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A Critique of Realism

Updated on August 28, 2011

  To begin with, Realism as an international relations ideology is an outdated ideology with it's roots indoctrinated by the most basic and inherent fear of mankind; fear of that they don't understand.

The four pillars of realism are a central theme to my critique of Realism, for they outline a narrow minded penalization of one of mankind's flaws. First, the ideology has a pessimistic view of human nature, seeing man essentially as evil, individualistic, greedy and what Hans Morgenthau calls animus dominandi; the human 'lust' of power. The human animus dominandi dictates that men and women are by nature political animals; they are born to purse power and enjoy the fruits of their power, however this will inevitably bring men and women into conflict with each other. And a realist answer to this craving of power {animus dominandi} that he/she sees as inevitably leading to conflict, is to arm yourself in order to protect oneself thus making this ideology a childish reactionary retaliation to superfluous threats super-imposed by our own irrational fears of being made subservient. In this sense, Realism becomes an ideology based on paranoia and fear of being bested for example; the ever growing fear for weapons of mass destruction can be seen as a realist's attempt to reassure himself that the worst will not come him. Some will argue that this ideology has been in play since ancient Greece and that it has as Edmund Burke will say ' withstood the test of time' so diverting from it will unimaginable because if it's not broken why fix it? WRONG.

  Outdated ideologies set in stone will not help mankind prosper in this ever pragmatic world, it only serves to hinder our development if we are always in a constant state of fear and conflict. With this grim outlook, the world economy will simply cease to exist due to the impending fear of others and conflict, technologies will become a mad poet's raving dream; in this the euphoria of the Renaissance and the 'Age of Enlightenment' will be myths told for entertainment purposes making our world a dystopic former shell of what used to be. 

   Second, realists have a strong conviction that details that all international relations are necessarily conflictual and that international conflicts are ultimately resolved by war. With this, Realism is interlinked with Nationalism and to some extend Imperial Conservatism for it's tendencies to display characteristic of protectionism and expansionism. Realism in the field of international relation displays protectionism tendencies i.e. in the sense to protect state interest and state dominance of other states; however dominance over other states entails either hostile take overs or economical superiority linking it with expansionism (Imperial Conservatism) and to be honestly we all know what happen with Imperial Conservatism's take on dominance, SLAVERY. Furthermore, in this sense realism fails to capture the extent to which international politics and relations are a different dialogue of voices and perspectives. To summarize, realism doesn't capture all of IR or even most of its important aspects, it overlooks or ignores many important facets of international life i.e. international business etc; in addition the theory doesn't take into account the cooperativeness in human nature but rather they label man as un-cooperative, greedy. To finish, realism ignores other important actors besides states, such a human beings; who in other's eyes are held with optimism and will overshadow state interest; and other actors like the supranatural organisations such as the E.U., N.A.T.O, the U.N and other NGOs who believe that cooperation instead of conflict can prevail.


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    • Enock Vera profile imageAUTHOR

      Enock Vera 

      6 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      Sorry for the late reply Zach, I'm purely writing from an academic point of view. Most realist (famous ones anyway) adhere to Carr's rhetoric that practice makes theory instead of the other way around; therefore in this case they tend to think whatever foreign body they're facing to be hostile until proven otherwise. And therein lies the dilemma of this brilliant and logically ideology.

      i completely understand what you mean when you said " once you become the leader of a country, once the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head, your priorities just change", and that is true but the ideology threats everyone like enemies.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      "First, the ideology has a pessimistic view of human nature, seeing man essentially as evil, individualistic, greedy and what Hans Morgenthau calls animus dominandi; the human 'lust' of power. "

      I am a realist and I don't take a dim view of human nature--quite the opposite, actually. To me, first of all, Realism is only concerned with the behavior of heads of state or other major policymakers. This in itself is an extremely small portion of humankind in general. And I think that, once you become the leader of a country, once the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head, your priorities just change. You feel extreme responsibility to uphold the security of your nation. No leader wants to be the one who was too weak in responding to a threat; no leader wants to be the one that history writes failed to capitalize on a possible advantage; no leader wants to jeopordize the safety of their regime or people. So they have to be hardasses. To me, this doesn't seem pessimistic. It seems, in a sense, noble: the leaders are putting the needs of their nation first.


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