Strength and Weaknesses of Classical Realism

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Strength and Weaknesses of Classical Realism

By | May 2012
Page 1 of 3
Classical Realism, with its implication that humans are intrinsically evil, is often characterized as a pessimistic analysis of human nature. While this characterization is undeniably true, Classical Realism should not be reduced to merely a cynical view of politics. Philosophically, Classical Realism is the epitome of the modern philosophical departure from ancient Greek philosophy, especially under Aristotle who contends that human nature is a “tabula rasa.” As our worldview changes, so do our views pertaining to politics. In this essay, we examine some of the strengths and weaknesses of Classical Realism in international affairs. One the greatest strengths of Classical Realism is that it recognizes the similarities between the domestic political sphere and the global political sphere. In both, community and a sense of common values are pre-conditions for stability. Thus, Classical Realism gives us insight as to why violence has decreased dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century. Classical Realists contend that the decreased violence is the result of identity shifts through liberal democracies’ forceful integration of states into the liberal democratic “world community.” In contrast to Liberalism, Classical Realism asserts that the deterring of conflict is not correlated to the material effects of economic integration. Instead, it has to do with the shared feeling of community within the liberal democratic states. Democracies and advocates of liberal economies tend to expand and sustain this community through exercising their power in the name of justice and differentiating themselves from outsiders. Given the decreased amount of conflict in today’s world, there is still violence from those who oppose the liberal democratic “world community.” One may ask, how would a Classical Realist explain the “irrationality” behind these aggressors?? Unlike Liberalism, Classical Realism recognizes the need for theory to be in touch with concrete...