Realism is a school of thought in international relations theory, theoretically formalising the Realpolitik statesmanship of early modern Europe. Jonathan Haslam from the University of Cambridge characterizes realism as “a spectrum of ideas. That all states desire power so that they can ensure their own self-preservation. Realism is often associated with Realpolitik as both are based on the management of the pursuit, possession, classical school of management pdf application of power.
This section needs additional citations for verification. Realism is a tradition of international theory centered upon four propositions. States are the most important actors. The primary concern of all states is survival. States build up military to survive, which may lead to a security dilemma. In summary, realists think that mankind is not inherently benevolent but rather self-centered and competitive.
It is also disposed of the notion that an individual’s intuitive nature is made up of anarchy. The state emphasizes an interest in accumulating power to ensure security in an anarchic world. The use of power places an emphasis on coercive tactics being acceptable to either accomplish something in the national interest or avoid something inimical to the national interest. The state is the most important actor under realism. It is unitary and autonomous because it speaks and acts with one voice.
The power of the state is understood in terms of its military capabilities. A key concept under realism is the international distribution of power referred to as system polarity. Polarity refers to the number of blocs of states that exert power in an international system. A multipolar system is composed of three or more blocs, a bipolar system is composed of two blocs, and a unipolar system is dominated by a single power or hegemon.
Under unipolarity realism predicts that states will band together to oppose the hegemon and restore a balance of power. Although all states seek hegemony under realism as the only way to ensure their own security, other states in the system are incentivised to prevent the emergence of a hegemon through balancing. States employ the rational model of decision making by obtaining and acting upon complete and accurate information. The state is sovereign and guided by a national interest defined in terms of power.
Since the only constraint of the international system is anarchy, there is no international authority and states are left to their own devices to ensure their own security. Realists believe that sovereign state are the principal actors in the international system. International institutions, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, individuals and other sub-state or trans-state actors are viewed as having little independent influence. Realists believe that there are no universal principles with which all states may guide their actions.
Instead, a state must always be aware of the actions of the states around it and must use a pragmatic approach to resolve problems as they arise. Kennan’s work as a diplomat and diplomatic historian remain relevant to the debate over American foreign policy, which since the 19th century has been characterized by a shift from the Founding Fathers’ realist school to the idealistic or Wilsonian school of international relations. Realists often hold that statesmen tend towards realism whereas realism is deeply unpopular among the public. When statesmen take actions that divert from realist policies, academic realists often argue that this is due to distortions that stem from domestic politics. Modern realism began as a serious field of research in the United States during and after World War II. This evolution was partly fueled by European war migrants like Hans Morgenthau. Classical realism states that it is fundamentally the nature of humans that pushes states and individuals to act in a way that places interests over ideologies.
Classical realism is an ideology defined as the view that the “drive for power and the will to dominate held to be fundamental aspects of human nature”. The English School holds that the international system, while anarchical in structure, forms a “society of states” where common norms and interests allow for more order and stability than that which may be expected in a strict realist view. Prominent English School writer Hedley Bull’s 1977 classic, The Anarchical Society, is a key statement of this position. Neorealism derives from classical realism except that instead of human nature, its focus is predominantly on the anarchic structure of the international system. States are primary actors because there is no political monopoly on force existing above any sovereign. While neorealism shares a focus on the international system with the English School, neorealism differs in the emphasis it places on the permanence of conflict. To ensure state security, states must be on constant preparation for conflict through economic and military build-up.
It is a synthesis of the neorealist and the classical realist approaches. Gideon Rose is responsible for coining the term in a book review he wrote. Neoclassical realism is particularly appealing from a research standpoint because it still retains a lot of the theoretical rigor that Waltz has brought to realism, but at the same time can easily incorporate a content-rich analysis, since its main method for testing theories is the process-tracing of case studies. Several scholars, including Mark Laffey at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Ronald Osborn at the University of Southern California, have argued for the idea of a “Left Realism” in IR theory with particular reference to the work of Noam Chomsky. Some see a complementarity between realism and constructivism. Samuel Barkin, for instance, holds that “realist constructivism” can fruitfully “study the relationship between normative structures, the carriers of political morality, and uses of power” in ways that existing approaches do not. Democratic peace theory advocates also that realism is not applicable to democratic states’ relations with each another, as their studies claim that such states do not go to war with one another.