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What Are the Key Differences Between Realism and Neo-Realism? Does This Make Neo-Realism a “Better” Theory of International Relations?

  • Date Submitted: 10/16/2011 10:41 AM
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WHAT ARE THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN REALISM AND NEO-REALISM? DOES THIS MAKE NEO-REALISM A “BETTER” THEORY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS?

‘The strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept,’ this famous quote from the Melian dialogue constitutes the iron law of realism, which arguably has dominated international arena for approximately 2,500 years.[1] But it was not until 1939, when the ideas of classical realists were first assertively addressed by E.H. Carr when he fiercely opposed the Liberals in, what is now known, the First Great Debate of international relations. Although Carr’s views have remained influential, the German-Jewish émigré to the United States, Hans Morgenthau, came to have the largest impact in classical realism.[2] His magnum opus – Politics Amongst Nations – enjoyed intellectual hegemony over the realm until 1979 when Kenneth Waltz, the father of structural realism introduced a scientific and systematic realism in his book Theory of International Politics. Since that time, there has been an on-going discussion about the relationship between classical and structural realism. The first half of this essay aims to highlight the most crucial differences that exist in classical and structural realists’ views.

In order to achieve the same kind of comprehensiveness that Waltz demonstrated by introducing three levels of analysis in Man, the State, and War, so too, in this essay the key differences will be explored in the framework of the three levels in order to highlight the main differences that occur on each level when comparing the ideas of the two theories. This analogical methodology of analysis will be acquired with the aim of making the analysis easily understandable, since the systematic approach allows the differences to be, from the one hand, very clear and, on the other hand, it guarantees to the depth of analysis since it examines differences on all three - individual, state and system - levels....

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