The Theory of Realism. RealPolitik or Power Politics. The tenets of realism go back several centuries and appear to many over time as eternal truths. We see much commonality in both ancient and modern thinking about international relations.
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RealPolitik or Power Politics
Realist thinkers include: to many over time as eternal truths.
Sun Tzu (Ancient China)
Thucydides (Ancient Greece)
Machiavelli (Medieval Italy)
Thomas Hobbes (civil war torn England)
Mao Tse Tung (Communist China)
Hans J. Morgenthau (USA 1950s)
They have all come to similar conclusions about the characteristics of the international system that can be grouped together as the theory of realism.
Realism is a theory based on power politics to many over time as eternal truths.
States are most important actors
International system is anarchic and conflict-prone: often zero-sum situations
All States must pursue power to survive
States balance against threats
Morality has no place in international politics
International politics more important than domestic politics.
Value Relative over Absolute Gains
Anarchy makes conflict in the system inevitable. Realists understand the implications of the security dilemma but see them as unavoidable. Anarchy forces states to compete against each other in a self-help system.
To survive, states must try to increase their power by:
To deter aggression by others, states balance against each other so no one country becomes too strong.
Realists typically focus on the balance of power, which may be regional or sometimes used to discuss a dyad of two countries.
The Concert of Europe that emerged after the Napoleonic Wars is a good example.
Problem: The balance of power seems bound to fail in the long-run and could be said to only delay war. Some Realists would disagree.
However, the concept is rather difficult to define and this part of the theory difficult to test.
Why reform Realism?