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The Realist Theory Of International Relations

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Dating back to the establishment of a chair of international relations at the University of Wales in Aberstwyth in 1919, after the end of the first world war the need for a theoretical and analytical study of global politics vise a vise the necessity for international relations was conceived. In given a more understanding to this, different scholars from various academic disciplines such as law, philosophy, economics, diplomatic history and political science have all contributed to the study of international relations and as such the development of theoretical analysis to further portray a better understanding of international relations and the international system as a whole. Theories of international relations emerged as a sub-field of international relations to focus attention on theories, assumptions or perception behind events and results in international relations (Mazi 2007). Realism, Idealism or Liberalism, Modernism and recently feminism started to emerge and are still emerging. For the course requirement of Theories of International Relations, this term paper will focus on the Realist Theory of International Relations for critical analysis. At the end of this paper work, the reader should be able to better appreciate the theoretical perceptions and postulations from a realist perspective and also know their core elements, works of scholars, its relationship with other theories of international relations and its criticism.

In drawing my conclusion, more emphasis will be placed on how this theory has been able to change or manage the relationship between sovereign state, and its relevance to contemporary world politics. THE REALIST THEORY OF IR Theories of international relations which helps us to order our data, identify the main factors or variables in the field and lead us to a coherent understanding of the data (Offoboche, 2014). As such the realist theory of international relations will be properly examined being a philosophical disposition (Gilpin, 1986). Following the inability of the idealist theory of international relation to properly and adequately portray the international system as it is, the realist theory emerged, since the idealist theory was unable to produce peaceful cooperation which lead to the helplessness of the League of Nations in the expansionist power politics that the powerful authoritarian nations like Germany, Japan and Italy. Robert Jackson (2003) postulated that Liberal idealism was not a good intellectual guide to international relations in the 1930s. this was mostly as a result of the interdependence postulation that never went well with the happenings or real-world.

Scholars such as Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes propounded a different view to the understanding of international relations theory that is dominantly preoccupied with the concept of power as being central in international relations. In criticizing the idealist theory, E.H. Carr gave one of the most captivating criticisms, where he wrote in his book (The Twenty Years Crisis, 1964) that liberal international thinkers probably misread the facts of history and misunderstood the nature of international relations which I see as a complete negligence of history to further preach their idealist perception of the international system. Regarded as an erroneous the belief that countries can be harmonized under one umbrella and lay aside their individual interest is not only wrong but also misleading because of mans nature of self-worth. Since some countries are far better-off than others, the need for them to continue to protect and preserve their privilege position against the under-dogs and continually strive to supersede their competitors. Although regarded as the most influential tradition in the study of international relations, the realist theory gave form and structure to the study of international politics, mostly as it regards security, politics of international economic relations etc.

This theory gives the real nature of the world which is perceived to be anarchy, dangerous and insecure because of clash of interest, the fight to dominate other lesser countries and resistance from the under-dogs (the have not) which makes it more chaotic. As such, might is right in the international politics since everything cannot be as we might like or want it to be, but rather seeing and analyzing it the way it is. According to the realist perception of international relations, the conflictual nature of international politics makes it mandatory that high priority must be given to the centrality of the nation-state in all consideration (Mazi, 2007498). The realist theory holds that nation-state is the supreme political authority in the world politics, what accounts for the violent nature of the nation-state can only be ascertained by focusing on the role of power and … the importance of the most powerful, that is the Great powers.

Some major literatures like The Twenty Years Crisis by E. H. Carr, Politics Among Nations The Struggle for Power and Peace by H. J. Morgenthau, The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli are only but few books presented to further portray the realist perspectives of the international system and the system have been greatly influenced by this classics. But this theory should not be seen as preaching war, power and conflicts because according to Mazi (2007), realists are unified in their pessimism about how the international system can be made more peaceful. CORE ELEMENTS OF REALISM (ASSUMPTIONS) In the perception of the realist theory of international relations, the following can be taken into consideration as their core assumptions That through history, it can be ascertain that man of naturally sinful and wicked. The thought or believe that the pursuit for power will end in unrealistic. Of all peoples evil ways, no sins are more prevalent in exorable, or dangerous than their instinctive lust for power and their desire to dominate others. International relations or politics is perceived to be struggle for power a war of all against all.

Every state in the international politics sees its interest as more important and as such strive to promote and protect their nationalist interest. The chaotic nature of the international system necessitates the acquisition of military capabilities to defend itself against external attacks. To never entrust the task of self-protection in the hands of international organization. If all states seek to maximize power, stability will result in maintaining a balance of power lubricated by fluid alliance system. The primary concern of all state is survival. REALISM AND THE INTERNATIONAL POLITICS Having the mindset that human nature is not inherently benevolent, but rather self-centered and competitive, most perspectives held by realists such as Thomas Hobbes, Nicolo Machiavelli have over the years been shaping world politics. System polarity which is a key concept in the realist conception of the international system, refers to the number of blocs of states that exert power in an international system.

A multipolar system is composed of three or more blocs, a bipoler system is composed of two blocs, and a unipolar system is dominated by a single hegemon or power. In analyzing this trend to our contemporary international system, it can be categorically stated that the international politics is a multi-power system. Because of the dominance held by the USA, China, Germany, Britain, Russia etc. the United State and other European countries have been using this realist theory over the years to determine its foreign policies and programs. The current uprising between Israel and Palestine is a clear example of might and which the Israelis government is using against the city of Gaza and also the coldness being shown by the USA who is an ally of Israel. Even the US-Iran relations can be given a good analysis using the realist theory. Taking the assumptions of the realist theory into consideration, it can be concluded that The USA and Iran will never be able to trust one another because of anarchy, conflicting material, uncertainty and strategic interest. In this case acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The USA and Iran should be able to cooperate on a practical basis because they share some material and strategic interest. Iran will naturally continue to seek regional hegemony in the Middle East which The USA will always oppose hegemony for Iran in the Middle East. CRITICISM/WEAKNESSES OF REALIST IR THEORY Despite being the most popular theory in international relation, realism is not without criticism, as such its scholars have come under serious and heavy criticism on various grounds which are summarized below The democratic peace theory is one of its major critiques on the ground that the states that are democratic can relate with each other peacefully without taking power as the major aim as postulated by the realist. Realism is seen as a self-destructive nihilism.

This criticism denotes realisms refusal to provide an objective benchmark for international politics because a proclaimed good is always the good of particular groups and subsequent inability to distinguish between power legitimate and illegitimate use. CONCLUSION Having not the above, it can be ascertain that the real nature of man according to the realist will always transcend when they relate in the international arena and determines who gets what, when and how. Realist theory on its own cannot elusively analyze the international system to its fullness as such other theories are there to correct the flaws of the realist perspectives. It is eminent that whenever it come to collective decision making the best approach or theory that will solve the pressing challenge should be brought to bear.


Mazi Mbah (2007) Foundation of Political Science. Rex Charles Patrick Limited, Anambra-Nigeria. M. Karns K. Mingst (2004) International Organizations The Politics Processes of Global Governance. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. USA. R. Jackson G. Robertson (2003) Introduction to International Relation, Theories Approaches. Oxford University Press Inc. New York-USA. Clay Oko-Offoboche (2014) An Unpublished Lecture Note on Theories of International Relations. Department of Political Science, University of Calabar, Calabar-Nigeria. Godin Robert (2010) The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. Oxford University Press, New York. Christopher Ferrero (2011) Realism and US-Iran Relation.

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