Power Politics: The Framework Provided
Understanding contemporary world politics is by no means an easy feat. To merely begin the process, one must first have an ample knowledge of historical as well as modern trends in international relations, the issues at hand both now and in the past and major events that affect the field. Several groups and styles of thinking have developed throughout the centuries to make attempts at comprehending world politics and most successfully carrying out international relations. One of these styles of thinking is often called power politics and can be referred to as realpolitik or realism. 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. They feel that in the international field, states are the most important actors which act upon their own individual interests. Therefore, a state is deemed powerful if it has the ability to maintain its national interests by influencing other states. These trends date back thousands of years to the beginning of war. Once states came into existence, selfishness caused territorial expansion and war to soon follow. Countries began developing armies to carry out their interests with force, and their neighbors had to respond with their own armies. This began the trends that lead to power politics. The need to focus on defense superseded the need to address more liberal issues.
Power politics are not only used in matters of war and defense. The general definition of power can be seen as a state’s ability to get its way, making other states do things that are in the interest of the first state. In realpolitik, states use militaristic, economic, and diplomatic strengths to influence other actors from whom they desire something. The general idea is that population, territory, geography, natural resources, and GDP are all factors that give a state potential power to affect international politics. To most accurately measure a state’s power in short-term issues, realism looks to military-industrual capabilities and how well the state’s bureaucracy is run.
A large part of the focus on defense in power politics comes from the idea of norms of behavior in a world that is basically anarchistic. The international stage, lacking a central government to make and enforce laws, is a fairly dangerous place to be an actor. Realism,...