Critically Evaluate Post War Realist Explanation Of International Politics With Reference To Power

2541 words - 11 pages




Module: Introduction to International Relations (Pols 411)

First Semester, 2008

Instructor (Lecturer): Ms. Lena Thompson

Name: Josephus J. Ellie

Final Year, History and Politics

Essay Topic: “Critically Evaluate Post War Realist Explanation of International Politics with Particular Reference to Power”


The tradition of political realism – realpolitik, power politics – has a long history that is typically traced back to the great Greek historian Thucydides in the fifth century BC. Although dominant attitudes towards realism have ...view middle of the document...

The essence of this assignment is to critically assess the post-war realist explanation of international politics with particular emphasis on power. In trying to do so, I will first briefly examine few definitions of realism in relation to the topic, look at the concept of post-war realism in international relations from a broader perspective, and I will also narrow it down to the evaluation of the propositions of one of the key proponents of post-war realism in international politics, Hans J. Morgenthau as criticized by Robert Kaufman[2] .

Definition of Realism
Realism is one of the key theories of international relations, and it contributes to the framework of ideologies within it. It helps to shape the views and consensus of International Relations. However, it is a highly controversial theory due to the fact there are no clear definitions of realism. Thus, there have been various definitions of realism, even though for the purpose of this assignment I will be limited to a few.
According to Beer and Hariman[3], realism is the traditional, historical theory of international relations, reformulated in recent years as neo-realism. It includes important narratives, among which are stories of itself and of the world. Realism presents itself as the primary actor in the world of theory, with greater power than other theories. Its firm story of world politics includes: the following important elements. (1) Nation states are the primary characters of world politics. (2) Nation states are ranked by their power, measured mostly in terms of material capabilities, especially military force. (3) Nation states conduct their foreign policies on the basis of national interest defined in terms of power. They calculate and compare benefits and costs of alternative policies and use all available means, including war. (4) The competition for power is permanent and ubiquitous. (Beer and Hariman, 1996)
“Realists believe that Sovereign states are the principal actors in the international system, and special attention is afforded to large powers as they have the most influence on the international stage. International institutions, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, individuals and other sub-state or trans-state actors are viewed as having little independent influence. States are inherently aggressive (offensive realism) and/or obsessed with security (defensive realism), and that territorial expansion is only constrained by opposing power(s)…..[4]”

An Assessment of the Post-War Realist Explanation of International politics

Realism, constructs a simple, inflexible narrative of world politics. Realist science parsimoniously describes a system in which the main characters are nation states, motivated by power interests, locked in a permanent structure of deadly combat.
However, with the end of the Cold War and the transformation of the international environment, critics have increasingly attacked this view. They believe that...

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