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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 244
Mahesh Shankar

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2012: Realism (One of the main Macro theories)  Strands of Realism: o Classical- the earlier form of Realism, which paved the way for neo-realism. Some aspects have made a comeback recently – “neo classicalism” o Neorealism/Structural Realism (a more recent, popular and prominent strand). Can be broken down into offensive and defensive realists. o There are other, less prominent or well-known theories as well.  Anarchy- one of the major assumptions of the international system, neorealism relies on anarchy a lot. Criticisms of realism are critiquing them on the concept of anarchy. Classical Realism:  One of the oldest theories in politics  Hobbes, Machiavelli, Thucydides were the roots, but the modern father is Hans Morgenthau.  It believes states are the most important actors in the international system and the only ones with any real power because they are the only ones with legitimacy through sovereignty. It believes institutions, NGOs, MNCs, etc. are unimportant and matter only to the extent that they are made up of and made by states. They do not fundamentally change how states behave.  States have all the guns, the money, and the military power- since classical realism is all about power, states must be the most important because they have all the power.  It sees the state as a unitary actor, and assumes/treats each country as “a billiard ball”—for instance, when you play pool, the 3 ball and the 4 ball are all made of the same material and act the same. The insides (religion, regime type, institutions, leaders) of the states don’t matter for classical realists because they believe it doesn’t have an impact on how they behave externally. All states act the same.  It seeks to understand the basic law of human nature- a pursuit of interest defined as “power.” “Limitless character of lust for power *as part of+ a general quality of the human mind”—Morgenthau. They believe states, like human nature, are selfish and act in self-interest in an unlimited pursuit of power. The basis of the theory is in human nature. It assumes all states want the same thing—more power, regardless of whether they are democratic or authoritarian.  *They are saying this is how states act; it doesn’t say that this is how states should act. It aims to be a statement of truth.  Power: the ability to get others to do that which they otherwise would not. It can be a means (it allows for them to get what they want—more power) and an end (ultimate power).  For Morgenthau, power is anything that gives control over someone else, so it has a lot to do with national capabilities. States care about relative capabilities. Some of these sources for power can be people (a large population, a larger army, more people to drive industry, ex. China and India), arms and military equipment, industry, technology (being ahead of the competition).  It assumes that states are rational actors. Instrumental rationality is using the most efficient means to reach one’s goals, not an evaluation of the desired ends. It is being prudent of mechanisms used to achieve goals and matching means to ends. Rational does not always mean sane (ex. Hitler’s invasion of Poland was a rational move because it moved Nazi Germany closer to control of Europe, but it was not necessarily a sane move). Instrumental rationality is essentially making a cost-benefit evaluation, or calculating the utility. o Probability of each outcome: Outcome A and Outcome B multiplied by value of each outcome (X and Y) o X * a % >< Y * b % o The one with the greater utility is the more rational choice. o Uncertainty is not irrational, but part of the equation.  Weaknesses of Classical Realism: o It is indeterminate. If all states want power, it is not clear what they want power for (what is the goal). As a result, it does not predict too much. It tells us that they all crave power, which leads to conflict, but it cannot tell us why wars occur sometimes but not others. o It makes questionable assumptions—can human nature really be applied to states? If this nature applies to all states, why are there wars only sometimes? If human nature is constant, it can’t explain the variations in state behaviour. For example, Canada does not behave like its final goal is power or control over states (ex. Gave up the option of having nuclear weapons instead of developing them). o It misses some important issues- including the role of International Organizations (it assumes that they don’t matter at all), international norms (and their power to shape state behaviour), domestic politics (and its role in shaping state interests—are states really like billiard balls?), etc. The International System and the Neo-Realist Approach (also known as Structural Realism)  States are still the most important a
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