Realism And Liberalism : The Cold War Essay

Realism And Liberalism : The Cold War Essay

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Within the broad field of international relations there are two main theoretical methodologies of study – realism and liberalism. Following the Cold War, doubt has been shed on the relevance of a realist approach to international relations, claiming that changing conditions and a modernizing world leave little space for the theory (Waltz, 2000). However, by considering the core tenets of realism, the main criticisms of the theory and responses to these, as well as considering real-world circumstances, it will be argued that realism is by no means obsolete. While critics believe realism no longer plays a part in global politics, it will be argued that it is more relevant than ever in today’s international relations.
The theory of realism outlines an explanation of the global political system which can be used to analyse and view international relations, foreign policy and other interactions within the system. The theory revolves around several main tenets – states are the principle actors in the global system, these states compete to maximize their own power and security, and the world is in a state of anarchy meaning there in no global hierarchy (Mearsheimer, 2002). The first two principles are based on the notions of statism, self-help, survival and sovereignty which explain that states, as the highest authorities of the global system, rely on themselves in order to maximize their security and power to protect and maintain their sovereignty. This is the basis of realism, the state unit is at the centre of international politics and is motivated by power to ensure its own survival. The balance of power theory stems from this. It says that if one state begins to gain enough power to threaten smaller states, weaker states will temp...


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... its key criticisms, and considering practical applications of the theory to major political issues, it seems that realism provides a credible and valuable perspective of international relations. It may be argued that, since the Cold War, conditions have changed, however the system itself has not been altered and, thus, the theory of realism retains its relevance and practicality. In spite of claims that the emergence of non-state actors, globalisation, and unchallenged unipolarity disprove the applicability of realism, proliferation of nuclear weaponry, military expenditure and the continual links of realism to occurrences in global politics contends that it is not obsolete. Despite the appearance of flaws within the realist theory, it remains pertinent to explaining international relations and the way states interact with one another and the anarchic world system.

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