Strengthsand Weaknesses of the Realist Theory of International Relations (IR)
InInternational Relations (IR), realism is a dominant theory. Itsupplies most of the IR discourse, contributes to an importantdiscussion for peace, endemics, nature of war, and other instances ofinternational cooperation and conflict within the internationalarena. Realism, coupled with its emphasis on conflicts, peace, war,and security competition, among great powers, remains a dominantplayer in understanding the International Relations (Wohlforth, 131).Realist theory contributes significantly to nature and state in theinternational arena.
Realists, on the other hand, are of the belief that there is noglobal authority centralized enough to limit the sovereign statesfrom determining their actions. And for this particular reason, thecountry-states remains the only legitimate players involved withinternational players and no domestic or supranational actors canprevent them (Wohlforth 133). The paper, therefore, will discuss therealist theory paradigm by looking at its strengths and weaknesses,while drawing specific examples from different areas of cooperationand international affairs.
Oneinterpretation of Realism Theory, which is unbroken amongst itsanalysts, is that the theory represents a strong belief regardingforeign states being the principle actors in international politicsand that it is more concerned with stabilizing power. The theoryargues that all the general states or countries` choices and actionsrepresent a reflection and collective will of its people on matterswithin respective nations. It is also an argument that is stronglysupported by Wohlforth (138), albeit coming across as moretotalitarian. He agrees with the theory that it is as a matter offact a total representative of the people. The method builds on thefoundations for the nations` international affairs, making globalissues appear egoistic.
Realism Theoryassists with protecting and assuring the survival of countries byemphasizing on nurturing relationships. A good example is the EastTimor establishing a stronger relationship with Australia on matterssecurity and peace during the Second World War. The Dutch andAustralian, acting under the Allied Command orders, went to EastTimor to establish stronger ties and ensure offshore defense line toprevent the advancing Japanese, a scenario emphasized in the theory(Wohlforth, 137). Here, one of the strengths of the approach is itsrealist argument, which highlights on a particular country to act forits survival and protection, more so on matters economy and security.
On issues,international conflicts, war, and the reasoning behind the war,realities described by the Realism Theory is quite praiseworthy andaccurate as it tries to argue with affirmations that war is"inevitable." It is thus challenging and hard to argueagainst this since the number of internal and external war is stilltaking place globally. Whereas liberals tend to argue against this,that war should act as a last resort against any war, Realism Theoryprovides a firm conviction confirming otherwise (Wohlforth, 139). Asmuch as realists tend to give an explanation instead of a solution,the theory is a valid confirmation that international war isinevitable because individuals are power hungry. Therefore, sincenations fear for their survival and thus by abolishing competitions,they ensure their existence.
On matterseconomy, realist theory complements other methods, for example,hegemonic stability and regime theory. The theory also draws aprecise and definite picture of having a contemporary internationaleconomic system. Globalization, according to the theory, isfacilitated by the U.S-led foreign policy on matters economicopenness. Here, the strength lies in the theory`s emphasis on theglobal economy used by the hegemonic power to protect and defend acountry`s political position, while maintaining a particular statusquo within the international system (Wohlforth, 140). A case in pointis the actions by Russia during the economic crisis between 2013 and2014 in Ukraine. Russia faced difficulty from the Western Powerresponse in the form of economic sanctions.
On mattersglobal economy, this Realism Theory states that the politicization ofglobal economic relations is a reality and that its inevitable naturebecause a fact every time there is ineffectiveness in militaryoperations, and thus it becomes difficult in producing dynamic globalstability. Here, some countries may be aggressive enough to applytheir economic strengths and capabilities to fulfill and satisfyimperialistic ambitions, while increasing their power. For example,this is seen with the currency and economic wars between the UnitedStates and China, which in reality and inevitability have gone aheadto affect the structure of international trade ties.
Finally, Realism Theory advocates for Orthodox approach, whichincludes economic nationalism and mercantilism. This approach, inreality, has gone to explain the growth in economic openness, capitalmobility, and free trade in different times of history. Here, somecomponents making up the theory strongly advocate for an economicsystem that has come to be a reality in recent times (Wohlforth,141). Such an observation is shown by the 1970s and 1980s economicstability, for example, the Roman Empire, that came to establishinstitutions, rulers, and regimes, that went ahead to createinternational organizations like the WTO, IMF, and the World Bank.
Despite thetheory`s clarity in the description of historical trends, RealismTheory faces certain restrictions are numerous dimensions. Forinstance, the idealists consider nations as "black boxes,"which lack a comprehension of how a particular country`s interest isdesigned. Again, realism is approached from its excessivematerialism. Its ideological roles, institutions, values, and normsare underestimated. For example, realism in contemporary politicsshows the Western liberal democratic nations as being weak in itsquest to react to the fascism threats (Wohlforth, 143). Additionally,realism is that theory, which belongs to world superpowers pursuingcourses of power politics. Here, Realism Theory emerges as simplycomplementing the completion the theories of IPE, which areliberalism, constructivism, and Marxism.
The theoryargues that world economy is as a result of the inevitability ofgrowing integration as part of the measure among the states toestablish a stable and peaceful order. However, one of thelimitations of the theory is that it misses the point about theeconomic interdependence existing between different states, which maymake it difficult for wars to break out (Wohlforth, 144). The theorytalks about the "inevitability" of ways getting outhowever, the argument fails to speak about the symmetry between suchcountries as Germany and the British Empire in the late 20th century.These two nations refused to engage in wars, and thus disregardingthe realist on "inevitability."
Another important point made by the naturalists is the rise of thenon-state actors and also the diffusion of International Relationspower. However, Wohlforth (145) noted a limitation in the argumentstating that the theory is partly correct. First, as much as thesenations remain, major actors, there is a rise in importance ofMulti-national Corporations and international institutions. Forinstance, the EU competencies are decided upon by the nations inquestions therefore, the theory fails to state that the worldeconomy is far much affected by both the policies and markets, moreso those of powerful nations. For example, powerful countries as theUnited States and Russia, what the theory fails to indicate are thatthey tend to react to new statutes and laws, which in turn impose ontheir governments. This is because they have legitimate tools tocarry out activities and impose pressure on economic systems.
Theinternational politics as per the realist theory are constructedsocially, and thus, shared identities and ideas do not underlieobjectivism in realism. Here, the limitation is that realism fails toapprove emphasis on forces of the physical military, objectiveconditions of power, and geographical circumstances making some ofits attributes meaningless (Wohlforth, 149). Nevertheless,materialism remains relevant, but only from within the socialcontext. Again, the theory fails to explain the objective factors inInternational Relations. For example, the strengths and economicgrowth of India as a nation are not considered as a huge threat tothe United States as much as China`s growth is concerned.
Realism Theoryappears persuasive from its examples and its explanation of the IRdevelopment. Realist argues that the humankind history refers thehistory of war, which is underlined by global economic incentives. Inits classical version, realism theory represents an economic andmercantilism nationalism, which describes a lot of historicalprocesses of economic nationalism. However, economic and politicalopenness have since emerged. Again, new realism approaches, forexample, the Hegemonic theory and regime theory appears to be morecompelling and thus exposes some its weaknesses and limitations.
Wohlforth, William (2010): The Oxford Handbook of InternationalRelations. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 131-150.