Key Differences Between Realism and Neo Realism

Topics: International relations, Realism, International relations theory Pages: 8 (2792 words) Published: March 23, 2011
aberdWhat are the key differences between Realism and Neo-Realism?

Theories provide something better than just guessing, they offer a systematic and coherent way of conceptualizing about the world we live in. Theories act as ‘lenses’ through which we look at and understand the social phenomena and the dimensions that characterize Politics and International Relations. Every theory is based on an assumption and backed by facts. Theory is a testable concept or idea. In science, a theory is not merely a guess. A theory is a fact-based framework for describing certain occurrence. Scholars have tried to systematize ideas in a more consistent and more logical way than just intuition, and this results in theories in general. The advantage of studying theories of International Relations is that it allows to conduct a more sophisticated analysis of thought about International Relations. Certain theories highlight several things and can also act as ‘blinkers’ that do not allow scholars to look beyond a specific range, theories ask certain questions and leave some untouched. Theories of International relations are divided into two groups, problem solving and critical ones. Problem solving theories look at the world as it is and address issues according to existing system, critical theory on the other hand asks the questions of origin of the existing system and may challenge them. Both of the theories that this essay will concentrate on belong to the problem solving group of concepts. Realism is the oldest and probably most commonly adopted theory of international relations, highly valued among scholars and students. The author of this essay will analytically discuss the key differences between realism and neo-realism, by comparing and contrasting the two. Classical Realism

“Realism is a term that is used in a variety of ways in many different disciplines. In philosophy, it is an ontological theory opposed to idealism and nominalism. ‘Scientific realism’ is a philosophy of science opposed variously to empiricism, instrumentalism, verificationism and positivism. ‘Realism’ in literature and cinema is opposed to romanticism and ‘escapist’ approaches. In international Relations, political realism is a tradition of analysis, which stresses imperatives that states face to pursue a power politics of the national interest. (Jack Donnelly, 2005:29) Although Political Realism as a study of International Relations did not emerge until after WWII, it is possible to trace its roots in the history within the intellectual works of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes. Realism is based on an assumption that men as a unit is selfish and egocentric by its nature and is driven by the desire of power. Units are organized into states from which each and every one acts in their own national interest. This self interest can be defined in terms of power. States exist in an international society characterized by the lack of superior and hierarchal defined authority (anarchy). Under such conditions states are forced to rely purely on their own capabilities. Their main task is to deal with the uncertainty caused by the anarchic system; therefore states do everything to stay ahead of, or at least balance out the power of other states. “Statesmanship thus involves mitigating and managing, not eliminating, conflict; seeking a less dangerous world, rather than a safe, just or peaceful one”. (Jack Donnelly, 2005:29) At least four of the primary assumptions of Realism can be found in Thucydides Peloponnesian War. Firstly, for Thucydides state (Athens or Sparta) is the main actor and decision maker in regards to war or politics – exactly the same as what modern realists claim. They acknowledge involvement of other participants in the affairs (for example international institutions), but do not find them to be of any importance or influence. Secondly, Thucydides assumes that state is a unitary actor. Despite describing fascinating disputes between citizens of the...

Bibliography: * Burchill, Linklater, Devetak, Donelly, Paterson, Reus-Smith and True, (2005) Theories of International Relations, Macmillan Press LTD
* Donnelly, Jack,(2000), Realism &International Relations, Cambridge University Press,
Thucydides and the ancient simplicity: the limits of political realism google books
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