Realism

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Published on 24 Nov 2010
School
UTSG
Department
Political Science
Course
POL208Y1
Professor
International Relations t Week 3: September 28th, 2010
Theories of International Relations
- By simplifying reality we try to formulate regularities, patterns, that explain what has happened
in the past and what may happen in the future
- Our capacity to make predictions is poor
o E.g. Way Cold War ended was not the most likely scenario experts had drawn before,
peaceful change and peaceful demise of the Soviet empire
- International Relations is largely an American science, started in US in 1950s
o Started to use s]]]vÇ]vP}Æo]vZÁ}oU]v[}µuµZ
- Modesty, world politics is full of surprise
- Politicians consider theories to be too abstract, too general, not practical enough
o Tend to reason more like historians rather than political scientists
o Think about analogies from the past not long-term propositions
- Despite this, theories do sometimes make way into world of decision-makers
o E.g. George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq based on theory by bringing democracy to
Iraq, I will transform the Middle East into a democratic region, generate peace
Worth it to wage a war to generate peace
- One world, many theories, to explain same events
o E.g. Decision to expand NATO post Cold War: One theory (realist take) t expanding
power of the West, by doing so, Russia would feel more isolated than it used to be,
Russia would feel threatened; Second theory (what decision-makers claim) t enlarging
the family of democracies to Eastern Europe, not about security or power, not a loss for
Russia, about bringing democracy and stability to Europe
Realist Theories:
- Realism in world politics is a family of theories, look at the world through the same kind of
lenses, use the same kind of concepts
- Origin: Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, creation of Italian city states, experience of
statesmanship throughout the centuries
o Really started with failure of the League of Nations just after WWI
Called the Great Debate of the 1930s
x Can we do international politics relying only on values; is there not a
place for power consideration?
x Liberalism brought about collective security framework to ensure
stability and peace among European nations, League of Nations
o 20s, 30s, triumph of liberalist principles
- Realists said liberalists had forgot about power, cannot have organization to ensure peace,
which is fundamentally powerless, no capacity to impose peace
- Two problems with League of Nations:
o Strategy contradiction
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Decrease level of armaments among nations
How can you punish a country that does not behave according to the rules if you
do not have the power to punish?
In order to impose peace, need to keep capacity to wage war?
o Membership
U.S. was not a member
Germany was not, at the start, a member
Crucial powers were left outside the collective security framework
x Major contradiction, how can organization ensure peace if the most
relevant powers of the day are not in them?
x 1930s demonstrated that League of Nations failed, no one to stop rise
of Nazi Germany, militaristic Japan
o No one with capacity to do it
o In order to enforce principles, needed power
o Realists won first debate between liberalism and realism
- Cold War was framework where realists felt at home, all about power politics
Core elements of realism:
1. Statism
o The most important actors in world politics are the states, relevant level of analysis,
states are key actors
o Sovereignty is the fundamental principle of world politics
o States have the monopoly of the use of legitimate violence
o International institutions, say the UN, are just a sideshow, they are unimportant, only
what the states will agree among themselves, states are main drivers, very rare to have
international organization to impose own rule above the state
2. Survival
o First object of any state is to survive
Still the case for states like North Korea or Pakistan
o Fundamental characteristic of international system is based on anarchy, no world
government, nothing above the state
Because no world government, first task of states is to ensure their survival
o Concern about security must be overall priority of statesmen
Have to look at power relationships among states, focus on power capabilities,
distribution of military means
3. Self-help
o Security of the state is a matter of self-help
o You are on your own, nothing can ensure your own security except you
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Document Summary

International relations j week 3: september 28th, 2010. By simplifying reality we try to formulate regularities, patterns, that explain what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. Our capacity to make predictions is poor: e. g. Way cold war ended was not the most likely scenario experts had drawn before, peaceful change and peaceful demise of the soviet empire. International relations is largely an american science, started in us in 1950s: started to use s  z . Modesty, world politics is full of surprise. Politicians consider theories to be too abstract, too general, not practical enough: tend to reason more like historians rather than political scientists, think about analogies from the past not long-term propositions. Despite this, theories do sometimes make way into world of decision-makers: e. g. George w. bush decided to invade iraq based on theory by bringing democracy to. Iraq, i will transform the middle east into a democratic region, generate peace.