Is realism ‘realistic’?
Realism by its very name indicates that it emphasises a realistic approach to international relations theory, however the extent to which this is true is thoroughly debated amongst scholars in contemporary society. Realism revolves primarily around the struggle for power amongst self-interested states, with particular emphasis on the desire of survival for each state. Neo-realism became prominent through Waltz and Morgenthau during the early twentieth century to explain the emerging bipolar power balance. The balance of power between states is central to neo-realist theory; however recent changes have uprooted the delicate balance of power. The end of the Cold War, the rise of international institutions and the growth US hegemony has placed liberalism as the predominant international relations theory, displacing great thinkers such as Morgenthau and Waltz from their post WWII political pedestals’. Realism, as a state centric theory, proposes three main ideas; that of statism, self-help and survival, essentially meaning that the state is the highest form of authority and states have to ensure their own survival rather than relying on external support. Many political theories begin with analysis of human nature; in the case of realism human nature is primarily concerned with selfishness resulting in life being ‘solitary, poor, brutish and short’ (Hobbes 2007: Part 1, Book 13). In order to overcome this, groups of people come together to form states which have the ‘absolute authority and credible power to protect [the people] from both internal disorders and foreign enemies and threats’ (Jackson and Sørensen 2007: 65) who then act out the same individual anarchy on a global scale, hence the classic realist security dilemma. Neo-realism is essentially an expansion of the definition of power as a means to security rather than just in regard to militaristic superiority, an attempt to contemporise realism. There are two fundamental problems...
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