During the latter half of the 20th century, the realist theory has been criticized as an outdated method which can no longer sufficiently explain the actions of the global community. Critics point to liberalism, another widely accepted theory, as the successor of realism as the dominant theory of international relations. Opponents of realism assert that the Democratic Peace theory is evidence that the theory of realism is no longer complete. If realism were to stand alone, this accusation might have some validity. The development of neorealism helps to explain what realism could not, accounting for global developments since the creation of the theory of realism. Thus, the realist philosophy, with aid from neorealism, remains a credible philosophy that is capable of dealing with the challenges put forth by liberalist critics. This essay will review the realist theory, examine challenges offered by its opponents through the liberalist theory, and discuss how the neorealist theory has negated these challenges and provided a new foundation for the claim that states are the most important actors in world politics in light of a world where armed conflict is no longer the primary fixation of the world’s states.
Realism is a theory, which while formalized in the 20th century, has a long history, dating back thousands of years (Kegley, 27). The theory of realism states that “all [states] must have survival as independent agents as their primary interest” (Waltz ctd. Grieco 602). As the primary interest of any state is its survival, states are compelled to protect their individual interests and maintain an independence critical to that end (Grieco, 602)....
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... themselves as the most important actor. Yet neorealists are quick to disavow the Leviathan and a controlling international power, instead suggesting a set of rules for coexistence and a principle of non-intervention (Walter 73). Neorealism maintains a strong opposition to the claim of any international actor having equal or greater power than the state. It does not deny the existence of international actors, but makes the claim that these actors cannot be more powerful than the state. International actors exist only at the behest of their state sponsors. State actors share the costs of running international organizations and ultimately have control over how international organizations are run (Grieco 618). Thus, while the international institutions exist and have the appearance of independent operation, in reality they are dominated by their state benefactors.
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