What are the assumptions of realism and why has it been so influential in the studies of International relations?

Essay by ldyzkjCollege, UndergraduateB-, January 2006

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Originating from the German word 'Realpolitik' , realism is often used as a term which fits a more realistic and unpretentious political theory, as opposed to an unrealistic ideological theory. It is this theory which has been one of the leading and most prominent ways of thinking in terms of international relations in modern times, with its stark view of nation states and people appealing greatly to the Western leading political institutions, as recently it has become another phrase for 'power politics'. Instead of referring to itself as an ideology, realists see it as more of a straight forward rational theory, a way of thinking reasonably in the situation, rather than seeing the world as a far fetched and ideological utopia. Political realism is seen as a way of explaining political philosophy models, and to prescribe political relations. It makes many assumptions, the key one being that power is indeed (or ought to be) the first point in political action, be it in an international or domestic sphere.

Domestically, this theory declares that the politicians must look to take full advantage of their power. However when in the international arena the nation states should be the primary agents that advance and seek to make the most of the power available to them. It can be seen therefore that nations and politicians ought to pursue power or their own interests in theory, but in reality the ruling nation state of affairs-that nations and politicians only selfishly pursue power.

In the late 20th century, realism was seen as a way of managing all of the world's powerful nations peacefully and co-operating for the advantage of those concerned. The international interaction was based less on political principles and more upon the balance of power between the worlds leading nations, as introduced to Western...