Realism is perhaps the most widely‐used theory in International Relations.
- Realism (sometimes called ‘political realism’) claims to offer an account of world affairs that is ‘realistic’, in the sense that it is hard‐headed and (as realists sees it) devoid of wishful thinking and deluded moralizing.
- Realists of all schools trace their intellectual heritage back to Thucydides, Hobbes.
Realism was the dominant way leaders in Europe in the seventeenth through early twentieth centuries understood international relations.
After World War II, scholars of international relations embraced realism as the dominant perspective for explaining global politics.
The chief advocate of the realist theory of international politics was Hans J. Morgenthau, considered the father of modern realist thought. His classic text, Politics among Nations: the Struggle for Power and Peace, was first published shortly after World War II and carefully defined the realist theoretical perspective that most scholars would then adopt.
Because of this dominant position, in many ways, all of the other theoretical perspectives for understanding
global politics are reactions to and criticisms of realism.
- Realism emphasizes that the international politics is anarchic: lack of authority in the international system, states have to look for self-help/Survival.
- Realism views power as a defining feature of international politics that state face. –power link to military force/capability. The realism answers the question, why do states act the way they do in international politics? It is the maximization of power that is in a state’s interest.
- Realism envisions states as essentially unitary actors, disregards other domestic actors. For realists, it is these states, and not their leaders, their citizens, business corporations, or international organizations, that are the key actors and determine what happens in the world.
- Realism sees states as rational actors, making rational decision making Rationality does not mean that states always make the best or the “right” decisions, but rather that states “have consistent, ordered preferences, and that they calculate the costs and benefits of all alternative policies in order to maximize their utility.”
- Realism analysis opposing states: states assess each other in terms of their power and capabilities, not in terms variations that exists within states like regime type.
- Realism tend to see states as the key actors in the international system. Realists argue that international institution play a less important role than states. Hardcore realist believes that IO is established to manipulate great power interest in international relation.
- Realism associate with its bottom line states exist in an international system that is characterized by competition and war and conflict is inevitable.