Realism Vs Liberalism In America Foreign Policy

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Realism vs. Liberalism in America foreign policy

Realism Vs Liberalism in America Foreign Policy


Realism has long been one of the main theoretical approaches to the study of international relations. It is an intellectual tradition built on distinct concepts and arguments about what governs politics among states. As such, its fundamental precepts assert that the international system can be characterized by anarchy; states are its principal actors, which are sovereign and rational acting on national interests, the main ones of which are security and survival. To ensure the latter, states are constantly in the pursuit of power, which ultimately leads to the security dilemma. Leading proponents of the classical realist perspective include Hans Morgenthau, E. H. Carr, Reinhold Niebuhr, John H. Herz, Arnold Wolfers, Charles Beard, and Walter Lippman.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, a new form of realism, known as liberalism or structural realism, emerged in response to internal and external debates that challenged key realist assumptions. In particular, liberalism sought to redefine classical realism into a more positivist social science. To that end, neorealist scholars (such as Kenneth Waltz, Stephen Walt, Robert Gilpin, Randall Schweller, John Mearsheimer, Robert Jervis, Joseph Grieco, and Robert J. Art) reformulated realist rhetoric in favor of a systemic approach to international relations. More specifically, liberalism introduced the concept of multinational structure in order to construct a systems theory explaining what governs relations among states.

Both realism and liberalism are still among the leading schools of thought governing the study of international relations. In addition, they are typically invoked by politicians and academicians alike, not only to explain but also to justify state behavior on the international scene.

Discussion and analysis

In response to some of the above criticisms, neoclassical realism evolved as the third wave of realism (following liberalism). Realism does not reject Waltz's neorealist assumptions but rather refines them in order to offer explanations about specific states' behaviors. In particular, neoclassical realists examine how the distribution of power in the international system, together with states' domestic incentives and perceptions of that system, shape their foreign policy.

Rather than continuing to serve as a subject matter for the local application of imported middle-range theories, foreign policy moved centre stage in the global competition between realism on the one hand, and liberalism and constructivism on the other.

Evolution and Main Precepts: Realism

Realism and liberalism can be accused by the author's critical, feminist and post-modern vision of spreading paranoia of international relations, which would act as a "self-fulfilling prophecy": the practice of state policy makers can be guided by the principles of political realism. The reality would comply with the realist theory, considered the strangest vision of interstate relations.

Critics attack a few partial concepts of realism. The separation between foreign and domestic policy can be considered artificial. They also criticize the "national interest" to be a vague notion since no government will act against his interest, and that the national interest differs from one leader to another. The balance of power can be criticized, as ...
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