POL208 Lecture 2
IR has been primarily dominated by the US scholars
IR is said to have an American accent
The realist perspective is the theory that dominates IR and also influences many US politicians
Why is the realist perspective important?
Paradigms and theories are different
Paradigms are certain ideas that shape our views
Realism as a paradigm
Key Tenets of Realism
1: IR is a struggle for power.
o Countries engage in international politics because they seek power
o Power comes in different forms. You can exercise power over someone by pleading.
Power can also occur through persuading another. You can also exercise power over
someone by using material force (using military, weapons, etc.) Material power.
o You can also exercise power over someone by using side gimmicks/bribery. Whenever
realists speak of power they are speaking of material power
o Every state, according to realists, is to seek power and always want to dominate
o International system does not have a government and lives in a state of anarchy
o Objective of a state is to acquire enough power and stop there (defensive realists)
o Offensive realists suggest states should seek to acquire as much as they can
o The behaviours of Canada, USA, and Western Europe hold power and are always seeking
to acquire more
2: Rational States are the key actors in IR
o Human being are tribal and territorial
o Most important tribe is the state one belongs to
o States behave in a rational way. By rationality, realists conclude states rank their
preferences. Ex. 1) State survival. 2) Economic development. There is a hierarchy of
o Responsibility of the leader is to protect and secure the state
3: Survival/security is the main driver of actions/inactions
o Everyone seeks survival and security. Political leaders seek for the survival and security
of the state
o Security dilemma. Ex. China seeks security and acquires more but US sees this as a
threat and would want to also acquire more or attack China.
o Insecurity is at the heart of the international system.
o There is no international government or police so each state must help themselves and
you must ensure your state survives.
o Canada needs a stronger military because the US will not protect us if their security is at
o Every state should have their own military
5: Balance of Power/Hegemonic Stability
o Countries balance against each other. Balance of power is when one state acquires so
much power, this causes other states to also want to acquire more power in order to
compete. POL208 Lecture 2
o Constant balance of power at all times. Ex. US vs. Soviet Union. Us+ Allies vs. China,
Russia, North Korea
o When there are too many powers there will be problems. Bipolarity is stable. Multi-
polarity will create a hegemonic war.