Realism is a popular concept used to interpret events in international relations theory. This philosophy was introduced to early modern Europe to formalize Realpolitik statesmanship. The teachings contain a highly diverse body of thought. The followers converged on the belief that world politics is always a field of conflict. This understanding explains the various actors pursuing wealth and power. The realism theories are based on highly influential cooperative ideals of liberalism in international relations. Scholars have divided followers of Realism into three distinct categories. These categories are formed based on the follower’s view of the direct causes of interstate conflict.
- The followers placed into the Classical realism bracket argue that interstate conflict often arises due to the flaws found in human nature.
- Neorealism stems from the belief that human nature is characterized by a struggle for survival in an anarchical international system. Because of this, states are always seeking to maximize their own power in order to ensure their survival. This results in a constant state of tension and conflict between states
- Structural realism is subdivided into two categories (Defensive and offensive realism).
- Realism is a diverse philosophy based on a spectrum of ideas. Numerous central propositions help scholars explain events.
Realism teaches that states are the central actors. When issues arise in international politics, these actors are the key negotiators. It is vital to understand the difference as it is not the leaders of the state or international organizations who are central. The citizens elect the leaders in a democracy, and these officials must execute the people’s will. This authority is derived from the people at the centre of the state. State-centrism is best suited for democratic processes as it puts citizens at the centre domestically and internationally in political affairs.
Given that countries have different political systems, there is likely to be anarchy when nations must work together. Undoubtedly, the extreme diversity in governance policies between various sovereign nationals will lead to a chaotic international political system. No government, court or organization can operate as a supranational authority to enforce relations between two sovereign countries. Realism argues that, in this case, countries should place the needs of their citizens first. This choice is considered rational, and it is assumed all other leaders will do the same for their citizens.
Rationality and/or egoism
The rational clause in Realism offers a solution to deal with the anarchy caused by individual state actions. This concept argues that all leaders and their states will take rational decisions to protect their self-interests. This manifesto is key to participating in any international negotiations.
Realists believe that to achieve their core agenda; states need power. Any leader elected to serve the nation will seek power. Power is critical to ensuring the self-preservation of their nation. This power is often acquired through military operations and the innovation of technological systems in the country. Realism assumes that every nation is seized with inventing ways of gaining more power.
Realism is often associated with realpolitik. This concept shares similarities with Realism as it deals with the pursuit, possession, and application of power. This older philosophy was designed as a powerful acquisition tool. It is considered a prescriptive guideline that is mainly applied to policy-making. Realism is different because it covers a broader theoretical and methodological paradigm. Many scholars and politicians have used Realism to describe, explain, and predict international relations events.
Realism is not considered a religion; however, it is a valuable tool in academia. The practice of Realism doesn’t think of ideology to help predict and understand the behavior of nations. The philosophies and teachings of Realism are bound to any ideology making it applicable to those with various moral perspectives.
Disadvantages of Realism
Political Realism stresses the competitive and conflictual side of international relations. It directly contradicts idealism and liberalism as these philosophies emphasize cooperation between nations. Realism argues that partnership should only benefit the country’s security, national interests, and its acquisition of power.
Realism can become a disadvantage as it over-emphasizes power and self-interest. This prioritization leads to these theorists overlooking the relevance of ethical norms among nations. National politics may fall under authority and law; however, international politics typically experiences active or potential conflict.
The key differentiating factor for realists is that they are only critical of moralism. They argue these scholars need to take into account political realities. Successful political action is overvalued in this system as they base reward on prudence. This concept relies heavily on the ability to judge the rightness of a given action. The correct answer is usually derived from possible alternatives based on the political consequences.
Modern Realism understands that powerful nations can concede spheres of influence to other powerful countries. This factor pushes realists to seek the power of one’s government over others. Realists commonly critique liberal foreign policy because they are taught to prioritize Machiavellian ideals.