Dictionary of Arguments


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Political Realism Brown Gaus I 290
Political realism/Brown: Realists take the state to be the key international actor, assume that states pursue interests defined in terms of power and, thus, hypothesize a world which can be characterized as a 'struggle for power and peace', the subtitle of Hans J. Morgenthau's influential Politics among Nations (1948)(1). Presented with this thumbnail sketch, a political theorist might reasonably assume this doctrine to be connected with nineteenth-century German power politics of the school of Heinrich von Treitschke or, perhaps, at a higher level of sophistication, with the twentieth-century, right-wing, political philosopher and legal theorist Carl Schmitt, whose 'friend-enemy' distinction seem highly relevant here (Schmitt, 1996(2); Treitschke, 2002(3)). Brown: (...) nothing could be further from the truth. Classic American realism emerged in the 1930s and 1940s. Its three most influential figures were the radical theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the diplomat George Kennan, and the émigré international lawyer, political theorist and, from 1943 onwards, University of Chicago professor Morgenthau; their work is well described in a number of modern studies (Smith, 1986(4); Rosenthal, 1991(5); Murray, 1996(6)). >International relations/Niebuhr, >Balance of Power/Waltz, >Balance of power/Social choice theory, >International relations/Carr.
Gaus I 291
Social choice theory: (...) the dominance of neorealist/neoliberal thought has significantly narrowed the range of questions that theorists of international relations deem appropriate or answerable. Whether states pursue relative gains or absolute gains (one way of distinguishing between neorealist and neoliberal assumptions) is an interesting question, but can hardly form a satisfactory basis for an examination of the foundations of the current international order (Grieco, 1988)(7). VsSocial choice theory: older realists were more willing to criticize these foundations, and at
least made some attempt to engage with issues such as the ethics of force, or the justice of a world
characterized by great material inequalities. Classical realists such as Stanley Hoffman, influenced by the French thinker Raymond Aron, and the English school's Hedley Bull at least attempted to engage with the Third World's 1970s demand for a new international economic order (Aron, 1967(8); Hoffman, 1981(9); Bull, 1984(10)).
Neorealism/neoliberalism: by way of contrast, neither neorealism nor neoliberalism make any attempt to consider, much less defend, the justice of the existing international order; anarchy is simply a given, an assumption that cannot be questioned, and concern with the internal characteristics of states, such as their poverty, is misdirected since states are posited to be similar in their behaviour, relevantly differentiated only by their capabilities.
VsMorgenthau: in contrast to the practical realism of Morgenthau, the realism of the 'anarchy problematic' rests on a theoretical construct, but, perhaps paradoxically, its very limitations have actually opened up a space which, over the last two decades or so, a different kind of theory has attempted to fill.


1. Morgenthau, H. J. (1948) Politics among Nations. New York: Knopf.
2. Schmitt, C. (1996 ti9321) The Concept of the Political. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
3. Treitschke, H. von (2002) Politics. Extracts in C. Brown, T. Nardin and N. J. Rengger, eds, International Relations in Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Smith, M. J. (1986) Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger. Baton Rouge, IA: University of Louisiana Press.
5. Rosenthal, J. (1991) Righteous Realists. Baton Rouge, LA: University of Louisiana Press.
6. Murray, Alastair (1996) Reconstructing Realism. Edinburgh: Keele University Press.
7. Grieco, J. M. (1988) 'Anarchy and the limits of cooperation: a realist critique of the newest liberal institutionalism'. International Oganisation, 42:485—508.
8. Aron, R. (1967) Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
9. Hoffmann, S. (1981) Duties beyond Borders. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
10. Bull, H. (1984) Justice in International Relations: The Hagey Lectures. Waterloo, ON: University of Waterloo.

Brown, Chris 2004. „Political Theory and International Relations“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

PolBrown I
Wendy Brown
American Nightmare:Neoliberalism, neoconservativism, and de-democratization 2006


Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004