This school of thought focuses on ways in which power affects the international arena by assessing how states influence each other as the most important actors in world politics. Realpolitik pays attention to political power matters such as military preparedness and industrial capacities, ignoring issues of morality, ideology and other social aspects as reasons for actions of states. In this way, realism sets up a strong framework for understanding short-term, interstate relationships, yet leaves the comprehension of deeper, long-term issues weak in the background. Power politics maintains that human nature is generally selfish. This belief comes from their understanding of the trends in international relations.
Each theory offers reasons why state and people behave the way they do when confronted with questions such as power, anarchy, state interests and the cause of war. Realists have a pessimistic view about human nature and they see international relations as driven by a states self preservation and suggest that the primary objective of every state is to promote its national interest and that power is gained through war or the threat of military action. Liberalism on the other hand has an optimistic view about human nature and focuses on democracy and individual rights and that economic independence is achieved through cooperation among states and power is gained through lasting alliances and state interdependence.
Each definition has its strengths and weaknesses, but often is the culmination of the writer's broader philosophical positions. For example, the notion that wars only involve states-as Clausewitz implies-belies a strong political theory that assumes politics can only involve states and that war is in some manner or form a reflection of political activity. 'War' defined by Webster's Dictionary is a state of open and declared, hostile armed conflict between states or nations, or a period of such conflict. This captures a particularly political-rationalistic account of war and warfare, i.e., that war needs to be explicitly declared and to be between states to be a war. We find Rousseau arguing this position: "War is constituted by a relation between things, and not between persons…War then is a relation, not between man and man, but between State and State…" (The Social Contract).
For the purpose of this essay, I will assess the strengths and weaknesses of Neo-Classical Realism; focusing on the theory’s core assumptions about the International System and how it interacts with units. I will discuss the theory in relation to the international politics of the region, with particular reference to the build up to the Iran-Iraq war. Neo-Classical Realism has updated and systematized certain insights from Classical Realism , as well as incorporated key tenets from other Realist paradigms. For Realists, the International System is anarchic; creating the conditions of self-help and a balance of power, both of which determine state behaviour . Proponents of Neo-Classical Realism contend that it is relative power in particular which determines a state’s foreign policy .
Utilizing an absence of conflict between democratic nations as the basis for the theory, Spiro identifies that proponents of Democratic Peace assert two aspects of the theory (Spiro, 1994). One is an institutional or structural belief, whereby such factors as public opinion, or checks and balances amongst the government constrain the likelihood of war. The other, is an ideological belief, whereby the liberal values of such regimes strive for peaceful interactions and constrain conflict. Democratic Peace Theory would therefore discredit the realist perspectives for interstate conflict which focus upon a sovereign state’s strategic interest within an anarchic world sphere. The theory has achieved status of dogma in many circles, but nevertheless has its share of critics who subscribe to the realist theory such as David Spiro and Bruce Russett.
When compared, these theories are different in many ways and argue on a range of topics. The topics include the role of the individual and the use of empirical data or science to explain rationally. They also have different ideological approaches to political structure, political groups, and the idea that international relations are in an environment of anarchy. To fully appreciate these differences and arguments, realism and constructivism must be defined briefly. Realism can be broken down to its core understanding that the international system is anarchic and it consists of political actors known as states.
Despite the emergence of alternative approaches, realism remains the dominant theoretical perspective towards world politics. Realism is the traditional path that emphasizes the centrality of the state on the world stage and the pursuit of national self-interest above all else. Realism tends to be extremely pessimistic, hence the influencers of realism: Thomas Hobbes and Hans Morgenthau believe that humans by nature are selfish, aggressive, violent, unlikely to change, and that conflict is inevitable. Why have people become like that? What are major predictions by realism?
The balance of power is closer with first great debate. The realists also diverge on some issues. So-called offensive Realists maintain that, in order to ensure survival, States will seek to maximize their power relative to others (Mearsheimer 2001). If rival countries possess enough power to threaten a State, it can never be safe. The hegemony is thus the best strategy for a country to pursue, if it can.
There is a complicated history between the two countries which have been influenced by other states which turned the countries into what they are today. So to study international relations means to study theories and history to be able to practically use your knowledge to understand of influence a situation. Two main theories in international relations are the theory of Realism and the theory of Liberalism. Both theories have a common goal which is to be able to deal with international situations involving state and non-state actors however both deal with the situation in vastly different ways. The theory of Realism believes that the state is the most important actor, that states and their actions in the international system are motivated by self-survival and self-interest.
Structural realism is another term for neorealism, and both will be used interchangeably in the following case study. Aside from these shared values that both reflect, the two forms of realism both present very different or conflicting views on state behaviour. For one, neorealists believe “the international system is defined by anarchy—the absence of a central authority” (Slaughter 2) and that states take action based on the possibility of conflict, always looking at a worst-case scenario, whereas postclassical realists believe that states make decisions and take actions based on the probability of an attack or act of aggression from other states (Brooks 446). To expand on neorealism’s possibility outlook, Kenneth Waltz argues, “in the absence of a supreme authority [due to anarchy], there is then constant possibility that conflicts will be settled by force” (Brooks 447). Neorealists look at the possibility of conflict due to the potential cost of war, due to