In the discipline of international relations there are contending general theories or theoretical perspectives. Realism, also known as political realism, is a view of international politics that stresses its competitive and conflictual side. It is usually contrasted with idealism or liberalism, which tends to emphasize cooperation. Realists consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side of the realists' emphasis on power and self-interest is their skepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations among states. National politics is the realm of authority and law, whereas international politics, they sometimes claim, is a sphere without justice, characterized by active or potential conflict among states. Not all realists, however, deny the presence of ethics in international relations. The distinction should be drawn between classical realism—represented by such twentieth-century theorists as Reinhold Niebuhr and Hans Morgenthau—and radical or extreme realism. While classical realism emphasizes the concept of national interest, it is not the Machiavellian doctrine “that anything is justified by reason of state” (Bull 1995, 189). Nor does it involve the glorification of war or conflict. The classical realists do not reject the possibility of moral judgment in international politics. Rather, they are critical of moralism—abstract moral discourse that does not take into account political realities. They assign supreme value to successful political action based on prudence: the ability to judge the rightness of a given action from among possible alternatives on the basis of its likely political consequences. Realism encompasses a variety of approaches and claims a long theoretical tradition. Among its founding fathers, Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes are the names most usually mentioned. Twentieth-century classical realism has today been largely replaced by neorealism, which is an attempt to construct a more scientific approach to the study of international relations. Both classical realism and neorealism have been subjected to criticism from IR theorists representing liberal, critical, and post-modern perspectives. * 1. The Roots of the Realist Tradition
* 1.1 Thucydides and the Importance of Power
* 1.2 Machiavelli's Critique of the Moral Tradition
* 1.3 Hobbes's Anarchic State of Nature
* 2. Twentieth Century Classical Realism
* 2.1 E. H. Carr's Challenge of Utopian Idealism
* 2.2 Hans Morgenthau's Realist Principles
* 3. Neorealism
* 3.1 Kenneth Waltz's International System
* 3.2 Objections to Neorealism
* 4. Conclusion: The Cautionary and Positive Character of Realism * Bibliography
* Other Internet Resources
* Related Entries
1. The Roots of the Realist Tradition
1.1 Thucydides and the Importance of Power
Like other classical political theorists, Thucydides (460–411 B.C.E.) saw politics as involving moral questions. Most importantly, he asks whether relations among states to which power is crucial can also be guided by the norms of justice. His History of the Peloponnesian War is in fact neither a work of political philosophy nor a sustained theory of international relations. Much of this work, which presents a partial account of the armed conflict between Athens and Sparta that took place from 431 to 404 B.C.E., consists of paired speeches by personages who argue opposing sides of an issue. Nevertheless, if the History is described as the only acknowledged classical text in international relations, and if it inspires theorists from Hobbes to contemporary international relations scholars, this is because it is more than a chronicle of events, and a theoretical position can be extrapolated from it. Realism is expressed in the very first speech of the...
Bibliography: * Aron, Raymond, 1966. Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations, trans. Richard Howard and Anette Baker Fox, Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
* Ashley, Richard K., 1986. “The Poverty of Neorealism,” in Neorealism and Its Critics, Robert O. Keohane (ed.), New York: Columbia University Press, 255–300.
* Ashley, Richard K., 1988. “Untying the Sovereign State: A Double Reading of the Anarchy Problematique,” Millennium, 17: 227–262.
* Ashworth, Lucian M., 2002. “Did the Realist-Idealist Debate Really Happen? A Revisionist History of International Relations,” International Relations, 16(1): 33–51.
* Brown, Chris, 2001. Understanding International Relations, 2nd ed., New York: Plagrave.
* Beitz, Charles, 1997. Political Theory and International Relations, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* Booth, Ken and Steve Smith (eds.), 1995. International Relations Theory Today, Cambridge: Polity.
* Boucher, David, 1998. Theories of International Relations: From Thucydides to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Bull, Hedley, 1977. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Bull, Hedley, 1995. “The Theory of International Politics 1919–1969,” in International Theory: Critical Investigations, J. Den Derian (ed.), London: MacMillan, 181–211.
* Butterfield, Herbert and Martin Wight (eds.), 1966. Diplomatic Investigations: Essays in the Theory of International Politics, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
* Carr, E. H., 2001. The Twenty Years ' Crisis, 1919–1939: An Introduction to Study International Relations, New York: Palgrave.
* Cawkwell, George, 1997. Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War, London: Routledge.
