Realism, also known as ‘realpolitik’ is one of the dominant schools of thought within the domain of international politics. Its genesis can be traced back to the ancient texts like Sun Tzu’s work on strategy ‘The Art of War’ and Kautiyla’s ‘ArthShastra’. Realism, however, emerged as a dominant international perspective only during 20th century.
Realists maintain that the science of International Politics must study the world as it was. Realism is grounded in an emphasis on power politics and pursuit of national interests. The realist school can be divided into two broad categories:
- Classical Realism
- Contemporary Realism or Neo Realism
The central argument of classical Realism rests on the assumption that International Politics is driven by the endless struggle for power, which has its roots in human nature. In this framework, justice, law and society have either no place or are circumscribed. Classical Realism recognizes that principles are subordinate to policies and an ultimate test of a state leader lies in accepting and adapting to the changing power political configurations in world politics.
Classical Realists believe the drive for power and the will to dominate are the fundamental traits of human nature. It is the human nature that explains why international politics is necessarily power politics. Hans Morgenthau is considered to be one of the main proponents of this theory.
Convinced with unchanging human nature Classical Realists are highly pessimistic about any qualitative transformation of world politics. As a result they tend to rely much more upon the conventional principles of diplomacy and mechanisms – such as Balance of Power, International Morality, World public Opinion and International Law – for regulating and restraining the inevitable clashes of interests between the states.
Contemporary Realism also called Neo-Realism and Structural Realism developed during 1980s under the influence of Kenneth Waltz.
While, Neo-Realists continue to acknowledge the central importance of power, they tend to explain events in terms of the structure of international system rather than the goals and make-up of the individual states. According to Neo-Relaists, the structure of the international system is a major determinant of state behavior. They believe world politics cannot be explained simply in terms of interests and policies of individual countries.
Neo-Realists tend to explain international conflict within the framework of anarchic structure of the international system. This basically means that since, there is no overarching central authority to enforce rules and norms to protect the interests of the larger global community, it is not so much the innate human nature but the anarchical system which nurtures fear, jealousy, suspicion and insecurity in the international system. The Structural Realists insist that conflict can emerge even if the actors have benevolent intent towards each other.
The Realist Approach says:
- The Realist approach views nation-states as the principal actors in the world politics as they are answerable to no higher political authority in the international system.
- Conflicts of interests among them in an anarchical international system are assumed to be inevitable. The purpose of the statecraft is national survival in hostile environment.
- Power is considered to be most important means to secure national survival.
- The ultimate dependence of the state on its own resources to promote its interests and protect itself is the most important principle.
the game of international politics takes place under conditions of permanent anarchy and revolves around pursuit of power: acquiring it, increasing it, protecting it and using it to bend others to one’s will
-Charles W. Kegley Jr.