As a discipline of study, international relations deals broadly with the interactions between diverse states and explanations for the nature of these relations. This entails the responsibilities of various countries in the participation of joint agreements which come in form of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and inter-governmental organizations (IGOs). Realism in international relations concentrates on the security of the states as well as authority over all the dealings in its political matters. Classified among the oldest theories in international relations, realism offers a wide range of theories that try to explain the nature of international relations. This paper will concentrate on different approaches of realism concerning international relations and finally offer a personal opinion towards the pragmatism made by these practical approaches.
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“Realists consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power” (Beitz 1997; 5). Among the realists, Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes are the most mentioned. The realist approach to international relations is founded on the perceptions of real happenings in life situations.
Ancient realists for instance E. H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau emerged with an investigation where they finally concluded that states in international relations were coherent entities in competition for authority. They also stated that each of these countries had its independent expectations and interests. These countries sought to boost security and promote the likelihood of continuous existence. It was affirmed that through international relations, the interaction between the diverse states could lead to significant maximization in the security and interests of the individual nations.
E. H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau were practical persons who greatly participated in explanation of the twentieth-century realism. They explained that confrontations and warfare activities emerge from unsatisfactory political agreements as well as defective social circumstances. They nevertheless approve that these situations can be recovered. These two realists gave out their explanations concerning international relations with special prominence to the universal interests that may lead to uniting human beings furthermore petitioned for sagacity and decency.
Correspondingly, all the activities for instance engagement of a state in wars is to the highest degree obliged to individual interests of the state. This realist approach to international relations was justified by the occurrence of the Second World War. The countries that took part in the Second World War had their participation established upon their self-interest. A closer analysis of the causes of the Second World War shows that most of them were founded on individual interests from several states.
E. H. Carr, concerning political realism towards international relations, gave out an explanation based on the political sector. He explained that this sector had several laws and regulations that governed the activities carried out by the citizens. These laws and regulations were known to be recognized by everybody in the individual states. The rules and regulations were also given out objectively in concerned countries towards a certain specific goal. To improve on the political laws and regulations of a particular state as a result of the interactions among the diverse nations, it was of great import to consider the laws presently governing the people.
In the process of transformation of the system of governance of a particular state, there was a propensity of a certain number of men resisting change at jeopardy of failure. This is because some individuals were benefiting from the existing rules and regulations. “Realism, believing as it does in the objectivity of the laws of politics, must also believe in the possibility of developing a rational theory that reflects, however imperfectly and one-sidedly, these objective laws” (Ashley 1986; 23). These had some effects on international relations.
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In his approach to realism, Hans J. Morgenthau identifies six basic principles of which he purports form the foundation of realism. First, he states that realism has a foundation on purposeful rules and regulations governing a group of individuals in different states. These rules and regulations are anticipated to have become part of the nature of the concerned persons and can’t be reversed. The second perception emphasizes the sovereignty of politics and permits the imposition of relevant changes in the system of governance despite the diverse ethical motives of different politicians. Third, he talks of the interests of the individuals in the states influenced by the surrounding culture and politics.
In the fourth convention, the relation between morals and realism is described. He affirms that “Universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states in their abstract universal formulation, but they must be filtered through the concrete circumstances of time and place” (Keohane 1986; 2). In the fifth principle, he talks with specific emphasis on the special concern of political leaders in their governance. In his sixth principle, he emphasizes the absence of the significance of ethical acts in political activities.
Thucydides exposed his conception of realism in international relations through the ‘Melos Dialogue’. The debate was carried out between individuals with idealistic views and individuals with realistic views. In this dialogue, the Athenians disputed Melo’s idealistic perceptions based on major practical conceptions for instance security as well as power. These people base on provable information on what the world is.
“The Athenians disregard any moral talk and urge the Melos to look at the facts, to recognize their military inferiority, to consider the potential consequences of their decision, and to think about their own survival” (Donnelly 2000; 8). Based on this information, the Athenians thus emerged to be having a very realistic judgement. “The position of Athenians, based on security concerns and self-interest, seemingly involves reliance on rationality, intelligence, and foresight” (Keohane 1986; 9). The decision of the Melos to resist change in the systems of governance leading to their destruction justifies the significance of this realist approach.
Thucydides further explained authority. They proved that if authority is not managed by self-control and some intelligence concerning justice, this will bring about uncontrolled yearning for more supremacy. Therefore there is the necessity to consideration of the reality of authorities among international relations.