* Cox, Robert W., 1986. “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory,” in Neorealism and Its Critics, Robert O. Keohane (ed.), New York: Columbia University Press, 204–254.
* Der Derian, James (ed.), 1995. International Theory: Critical Investigations, London: Macmillan.
* Donnelly, Jack, 2000. Realism and International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Doyle, Michael W., 1997. Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism, New York: Norton.
* Gustafson, Lowell S. (ed.), 2000. Thucydides ' Theory of International Relations, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
* Guzzini, Stefano, 1998. Realism in International Relations and International Political Economy: The Continuing Story of a Death Foretold, London: Routledge.
* Harbour, Frances V., 1999. Thinking About International Ethics, Boulder: Westview.
* Hobbes, Thomas, 1660, Leviathan, Edwin Curley (ed.), Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994.
* Hoffman, Stanley, 1981. Duties Beyond Borders: On the Limits and Possibilities of Ethical International Politics, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
* Jackson, Robert and Georg Sørensen, 2003. Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* Kennan, George F., 1951. Realities of American Foreign Policy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* Keohane, Robert O. and Joseph Nye, 1977. Power and Independence: World Politics in Transition, Boston: Houghton Miffin.
* Keohane, Robert O. (ed.), 1986. Neorealism and Its Critics, New York: Columbia University Press.
* Keohane, Robert O., 1989. International Institutions and State Power: Essays in International Relations Theory, Boulder: Westview.
* Korab-Karpowicz, W. Julian, 2006. “How International Relations Theorists Can Benefit by Reading Thucydides,” The Monist, 89(2): 231–43.
* Lebow, Richard Ned, 2003. The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests and Orders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Linklater, Andrew, 1990. Beyond Realism and Marxism: Critical Theory and International Relations, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
* Machiavelli, Niccolò, 1531, The Discourses, 2 vols., trans. Leslie J. Walker, London: Routledge, 1975.
* Machiavelli, Niccolò, 1515, The Prince, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1985.
* Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr., 1979. Machiavelli 's New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
* Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr., 1996. Machiavelli 's Virtue, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
* Maxwell, Mary, 1990. Morality among Nations: An Evolutionary View, Albany: State University of New York Press.
* Mearsheimer, John J., 1990. “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International Security, 19: 5–49.
* Mearsheimer, John J., 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, New York: Norton.
* Meinecke, Friedrich, 1998. Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison d 'État in Modern History, trans. Douglas Scott. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
* Morgenthau, Hans J., 1946. Scientific Man Versus Power Politics, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
* Morgenthau, Hans J., 1951. In Defense of the National Interest: A Critical Examination of American Foreign Policy, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
* Morgenthau, Hans J., 1954. Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 2nd ed., New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
* Morgenthau, Hans J., 1970. Truth and Power: Essays of a Decade, 1960–1970, New York: Praeger.
* Nardin, Terry and David R. Mapel, 1992. Traditions in International Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1932. Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics, New York: Charles Scriber 's Sons.
* Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1944. The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense, New York: Charles Scribner & Sons.
* Pocock, J. G. A., 1975. The Machiavellian Movement: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Political Tradition, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* Rosenau, James N. and Marry Durfee, 1995. Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World, Boulder: Westview.
* Russell, Greg, 1990. Hans J. Morgenthau and the Ethics of American Statecraft, Baton Rouge: Luisiana State University Press.
* Smith, Steve, Ken Booth, and Marysia Zalewski (eds.), 1996. International Theory: Positivism and Beyond, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Thompson, Kenneth W., 1980. Masters of International Thought, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
* Thompson, Kenneth W., 1985. Moralism and Morality in Politics and Diplomacy, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
* Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972.
* Thucydides. On Justice, Power, and Human Nature: The Essence of Thucydides ' History of the Peloponnesian War, ed. and trans. Paul Woodruff, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.
* Vasquez, John A., 1998. The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Waltz, Kenneth, 1979. Theory of International Politics, Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
* Walzer, Michael, 1977. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, New York: Basic Books.
* Wendt, Alexander, 1987. “Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics,” International Organization, 46: 391–425.
* Wendt, Alexander, 1999. Social Theory of International Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Weaver, Ole, 1996. “The Rise and the Fall of the Inter-Paradigm Debate,” in International Theory: Positivism and Beyond, Steven Smith, Ken Booth, and Marysia Zalewski (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 149–185.
* Wight, Martin, 1991. International Theory: Three Traditions, Leicester: University of Leicester Press.
* Williams, Mary Frances, 1998. Ethics in Thucydides: The Ancient Simplicity, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document