Realism International Relations

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2. Why is power central to realist perspectives of International Relations?
The discipline of international relations (IR) contains several theories that contain theoretical perspectives to the idea of power. Within the realist perspective there are two approaches that help paint the portrait of the realist theory, the classical approach to realism and the neo-realist approach. Classical realism and neorealism both have been subjected to criticism from IR scholars and theorists representing liberal and constructivist perspectives. The key tenets to realism contain three essential characteristics of international relations which are the state, anarchy and the balance of power. This essay will closely analyse all three characteristics with special regards to power being central to the realist perspective.

The oxford dictionary has attempted to define power as the “ability to influence people or control the behaviour of people”. Power has been related to different forms such as political economic, military and even psychological. Power has widely been considered to be the classic determinant of conflict between interstates. Realists view power as a source of state preference. Animosity is constantly caused around power relations which in turn determine why states go to war and why politicians emphasize the role of power in conditioning distance. There is a non-linear relationship of power between the plural perspectives of realism. Realists consider states to be the principal actors in international relations as they are deeply concerned with the security of their own nation especially for the pursuit of national interest. However with this perspective there has been some scepticism with regards to the relevancy of morality and ethi...

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... anarchy to be autonomous via threats, coercion and by ‘soft power’. Using coercion is hard power. Persuasion and attraction is soft power.

Realism is a theory essentially about power and security, states seek power and security because they exist in a self-help system, people seek power, people seek prestige most of all they seek autonomy. Realists don’t believe in the utopian levelled ‘scheme that would provide a perpetual peace in the world, all states are alike functionally, they all need to perform similar tasks to function. With this in mind Power is historically unsurpassable, which is why the realists believe that if states do not have the capability to protect themselves with special regards to their military capabilities, their nation will not be secure nor will they be able to perpetuate themselves in an anarchic international system.

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