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A Taxonomy of Realisms

Type of Realism Key Thinkers Key Texts Big Ideas

Thucydides The Peloponnesian International Politics is


driven by an endless struggle
(c. 460-400 BC) War for power which has its roots
in human nature. Justice,
law and society either have
no place or are
circumscribed in society.

Machiavelli The Prince Political realism recognizes


Classic Realism that principles are
(1532) subordinated to policies; the
(Human Nature) ultimate skill of a state
leader is to accept and adapt
to changing power-political
configuration in world
politics.

Morgenthau Politics Among Politics is governed by laws


that are created by human
(1948) Nations nature. The mechanism that
we use to understand
international politics is
through the concept of
interests, defined in terms of
power.
A Taxonomy of Realisms
Type of Realism Key Thinkers Key Text Big Ideas

Rousseau The State of War It is not human nature,


but the anarchical system
(c. 1750)
that fosters fear,
jealousy, suspicion and
insecurity.

Waltz Theory of Anarchy leads to a


Structural Realism (1979) International logic of self-help in
(International Politics which states seek to
System) maximize their
security. The most
stable distribution of
power in the system is
bipolarity.
Mearsheimer Tragedy of Great The anarchical, self-
(2001) Power Politics help system compels
states to maximize
their relative power
position.
Taxonomy of Realisms
Contemporary Responses to Key Thinkers Big Ideas
Structural Realism
Neoclassical Realism Schweller (1997), Zakaria The systemic account provided
(1998) by structural realism is
incomplete. It needs to be
supplemented with better
accounts of unit-level
variables such as how power is
perceived, and how leadership
is exercised.
Rational Choice Realism Grieco (1993), Krasner (1999) Advocates of this position
claim that institutions matter
although the problem of
relative gains means that they
exert less of a causal force
than neoliberals contend.
Rational choice realists use
advanced social science
methodologies such as game
theory in order to test realist
hypotheses.