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Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

3. Realism  

This chapter examines the realist tradition in international relations (IR), which is best seen as a research programme with several approaches using a common starting point. It highlights an important dichotomy in realist thought between classical realism and contemporary realism, including strategic and structural approaches. After describing the elements of realism, the chapter discusses the international thought of three outstanding classical realists of the past: Thucydides, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes. It then analyses the classical realist thought of Hans J. Morgenthau, along with strategic realism, neorealism, and neoclassical realism. Special attention is devoted to the defensive realism of Kenneth Waltz and the offensive realism of John Mearsheimer. Furthermore, the chapter looks at the recent theoretical debate among realist IR scholars concerning the relevance of the balance of power concept and it shows that realists often disagree among themselves. The chapter concludes with an overview of how the different realist theories treat international and domestic factors.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

2. Classical Realism  

Richard Ned Lebow

This chapter examines the central assumptions of classical realism by analysing the texts of ancient and modern writers and contrasting their ideas with neorealism and other variants of modern realism. Classical realism represents an approach to international relations that dates back to Thucydides and his account of the Peloponnesian War. According to classical realists, power plays a major role in politics, but they also acknowledge its limitations and the ways it can be self-defeating. The chapter begins with a discussion of the position of classical realists regarding order and stability, focusing on the views of Thucydides and Hans J. Morgenthau with respect to the concepts of community, balance of power, and interest and justice. It then considers what classical realists think about change and transformation as well as the nature and purpose of theory. It concludes by commenting on the Iraq war in the context of classical realism.