Idealism and Realism in International Relation

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Peter Wilson

Idealism in international relations
Book section

Original citation: Originally published in Dowding, K., Encyclopedia of power. Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications, 2011, pp. 332-333. © 2011 SAGE Publications This version available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/41929/ Available in LSE Research Online: April 2012 LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk) of the LSE Research Online website. This document is the author’s submitted version of the book section. There may be differences between this version and the published version. You are advised to consult the publisher’s version if you wish to cite from it.

Idealism in International Relations (For K. Dowding (ed.), Encyclopedia of Power, Sage 2011) In general parlance on international matters, idealism is a term applied to any idea, goal, or practice considered to be impractical. Thus eradicating nuclear weapons is considered idealistic, as is substituting open for secret diplomacy, entrusting international security to the UN, creating an African Union on the model of the EU, or the global eradication of poverty and injustice. The bases of such judgments are rarely made explicit, but they usually rest on a pessimistic reading of human nature along with an historical judgment on the difficulty of peaceably achieving radical change in world affairs.

In the professional study of international relations (IR), the term is generally employed in two ways: one broad, one narrow. The broad...
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