Niccolò Machiavelli who was considered to be a political innovator emerged and had a confrontation towards the best ascertained ethical practice among the people in the states. Machiavelli materialized and then declared announcing from Chapter fifteen of The Prince that “in departing from the teachings of earlier thinkers, he seeks ‘the effectual truth of the matter rather than the imagined one.’ The ‘effectual truth’ is for him the only truth worth seeking” (Pocock 1975; 9). This represented the total number of convenient circumstances under which Machiavelli believed they were requirements for making individuals, as well as the country as a whole, prosper and grow strong too. He substitutes all the others as he promises individuals from various nations prosperity.
In one of Machiavelli’s explanations of realism in international relations, he presumes that sovereign states, reminiscent of autonomous individuals, are natural opponents through various perspectives. This includes socially as well as egocentrically. He even goes further to admit the absence of any ethical restriction towards this behaviour of the states and individuals.
Machiavelli does not approve of the significance of ethics in the political affairs of member countries in international relations. The realist argues out that moral, as well as immoral principles, are all employed in the achievement of assured political objectives. Machiavelli justified his realism on immoral activities in political affairs based on the structure of conventional morality. This realism was thus pushed to be applied in international relations. Machiavelli reversed the national practice about morality in the national authorities and obligations. He even stated that the implementation process of this realism was best if taken through international agreements rather than the independent states. Machiavelli’s realism was vindicated in the wars amongst individuals in modern Europe. There was the merciless killing of innocent individuals and immoral acts, all of them geared towards achieving political goals. In this realist approach to international relations, there is acceptance of policies that are advantageous to the individual state at the expense of the other state’s interests.
Thomas Hobbes was among the group of realists who explained some realistic concepts towards international relations. He describes human beings as being tremendously idiosyncratic and can never share their ideas with colleagues. He goes further to describe human beings as “subjects to a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, which ceases only in death” (Wendt 1999; 10). Hobbes’ contribution towards essential realistic notions in international relations is based on his depiction of the nature of humans as being egocentric and selfish. He concludes his perception of international chaos as being the people’s efforts to achieve authority over others.
From his perspective of the nature of humans, Thomas Hobbes materializes revolutionary concepts during wars. He states that “such a war as is of every man against every man” (Ashley 1986; 10). Generally, in political governments, people don’t enjoy their freedoms and gains equally. Therefore each individual in the state strives very hard independently to achieve and satisfy his benefits. From Hobbes’ perspective, human nature can be used to interpret the relationship between states. Individuals within identified states develop the need for authority over others. They base on their own personal security against dangers of invasion. They put in place practices to suppress and weaken the efforts of the neighboring state. This was justified by the approval from individuals taking part in international relations for instance Hans Morgenthau. “Each state deciding for itself whether or not to use force, war may break out at any time. The achievement of domestic security through the creation of a state is then paralleled by a condition of inter-state insecurity” (Beitz 1997; 23) this signifies Hobbes’ conception of realism in international relations.
I agree with the various perspectives made by realists. Most of the realist approaches that were put into practice had subsequent outstanding impacts. Through these approaches, several individuals were empowered and some weird characters of political leaders were exposed. Individual states that adhered to these realist approach managed to escape various tragedies of war. Transparent international relations were boosted among states and peace was also encouraged among the states. Realism was therefore proved to be a workable approach to international relations.
Based on diverse benefits accrued from realism, there is a need for autonomous states to participate in the signing of treaties among themselves to ensure that they promote peace and security. The allowance for freedom in adopting new systems of governance can help individuals to do away with appalling laws in international relations. This may ensure that individuals are comfortable within their states.
From a personal perspective, realism offers an objective and transparent prism from which international relations can be analyzed. Through realism, hypocrisy can be avoided. States will understand why they are supposed to engage in a certain trade or economic blocks. In addition, they will have a base upon which to found their decisions to align with certain movements and ideologies. I also agree with realism because through it, a country will always comprehend the motives of the other concerning given actions. By doing this, peace can be enhanced through mutual discussions and understanding. I, therefore, believe that if well followed, a realist approach to international relations could offer a superb platform upon which international peace and economic improvement can be achieved. Peace will be achieved in the understanding that a nation will act towards ensuring security for its citizens. As a result, one state will be able to predict the moves of another state making it easier to set up dialogue for peace. On the other hand, states will be able to broker beneficial alliances that will offer mutual economic benefits.
List of References
Ashley, R. K., 1986. Neorealism and Its critics: The poverty of realism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Beitz, C., 1997. Political theory and International Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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Donnelly, J. 2000. Realism and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Keohane, R. (ed.), 1986. Neorealism and Its Critics. New York: Columbia University Press.
Pocock, J., 1975. The Machiavellian Movement: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Political Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Wendt, A., 1999. Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.