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Realism Case

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ALL REALIST AND NEO-REALIST THEORIES ARE EQUALLY VULNERABLE IN THEIR ASSUMPTION THAT ANARCHY CONTINUES TO BE A VALID DESCRIPTION OF THE NATURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM.

Realism and neo realism theories are some of the most ancient and persistent theories in international relations. They have evolved from ancient times and have been rivalled by a lot of theories but they have continuously re emerged. As will be pointed out later, In the analysis that follows, I will seek to point out how these two theories are on the larger part biased in thinking that the international system is characterised by anarchy. A lot has changed and in the international arena for the two theories to be valid in this thinking anymore. First though, it's important to point out the main tenets of these two theories.

Realism has been in existence longer than neo realism as one led to the birth of the other. Realism or what is usually referred to as classical realism has its roots in the ancient times but also became famous after war period in the 1940's. This theory has been built on beliefs in statism, survival and self help. Its famous proponents included the likes of Thucydides (400 B.C.), Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1557) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and max Weber(1864-1920) among others. A lot of what these proponents wrote typifies 20th century realist though. Early realism emerged after world war two. This theory has been built on beliefs in statism, survival and self help. (Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, 2000)

Realists believe in nation states being the main actors in international politics other than international governmental organisations, Nongovernmental organisations or multinational corporations. Early realism or what is referred to as classical realism can be regarded as being very "state centric" realists are also known to insist as on survival because the international system is governed by anarchy and that there is no central authority which leaves one option, struggle for power between self interested states. States according to Realism can't rely on others for survival. (Halliday, 1994)

Realism holds that, states are unitary actors and that domestic politics can be separated from foreign policy.

The theory also lays emphasis on the fact that power is the most important concept in explaining and predicting state behaviour and that in pursuit of this power, states will attempt to amass resources with belief that this makes them powerful. Relations between states are determined by their levels of power. These levels are in turn determined by the states' military, economic and political capabilities. Realists believe that states are inherently aggressive, that states are obsessed with the security and continuation of existence. This therefore ends up bringing instability as states build arms thereby making security zero-sum. As Thucydides once put it

"Men are motivated by honour, greed and above all, fear"

Twentieth century Realism can also be traced in the works of Hans J Morgenthau (1904-1980) who took much inspiration from earlier scholars such as Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbs. In his notable work "Politics among Nations", Morgenthau emphasizes what his predecessors did; that national interest, power, balance of power and its management in the anarchic world are what characterize the international system. He did go ahead to put forward six principles that he thought were essential to realism and that is; that political relationships are governed by rules rooted in human nature, political leaders think and act in terms of interest, power isn't easily determined, universal moral principles can't be applied to the actions of States to mention but a few. He is by far the most sought after realist of the 20th century and no doubt his work is no different from those who came before him.

In the realist world therefore, anarchy is the definition of the international system. There is no legal authority and States are not equal in capabilities. States may form alliances but they ultimately are compelled to rely on their own means for survival. Realism in a nutshell therefore, believes that the international system is chaotic with no ability to formulate rules of behaviour. Neo realism which emerged as a strand of realism holds a few beliefs similar to classical realism for example, the idea of the international system being anarchic. However, it's important to first point out what neorealism thought differently from classical realism.

In analysing the neo realist theory, it shouldn't be forgotten that the realist tradition laid a basis for the formation of this theory although it embraced structuralism. One of the leading proponents of this theory was Kenneth Waltz. Neo realist theory draws from classical realism elements adequate to the world of the late 20th century. For neo realism, power remains a key variable although it exists less as an end in itself than a necessary and inevitable component of a political relationship as Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, 2000 quoted Gottfried -Karl Kinderman in their "Contending Theories of International relations"; "Just as the instrument of power and sanctions does not exhaust the nature of law, the nature of politics is also not exhausted by primarily referring to power as its most important tool"

Neo-realists would dismiss the role of human nature, focusing instead on a 'top-down approach where the 'structure' of the international system plays the leading role in the relationship between States rather than the nature of the individual. Kenneth Waltz would categorise classical theories as 'reductionist' that is, focusing on the individual parts of the system i.e. human beings rather than the system. For Waltz, the focus is on the 'structure' of the international system as opposed to human nature. He defines structures as being non-hierarchic with political actors (States) carrying out essentially the same functions as one another in order to survive. Waltz believes also that the behaviour of States in the international system is not derived so much from human nature as it is the result of those states finding themselves in an anarchic system in which they must take whatever actions are necessary in order to survive. (Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, 2000)

Central also to structural realism and to Kenneth Waltz who dug deep into Neo realism is the fact that structure defines the way in which politics is arranged. He defines structure by hierarchy or anarchy, the principles by which they are organised. He also points out that the distribution of capabilities among states and it is these capabilities; define a State's position within the international system. Neorealists do acknowledge the

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