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Chapter

Charles L. Glaser

This chapter examines realism as a dominant explanation of why and how states have sought security. It first considers the basic features of realist theory, including its emphasis on the implications of international anarchy and the importance of power, before discussing major divisions within the realist family, along with their implications for states’ security policies and war. The most fundamental division is between structural realism and motivational realism. The chapter proceeds by looking at the debate between Kenneth Waltz’s structural realism, offensive realism, and defensive realism. In contrast to Waltz and offensive realism, defensive realism argues that the risks of competition can make cooperation a state’s best strategy. The chapter illustrates how these different arguments result in divergent predictions for how China’s continuing economic growth is likely to influence international security. It suggests that war is more likely when the offence-defence balance favours offence.

Chapter

Charles L. Glaser

This chapter describes the basic features of realist theory, including its emphasis on the implications of international anarchy and the importance of power. The chapter then explores major divisions within the realist family, and their implications for states’ security policies and war. The most fundamental division is between structural realism—which focuses on the impact of the international system on states’ decisions—and motivational realism—which focuses on the impact of variation in states’ motives. Also important is the ongoing debate within structural realism—between Kenneth Waltz’s structural realism, offensive realism, and defensive realism. The first two of these find that international structure generates a strong tendency towards competitive policies, while defensive realism finds that cooperation is, under some conditions, a state’s best strategy for achieving security. The chapter illustrates how these different arguments result in divergent predictions for how China’s continuing economic growth is likely to influence international security.

Chapter

Critical Realism  

Uncovering the Shades of Grey

Dominik Giese and Jonathan Joseph

This chapter evaluates critical realism, a term which refers to a philosophy of science connected to the broader approach of scientific realism. In contrast to other philosophies of science, such as positivism and post-positivism, critical realism presents an alternative view on the questions of what is ‘real’ and how one can generate scientific knowledge of the ‘real’. How one answers these questions has implications for how one studies science and society. The critical realist answer starts by prioritizing the ontological question over the epistemological one, by asking: What must the world be like for science to be possible? Critical realism holds the key ontological belief of scientific realism that there is a reality which exists independent of our knowledge and experience of it. Critical realists posit that reality is more complex, and made up of more than the directly observable. More specifically, critical realism understands reality as ‘stratified’ and composed of three ontological domains: the empirical, the actual, and the real. Here lies the basis for causation.

Chapter

This chapter considers some of the competing theories that have been proposed to explain US foreign policy. It first provides an overview of some of the obstacles to constructing a theory of foreign policy before discussing some of the competing theories of US foreign policy, including systemic theories such as defensive realism and offensive realism, theories that accentuate domestic factors like liberalism and Marxism, and a theory that combines systemic and domestic factors, such as neoclassical realism and constructivism. The chapter also revisits the theoretical debate over the origins of the Cold War and concludes by analysing the debate on the most appropriate grand strategy that the United States should follow in the post-Cold War era, with particular emphasis on, primacy, liberal internationalism, and offshore balancing.

Chapter

William C. Wohlforth

This chapter considers how familiarity with realist theory improves foreign policy analysis (FPA), focusing on two features of realism that are often in tension with each other: its firm grounding in centuries of real foreign policy practice, and its aspiration to create powerful general theories that help to simplify and explain the international setting in which foreign policy takes place. The chapter begins with a discussion of the main theoretical schools within realism, namely, classical realism, defensive realism, offensive realism, and neoclassical realism, as well as theories within realism: balance of power theory, balance of threat theory, hegemonic stability theory, and power transition theory. It also examines how realism is applied to the analysis and practice of foreign policy and highlights the main pitfalls in applying realist theories to FPA. Finally, it evaluates some guidelines for avoiding those pitfalls and using realist insights to sharpen the analysis of foreign policy.

Chapter

John J. Mearsheimer

This chapter examines why states pursue power from the perspective of structural realism. It considers a body of realist theories that argue that states have deep concern for the balance of power and compete among themselves either to gain power at the expense of others, or at least to make sure they do not lose power. This competition for power makes for a dangerous world where states sometimes fight each other. There are, however, important differences among structural realists. The chapter first explains why states want power and how much power they want before discussing the causes of war. These theoretical issues are illuminated with a case study that assesses whether China can rise peacefully according to offensive realism vs. defensive realism. Along the way, concepts such as the security dilemma, offence–defence balance, central war, buck-passing, unipolarity, bipolarity, and multipolarity, and deterrence are analysed.

Chapter

John J. Mearsheimer

This chapter examines why states pursue power from the perspective of structural realism. It considers a body of realist theories that argue that states have deep concern for the balance of power and compete among themselves either to gain power at the expense of others, or at least to make sure they do not lose power. This competition for power makes for a dangerous world where states sometimes fight each other. There are, however, important differences among structural realists. The chapter first explains why states want power and how much power they want before discussing the causes of war. These theoretical issues are illuminated with a case study that assesses whether China can rise peacefully according to offensive realism vs. defensive realism. Along the way, concepts such as the security dilemma, offence–defence balance, central war, buck-passing, unipolarity, bipolarity, and multipolarity, and deterrence are analysed.

Chapter

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

This chapter examines some of the competing theories that have been advanced to explain U.S. foreign policy. In trying to explain the foreign policy of the United States, a number of competing theories have been developed by International Relations scholars. Some theories focus on the role of the international system in shaping American foreign policy while others argue that various domestic factors are the driving force. The chapter first considers some of the obstacles to constructing a theory of foreign policy before discussing some of the competing theories of American foreign policy, including defensive realism, offensive realism, liberalism, Marxism, neoclassical realism, and constructivism. The chapter proceeds by reviewing the theoretical debate over the origins of the Cold War and the debate over the most appropriate grand strategy that the United States should follow in the post-Cold War era.

