Nassef is a lifelong learner of comparative study between Islam and International Relations. He co-founded the International Relations and Islamic Studies Research Cohort (Co-IRIS) and founded the Philippine International Studies Organization (PhISO).
Master in International Studies' Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman
August 10, 2009
Question number FOUR:
The theory of Realism, as the dominant theory of International Relations, has been subdivided into different variants/strands. What are these strands of the theory of Realism? Compare them in terms of actors, level of analysis, stable distribution of power, power transition, and the goal of the drive for power.
All realists submit to the premise that Realism is sufficient enough upon itself for purpose of explanations and normative justifications. (Martin Griffiths, Idealism, Realism, and International Politics: A Reinterpretation)
In Classical/Traditional Realism signified the centrality of states (as a unitary and rational actor in International Politics), which is motivated by national interest driven by power for the purpose of survival in a ‘self-help’ international system. (International society is different from international system for it promotes society of nations under the EnglishSchool of IR as originated from Hedley Bull’s “Anarchical Society.”)
In Hans Morgenthau’s “Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” (1948), he expounded on the idea of ‘Balance of Power Realism’ wherein states as the central actors in International Politics distributed with approximated equal power. Power is the basic determinant of state behavior. Before World War I, the Great Britain used to be the arbiter among the six power relations (hegemons) whereby secret diplomacy and alliances are balanced.
In contrast, he believed that a global bipolar is dangerous because of two reasons: 1) the diplomacy is conducted in pseudo-parliamentary forums and 2) the two superpowers were inexperienced to the traditional way of diplomacy.
In the ‘Human Nature Realism’, developed by Carr, Morgenthau, and Waltz; they argued that power is rooted from human nature and in which man is selfish, self-interested, and his life is characterized by brutish, nasty, and short. This is because the conditions of life were unpleasant which force man to try to dominate and oppress others.
In state-level, states are driven by power motivated by national interest in its conduct of foreign policies. While in the international realm, there is the problem of anarchy which is the lack of central government/authority that affect the behavior of its units (states primarily) through agents, which will enforce general laws. Thus, states are forced to behave as they do.
Structural realist Kenneth Waltz in his work “Theory of International Politics” introduced a new variant, ‘Hegemony Realism’ in which there is a need to have a hegemon to affect or influence the international system, even though he reiterated the confluence of structures in the international system which directly affects the behavior of its units. His Neorealism was characterized by a sophisticated analogy in expanding the realist contribution on its roles to ‘cooperation’ which was changing because of the interdependent factors, such as the role of states in maintaining the international economic order.
Defensive/Offensive Realisms by Mearsheimer was a construction of power for states to deter or repel aggressors through operations of First and Second strike capability. Thucydides works are imperative to discuss which most of the influential realist writers refer to his scholarship that dated 2,500 years back. He wrote the story of the Peloponnesian War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta and the Melian Dialogue, when the people of Melos appeal for neutrality and morality to the Athenians but had face the iron fist of a stronger city-state which is until now relevant in modern world politics.