical realism - "cannot by itself explain both war and peace" 1959; more systemic, focussing on social structures and the international system as the central point of analysis

- CONCERNS: Why bipolarity made the world stable; How did US hegemony decline; How do war and peace occur

- A STATE-CENTRIC APPROACH, but looks at how security issues are constituted - three levels: INDIVIDUAL (war comes from selfishness and stupidity; due to social influences) - STATE-LEVEL (there are 'good' and 'bad' states, but both can make war - INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM (lack of order(er), no law, leads to ANARCHY and the use of force to accumulate power

- Focusses on the INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM and 'high politics' of security - the 'capabilities' of a state give it power - little cooperation due to anarchy, however the BALANCE OF POWER is central - LINKS FEAR TO ANARCHY; is this a DETERMINIST THEORY?                                         - Balance of power - occurs in unipolar/bipolar systems (Cold War) - multipolar = danger

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Other forms of Realism

STRATEGIC - Thomas Schelling - asks why foreign policy decisions are made? How do statespeople deal with war? How is power used: try to use power intelligently without exhibiting fear; various FOREIGN POLICY options - FORCE, COERCION, DIPLOMACY? 

OFFENSIVE - John Mearsheimer - links to Waltzian 'defensive' neorealism and looks at bipolarity/multipolarity - argues that MULTIPOLARITY is more LINKED TO VIOLENCE; the Cold War was peaceful due to M.A.D, however multipolarity is 'prone to instability'

- RESPONSE: - great powers seek HEGEMONY; often REGIONAL HEGEMONY - such as Russia in Crimea; a 'scientific' approach, seeking to explain EMPIRICAL EVENTS

NEOCLASSICAL - states are constrained by the international framework and by foreign policy decisions; accepts elements of classical realism (human nature etc.), but links this to anarchy of neorealism


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Concept of Power and the Balance of Power

POWER is central to all REALIST THOUGHT - due to the 'state of nature' or international anarchical system (neorealist), states seek a response to guarantee survival and self-preservation - response is to ACCUMULATE AS MUCH POWER AS POSSIBLE

- This is predicated on the FEAR of other nations; more POWER garners more FEAR from other states, leading to GREATER RESPECT on the international system and more power

BALANCE OF POWER - the BoP is an OBJECTIVE of the international system, and the idea of an ORDER in the international system

- BIPOLARITY - respects the balance of power as only two states sharing; whereas MULTIPOLARITY is more dangerous - links to Mearsheimer

- However, is the balance of power a goal? When military powers interact, are they seeking to RESTORE THE BALANCE OF POWER? 

- More 'liberal realist' idea of a 'soft balance of powers', where social values are respected and POWER is restricted in this sense

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Criticisms of Realism


- HUMAN NATURE (a generalisation as not all humans pursue power - very much an ideological conception of human kind; also Machiavelli is questionable), - POWER (vague concept - Morgenthau makes no attempt to explain what power is or what it does), - NARROW (no state level approach, no distinction between 'good' and 'bad' states, no understanding of international level - Waltz; more of a THEORY OF FOREIGN POLICY?)


- NEOINSTITUTIONALISM (beliefs of Keohane - see the international system as more positive-sum and cooperation as possible; a more LIBERAL understanding); - CONSTRUCTIVISM (anarchy is what states make of it - Wendt - the structure of the system is moulded by discourse and by states; not actually all about vying for power and self-preservation), - CONTRADICTIONS (if one section of realist theory fails, so does the whole thing - if humans do not behave badly, there cannot be any international anarchy - the theory may be Westerncentric; poor, weak nations may band together to challenge stronger nations - core/periphery idea of world systems, Wallerstein)

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Key Realist Thinkers


- Thucydides, Niccolo Machiavelli, Hans Morgenthau, E.H Carr, George Kennan


- Kenneth Waltz (defensive), John Mearsheimer (offensive)


Concept of 'bandwagoning' (cooperation) - Schweller

Book authors: Schieder and Spindler, Schornig, Sorenson and Jackson, Cynthia Weber (Waltzian realism)

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