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Cores of Realism

This essay examines the relevance of the core ideas of Realism in a contemporary world. It explores the roots of the theory, from Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau to Morgenthau, Beitz and Doyle. The core assumptions are that states are inherently self interested, unitary actors performing on an anarchic global stage.It looks at modern problems of Realism presented by a re-emergence of liberalism, the emergence of globalisation and its apparent incompatibility with democracy. Realism is a term we commonly use to define a motivation for behaving in accordance with truths and facts which exist independently of sentiment, emotive persuasions or overtly ideological tendencies. Within politics and more specifically, international relations, Realism has come to mean to mean a rejection of moralistic or ethical concerns in favour of a more pragmatic approach to policy and diplomacy. Realism places emphasis on the national security of a state rather than focusing on the application of moral concepts such as justice. Are these ideas still relevant in today's society or is there significant evidence to suggest states are primarily motivated by concepts of what is right, rather than what is necessary These issues will be explored throughout this essay, beginning with an investigation into the history of Realism. The roots of Realism can be traced back centuries to Machiavelli (1513) and Hobbes (1651). Both have had and continue to have a major influence on the shaping of political theory, particularly with their most celebrated works, The Prince and Leviathan. The latter claims that "in the nature of man, we find three principle causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory. The first, maketh men invade for gain; the second for safety; and the third, for reputation" (Hobbes 1651/1996, p. 83). Because of Man's natural tendency to be driven by competition and aggression, he will find himself in a perpetual state of war. Though the implementation of a sovereign will, in some way, offer salvation from the immediate state of war between individuals, it will not prevent conflict between states, which have their own interests to protect. It is therefore "the office of the sovereign for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety of the people; to which he is obliged by the law of nature." (Hobbes 1651/1996, p.175).
This overriding aim of national security takes precedence over the individual concerns of those within the state. Indeed, Hobbes argues that the sovereign "can be no injury to any of his subjects" (p.117) which essentially gives the sovereign carte blanche to act upon their own decision without appeal to the general public. In particular, "is annexed to the sovereign the right of making war, and peace with other nations and commonwealths." (Hobbes 1651/1996 p.119). Machiavelli takes a similar and arguably, more radical view with regards to the implementation of policy (1513/1999). The thrust of his book, The Prince is in how to maintain the most powerful state. His view of man is that they "are ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well, they are yours" (Machiavelli 1513/1999, p. 54). The thrust of the book is in how to maintain the most powerful state. It offers an early form of utilitarianism, which is an important aspect within the core ideas of Realism. He argues that,
"By making an example or two he will prove more compassionate than those who, being too compassionate allow disorders while lead to murder and rapine. These nearly ...Show more

Summary

This essay examines the relevance of the core ideas of Realism in a contemporary world. It explores the roots of the theory, from Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau to Morgenthau, Beitz and Doyle. Are the core ideas of Realism still relevant in a contemporary world?…
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