Chapter

This chapter examines the realist tradition in international relations (IR). 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 the prospects for the realist tradition as a research programme in IR.

Chapter

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. Although much of the explicit theorizing about international politics did not begin until the twentieth century, both liberalism and realism have drawn on long-standing ideas in the history of political thought to address basic problems of international order. So too has the English School which, while encompassing aspects of both liberalism and realism, has focused much more attention on the social character of international or global relations, elaborating in particular the notion of international society and its normative underpinnings. While most theorizing has been carried out largely, but not exclusively, on the basis of Western philosophical ideas, a new Chinese school of moral realism draws from ancient Chinese thought. Ultimately, both liberalism and realism have been modified over the years with competing strands developing within them, so neither can be taken as a single body of theory.

Chapter

Eric Fabri

This chapter addresses ontology, which is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of being. As a branch of metaphysics, ontology is mainly concerned with the modes of existence of different entities (tangible and intangible). Every subdiscipline in the social sciences relies on an ontology that defines which elements really matter when it comes to explaining the phenomenon they set out to elucidate. A specific branch of ontology is devoted to the modes of existence of social phenomena: social ontology. Two main positions emerge: realism and constructivism. Scientific realism assumes that social phenomena have an objective existence, independent of the subject. By contrast, constructivism claims that social phenomena have no objective existence and are a construction of the human mind. Its fundamental axiom is that, even if reality exists outside the subject’s perception, the subject cannot reach it without perceiving it. This implies the mediation of imaginary structures, which are provided by social groups. It is important to note, however, that many other positions exist apart from realism and constructivism.

Chapter

Bruce Russett

This chapter examines the expansion of three central phenomena associated with liberalism and its emphasis on the potentially peace-promoting effects of domestic and transnational institutions: the spread of democracy throughout most of the world; globalization; and the proliferation of intergovernmental organizations, especially those composed primarily of democratic governments. Each of these assumptions supports and extends the other in a powerful feedback system envisioned by Immanuel Kant. The chapter first considers four major changes in the world over the last century and particularly over recent decades before discussing the ‘epidemiology’ of international conflict. It then explores constraints on war from the perspective of realism vs. liberal institutionalism, whether democracies are peaceful in general, and how order is nurtured within anarchy. It also presents a case study of the European Union and concludes with some reflections on power, hegemony, and liberalism.

Chapter

Heikki Patomäki

This chapter addresses scientific realism. After the heyday of empiricism in the interwar period and its immediate aftermath, many critical reactions to empiricism seemed to suggest scientific realism. It was widely agreed that scientific theories make references to things that cannot be directly observed (or at least seen), and thus emerged the issue of the status of non-observables. As scientific realism became increasingly dominant, new philosophical stances such as Bas C. van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism were often defined in opposition to it. Van Fraassen understands scientific realism as a claim that science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like; and acceptance of a scientific theory involves the belief that it is true. More in line with established forms of scientific realism, Ilkka Niiniluoto talks about verisimilitude, or truth-likeness. This concept is supposed to avoid the consequences of claiming to have access to the truth itself. The chapter then considers how the social sciences seem to pose difficulties for scientific realism.

Chapter

Bruce Russett

This chapter examines the expansion of three central phenomena associated with liberalism and its emphasis on the potentially peace-promoting effects of domestic and transnational institutions: the spread of democracy throughout most of the world; globalization; and the proliferation of intergovernmental organizations, especially those composed primarily of democratic governments. Each of these assumptions supports and extends the other in a powerful feedback system envisioned by Immanuel Kant. The chapter first considers four major changes in the world over the last century and particularly over recent decade before discussing the ‘epidemiology’ of international conflict. It then explores constraints on war from the perspective of realism vs. liberal institutionalism, whether democracies are peaceful in general, and how order is nurtured within anarchy. It also presents a case study of the European Union and concludes with some reflections on power, hegemony, and liberalism.

Book

Edited by Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith

The fourth edition of this text provides coverage of international relations theories and arguments. The chapters explore the full spectrum of theoretical perspectives and debates, ranging from the historically dominant traditions of realism, liberalism and Marxism to postcolonialism and green theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular theory and features a case study that bridges theory and practice, and shows how theory can be used to explain real world political dilemmas. Spotlights on key books and articles encourage readers to go beyond the textbook and explore important works in the field, and new case study questions encourage analytical thinking and help readers understand the value of applying theory to concrete political problems.

Chapter

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories and approaches, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps you to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organise and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, major issues in IPE and IR, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to discussing the state of the world: are we seeing world chaos or world order? The text is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre, which includes: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.

Chapter

This chapter examines the three most important classical theories within the field of International Political Economy (IPE): mercantilism, economic liberalism, and neo-Marxism. It considers the relationship between politics and economics, and between states and markets in world affairs, that IR has to be able to grasp. It suggests that IPE is about wealth, poverty, and power, about who gets what in the international economic and political system. The outlook of mercantilism has much in common with realism, while economic liberalism is an addition to liberalism. Mercantilism and economic liberalism thus represent views on IPE that are basically realist and liberal. The chapter concludes with a discussion about the original theoretical position of Marxism and how this has inspired neo-Marxist IPE theories.

Chapter

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Readers are introduced to the most important theories, encompassing both classical and contemporary approaches and debates. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps the reader to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organise and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to key global issues and how theory can be used as a tool to analyse and interpret these issues. The text is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre, which includes: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.

Book

Robert Jackson, Georg Sørensen, and Jørgen Møller

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Readers are introduced to the most important theories, encompassing both classical and contemporary approaches and debates. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps the reader to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organize and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to key global issues and how theory can be used as a tool to analyse and interpret these issues. The text is accompanied by online resources, which include: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.