Realism And Neo Realism Essay

1163 words - 5 pages


The most historically entrenched theoretical perspective in international relations theory is that of classical realism. Surprisingly though classical realism was not sensationalized in the international relations arena until World War II despite its existence in fifth-century Athens. Many great philosophers such as Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes developed the basics of classical realism and in 1948 Hans J. Morgenthau made the great leap into contemporizing classical realism theory with his six principles of political realism, the basics placing the state as the central power in the IR system.

Barely three decades later the world has developed so rapidly that theorists such as Kenneth Waltz went on to address a new model of modern or “structural" realism in his work Theory in International Politics. Waltz sees the chief characteristics of international relations through his composition approach which emphasizes the structure of the international relations system as the force of power on the state vis-à-vis vice versa. Waltz takes a closer look at the international relations arena from an outside in approach whereas traditional or classical realists took a more inside out analysis. The dangers of both proves that only having one eye open means they were missing out on a multitude of perils and assistance from each style of thoughts. This paper will attempt to address such shortcomings, or advantages as may be to post structural realism.


Classical realism is “concerned with questions of order, justice and change at the domestic, regional, and international levels.” (Lebow, 2010) Power is at the core of the foundation of classical realism and the reason for this is because classical realists, similar to neo-realists register their international environment as existing in a state of constant anarchy. With that Morgenthau insists “…all politics is a struggle for power that is inseparable from social life itself.” (Lebow, 2010) “[Power’s] content and its use are determined by the political and cultural environment.” (Morgenthau, 2004) For that reason war becomes a regular condition of IR in the classical realist’s theory, simply because war is the nature of human beings and power is the end all means by which national interests are secured and advanced rather than as a consequence of a possible lack of understanding about historical circumstance, their level of understanding or even perhaps because their leaders were objectively flawed themselves.

While classical realists recognize that states exist in an anarchical “self-help” system where they must rely on power to protect and control their existence it is there that they suddenly divorce the state from its domestic civil society as well as any other international actors aside from other nation states proclaiming autonomy in their own political realms. This is in order to “recognize and pursue the interests of the nation [state] as a...

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