Realism and Neorealism

| March 10, 2020



According to Scott Burchill, realism is the most potent inherited international relations pattern, as it has been there for a long time now. The dominance of realism is based on its philosophical roots, its strong criticism of the progressive steps in internationalism, and the impact it has had on diplomacy internationally. Realism explains the world of international politics in a clear manner, not based on people’s expectations (Burchill, 2001). Realists understand the world for what it truly is, and according to them, ideologies such as violence may be justified. Power is portrayed phenomenon that calls for a form of interference, such as the kind of violence that was experienced in the twentieth century.


The idea that competition among nations, struggle, and distrust are what make up the global realm, crushes any possibility of achieving realism. As a result, the expectation of realists who hope for peace and justice in political activities worldwide are not achieved. Realism remains a theoretical tradition and as such realizes view global politics as a world of repetition instead of a dynamic world.

Liberalists across the globe responded to World War I by advocating for the abolishment of wars a tool for diplomacy. According to them, diplomatic activities could be made more acceptable by abolishing private diplomacy and establishing bodies such as the League of Nations to peacefully resolve international conflict.

Concerning World War I, Carr gave an insight into what he thought was an overview of what international peace meant in the long run (Burchill, 2001). According to him, individuals were focused too much on the achievement of world peace rather than possibilities founded on realistic analysis. The League of Nations failed to prevent occurrences such as Japan’s invasion on Manchuria, destroying people’s expectations of world peace. Carr’s 1939 writings on political occurrences since 1931 paved way for a more critical and serious study of international politics.

According to the text, politics and governmental activities are known to create and uphold certain assumptions about international relations. As a result, dominant groups have been established that maintain political dominance by drawing parallels between their interests and those of the members of the public. According to Carr, war is usually the best way in which power is measured in the global system. He clearly explains how both the notions of harmony of interests and liberalism have to be put in place for international peace to be achieved.

Moreover, in this reading, Carr explains the concept of international politics by giving an example of a laissez-faire economy (Burchill, 2001). In as much as dominant powers benefit a lot, both the domineering party and the ruled party derive certain benefits as well, for example, in the case of Great Britain. Pure realism only lays the foundation for a power struggle, and this is the idea of international politics that realists pessimistically expect to exist.

According to Burchill (2001), Carr’s argument that there was a possibility of merging realism with idealism received a lot of criticism. However, he maintained the view that that the change was needed in terms of mandatory jurisdiction that would improve international politics in order to avoid conflicts between states (Burchill, 2001). The reading also presents the views of Morgenthau, who gave an overview of what realism ought to be like in six principles that narrow down to the idea that realism incorporates moral obligation and consideration. Like Carr’s views, Morgenthau’s principles were meant to dilute the pessimistic expectations of realists regarding the prospects of peaceful international politics.

Additionally, the author of the reading notes that studies were also conducted on structural realism, also known as neorealism. Structural realism posits that the structure of the international system is responsible for certain global political outcomes. According to Waltz’s, two items are significant in the conception of structure in the international system: unit and structure.He adds that in international relations and world politics, the most significant issues are the past events, present ones, and what the future holds. Events such as war, power struggle, prevention of conflicts, competition, and equating power are what determines the past, present, and future (Burchill, 2001). However, Neorealism has failed to fulfil certain past, present and future expectations unlike in realism where the prospects of these expectations being met remain high. However, supporters of neorealism, ascertain, with justification, that the theory of structural realism is usually the obvious and possible point at which most concepts in international politics emerge.

In contrast, Waltz disputes arguments in favor of realism by stating that global politics can be seen as a system that is structurally developed. In disputing realism, he argues that the different units can be directly attributed to political outcomes. Waltz opposes the idea of a single unit level as it tries to present the whole globe as a unit. According to him, the idea of generalizing the globe as a single unit does not take cognizance of the fact that states are not bound by the same moral principles, and do not have the same capabilities, thus, they cannot behave in the same way.


The reading provides an insightful analysis of the concepts of realism, structural realism, and neorealism by discussing the views of various theorists. For instance, the well-put ideas of theorists such as Barry Buzan, Richard Little, and Charles Jones have significantly contributed to the debate on structural realism and how it has greatly been improved to suit the needed concept of international politics (Burchill, 2001). Moreover, examining the concepts of realism and neorealism through different approaches has greatly contributed to an appreciation of their role in the integration of international politics and the realization of global peace.


Burchill, S. (2001).Realism and neo-realism.Palgrave.

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