Is Realism an Obsolete Theory, or Is It More Relevant Than Ever?

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Realism, as a way of interpreting international relations has often been conceived to be closely tied to the Cold War. Realism, rooted in the experience of World War II and the Cold War, is said to be undergoing a crisis of confidence largely because the lessons adduced do not convincingly apply directly to the new realities of international relations in the twenty-first century (Clinton 2007:1) Worse still, if policymakers steadfastly adhere to realist precepts, they will have to navigate “the unchartered seas of the post-Cold War disorder with a Cold War cartography, and blind devotion to realism could compromise their ability to prescribe paths to a more orderly and just system.” (Kegley 1993:141). This paper will demonstrate that…show more content…
And with this, comes the realist concept of national interest. Realist ideology, statism, specifically, suggests that survival and sovereignty of the state is its primary goals, and the very condition of its existence. With this said, states do have the ability to take care of other actors’ interests and needs in the international community out of something that could be called a ‘moral responsibility’, but only if it somehow serves its own national interests in the process. Morgenthau (1949) explains that state actors who pursue certain national interests and act aggressively resort to liberal sentiment, as a convenient means of justifying their behaviour in the eyes of both the international community, and their own people. This is not to say however, that some states are sincere in certain good-hearted pursuits. But it is indeed true that moral principles prove to be serviceable to national interest (Morgenthau 1949:207). Machiavelli goes so far as to claim that morality is the product of power (Carr 2001:63). Take for example the nineteenth century, in which the British Empire was the global hegemon at the time. As a reason to explain imperialism and its colonial aspirations, they advertised the theory of the ‘White Man’s Burden’ as a moral and social norm, in which
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