The realist view of international politics posits that, essentially, there is no legitimate international authority. In this context, authority could mean the ability of a collective of governments, or other international body, to enforce its own rules and regulations on an individual state. Conceptually, the idea is similar to one put forward by the sociologist Max Weber, namely, that authority can be reduced to a specific body or, in his specific case, a state, which “(successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Weber cited in Blakely and Saward, 2009, p.361). It is important to note the source of any government’s power, both in a time when force is not necessary and, ultimately even when force becomes necessary, stems from the people being governed. As Bromley and Clarke write, “Authority … relies on consent from those over whom it is exercised” (Bromley and Clarke, 2009, p. 328). Working with this definition of authority, the realist view posits that it is plain to see that no interna...
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...tates based on a framework of international law and respect for human rights and sovereign equality was, to a very large extent, checked by the opposition between the superpowers during the Cold War” (2009, p. 413). Ultimately, international authority does exist, contingent upon the member states’ agreement, as Bromley and Clarke write “Authority has to be earned and thus has to be created and sustained, and sometimes repaired and reinvented, on a continuous basis” (2009, p. 328); there remains, however, an ability for a state to opt out of this self-imposed international order and act independently, for self-serving interests. In the final analysis, we are left with an uneasy dichotomy, a tight-rope balancing act, whereby states constantly renew and redefine the international order and authority whilst maintaining their right to buck the trend if the need arises.
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