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realism

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Chapter 5
Realism
tim dunne · brian c. schmidt
Introduction: the timeless wisdom of realism86
One realism, or many?89
The essential realism93
Conclusion: realism and the globalization of world politics96

Reader’s Guide
Realism is the dominant theory of International Rela­tions. Why? Because it provides the most powerful explanation for the state of war that is the regular condition of life in the international system. This is the bold claim made by realists in defence of their tradition, a claim that will be critically examined in this chapter. The second section will ask whether there is one realism or a variety of realisms. The argument presented below suggests that despite important differences, particularly between classical and structural realism, it is possible to identify a shared core set of assumptions and ideas. The third section outlines these common elements, which we identify as selfhelp, statism, and survival. In the final section, we return to the question of how far realism is relevant for explaining or understanding the globalization of world politics. Although there are many voices claiming that a new set of forces is challenging the Westphalian state system, realists are generally sceptical of these claims, arguing that the same basic patterns that have shaped international politics in the past remain just as relevant today. Introduction: the timeless wisdom of realism

The story of realism most often begins with a mythical tale of the idealist or utopian writers of the interwar period (1919–39). Writing in the aftermath of the First World War, the ‘idealists’, a term that realist writers have retrospectively imposed on the interwar scholars, focused much of their attention on understanding the cause of war so as to find a remedy for its existence. Yet, according to the realists, the interwar scholars’ approach was flawed in a number of respects. For example, they ignored the role of power, overestimated the degree to which...