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What Are The Assumptions Of Realism And Why Has It Been So Influential In The Studies Of International Relations?

1611 words - 6 pages

Originating from the German word 'Realpolitik' , realism is often used as a term which fits a more realistic and unpretentious political theory, as opposed to an unrealistic ideological theory. It is this theory which has been one of the leading and most prominent ways of thinking in terms of international relations in modern times, with its stark view of nation states and people appealing greatly to the Western leading political institutions, as recently it has become another phrase for 'power politics'. Instead of referring to itself as an ideology, realists see it as more of a straight forward rational theory, a way of thinking reasonably in the situation, rather than seeing the world as a far fetched and ideological utopia. Political realism is seen as a way of explaining political philosophy models, and to prescribe political relations. It makes many assumptions, the key one being that power is indeed (or ought to be) the first point in political action, be it in an international or domestic sphere. Domestically, this theory declares that the politicians must look to take full advantage of their power. However when in the international arena the nation states should be the primary agents that advance and seek to make the most of the power available to them. It can be seen therefore that nations and politicians ought to pursue power or their own interests in theory, but in reality the ruling nation state of affairs-that nations and politicians only selfishly pursue power.In the late 20th century, realism was seen as a way of managing all of the world's powerful nations peacefully and co-operating for the advantage of those concerned. The international interaction was based less on political principles and more upon the balance of power between the worlds leading nations, as introduced to Western politics by Henry Kissinger, to the Nixon Government. 'We must remember the only time in the history of the world that we have had any extended periods of peace is when there has been a balance of power.' Examples of this can be seen in the way Kissinger gave the go ahead to the invasion of East Timor by the tyrant Suharto, or Nixon's mediation with one of its ideological enemies, the People's Republic of China.Realism is based upon a series of fundamental assumptions, which when looked at, can explain why indeed realism has been so successful within the sphere of international relations. Its first and key assumption is a pessimistic view of human nature. This sees humans as primarily concerned with their own interests, looking to further themselves in a selfish demeanour, as Morgenthau put it, a 'will to power'. This means human beings everywhere are to behave in the same way, regardless of nationality, looking to be one step ahead of opposition so as not to be taken advantage of. Hobbes also shares this view, 'Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice if there be no Power erected, or not great enough for our...

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