Article

Realism

Jonathan Cristol

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0042
Realism

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There are many different types of realist theory. “Classical realism” was developed in the 1940s in response to the utopian ideas prevalent during the interwar period and sought to balance moral decision making with the rational pursuit of power. Though many of the realist ideas came from the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and E. H. Carr set “realism” in opposition to “utopianism,” it was Hans J. Morgenthau who developed what was then called “political realism” into a fully formed, comprehensive international relations theory. Kenneth Waltz thought that this theory was not sufficiently scientific and began his construction of “structural realism” (also called “neorealism”) with his 1954 work Man, the State, and War (Waltz 2001, cited under Structural Realism) and produced a fully formed theory in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics (Waltz 1979, cited under Structural Realism). Since its publication, “neorealism” has become synonymous with “realism.” These two strains remain the major theories that can still be considered “realist.” Despite their differences on major issues such as the cause of war and the goal of states’ foreign policy, all realist theories share a few basic concepts that allow them to be considered “realist”: (1) the international system is anarchic, (2) states are the primary actors within that system, and (3) states act in their own interest in pursuit of either power (classical and offensive realism) or security (defensive realism). The key concepts found in realist theory are anarchy, the balance of power, and the national interest.

Article.  8160 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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