Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

International Relation Theory: Classical Realism

Since its emergence, the study of global associations and world policies has remained subjugated by political practicality, which asserts that politics, similar to culture, is ruled by objective regulations that take their origins in the human environment. Classical realism is a unique, essential theory of global politics. The idea consists of three fundamental components; Survival, statism, and self-help. Survival is the standard of acquiring power and protecting it for the national interest. Statism is the rule that asserts that the state is sovereign and can implement laws. In contrast, the self-help rule is where countries have no option but to depend on their resources to maintain national security. Besides the assumptions, classical realism involves other vital concepts; the power transition theory emphasizes that subordinate governments will constantly challenge the dominant countries immediately after gaining strength. Furthermore, classical realism’s hegemonic stability theory asserts that states will always want to gain power over international systems. This study seeks to ascertain that among the international approaches, classical realism unattractive events like war are indispensable tools of statecraft in an imperfect world, and leaders must employ them in the national interest.

Realism theory has four assumptions. First, the approach focused on the state and viewed it as the principal political actor in international relations. Dunne, Kurki, and Smith (2020, P.59-61) contend that even though realism asserts that the state is the leading actor, (Richard and Ashley, 1984, P.225) add another aspect of non–state factors such as multinational organizations that play a big role in international relations. However, having analyzed the scholar’s thoughts, it is important to concur that realism emphasizes more on government and other international organizations because their relations have a massive effect on the international system. Moreover, Dunne, Kurki, and Smith, (2020, P. 59) assumption that states are unitary actors interested in protecting their interests are fully in support of Richard and Ashley’s argument. Therefore, the governments are more interested in achieving their national interest in whatever way possible. For instance, when a state formulates foreign policies, leaders are guided by their nation’s interests rather than anything else.

Realism upholds that common ethical philosophies cannot be practical to the activities of states in their non-figurative universal design but that they must be sieved through the tangible conditions of time and place. (Hilz, 2007 P.313) claims that the individual might make his self-decision, but the state has no right to say so in the name of those in its care. Similarly, Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019, P.125-127) ponder Hilz, (2007 P.313) idea and concur that both individuals and the state must judge political action by universal moral principles, such as that of liberty. Consequently, scholars admit that while the individual has a moral right to sacrifice himself in defense of such a moral principle, the state has no right to let its moral disapprobation of the infringement of liberty get in the way of successful political action because the state is inspired by the moral principle of national survival.

Classical realist also assumes that states are sane actors matching the national interest goals. State leaders are always consistent and have their priorities arranged in a specific manner to calculate the cost and the profit to improve their benefits. According to Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019, P.126-132) realist argues that the international system is anarchic because of the absence of a central government that can be able to guide the behavior of states in the realm of the world system. Even though Richard and Ashley, (1984, P.225) agree on the same thought as Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019, P.126-132) on the aspect of state leaders may be sane actors. Nonetheless, the notion of human nature acting sane in the contemporary culture risk triggering the definition of what is ideal and real in our society, civilization, and culture. Hence realists should understand that human beings are also prone to mistakes and sometimes may not make the best decision in the interest of the state.

Before making a fair assessment of classical realism with the international respect system, it is essential to analyze its assumptions about man’s nature. Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, P. 130-134) argue that realist men’s lives are full of egotism and passion directed by insecurity caused by everyday events. Thus, Richard and Ashley, (1984, P.225), admit Baylis, Smith, and Owen’s (2019, P. 130-134) thoughts by claiming that men will always want to control rather than be controlled, that why more often men want to hurt each other because they naturally compete for wealth. Other scholars Rose, and Gideon (1998 P. 144) agreed with Richard and Ashley, (1984, P.225) by asserting that man’s feelings of insecurity are prevalent, adding that humankind’s intellectual and moral history is the theory of inner insecurity. In other words, an urge for power arises because of the nature of men wanting things.

Besides the negative view of the nature of man, the classical realist provides information concerning the nature of the state. Conferring to Hobbes, the government is the organization of humankind that can avert a war among the people. Richard and Ashley (1984, P. 225) opine that the states’ formation is through the agreement of a social contract that the government can enforce to provide stability in the country. However, (Rose, and Gideon 1998 P. 144) disagree partly by claiming that the power conflict that states experience results from the human nature to ascend to power through the realist view is a fixed is crazy. Therefore it is only a moral right for a man to establish a state to provide security to protect the nation since all exist like a government. Nevertheless, both scholars Richard and Ashley (1984, P. 225) and Rose, and Gideon 1998 P. 144) concur that the state’s actions as a collective group of individuals are identical to that of man. However, it is essential to understand the nature of the international system to understand why states fight each other.

The power struggle is common in time and space and is an irrefutable detail of the experience. It cannot be denied that states have met each other in competitions for power throughout historical times, regardless of social, economic, and political conditions. Even though anthropologists have exposed that certain primitive peoples seem to be free from the desire for power, Hilz, (2007pg.312) advanced that nobody has yet shown how their state of mind can be re-created worldwide to abolish the fight for power on the global scene. Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019, P.125-127) agree with Hilz, (2007pg.312) by admitting that International politics, like all politics, is a power struggle. Hence, whatever the ultimate aims of international politics, power is always the immediate aim.

Many critics of realism theory focus on one central strategy known as the balance of power. The strategies describe the situations in which states progressively decide to undermine others. Rose and Gideon 1998, Pg.144) claim that their idea generates a theoretical thought as no government is viewed as influential within the international system’s realm. For instance, if a state tries to grow too fast, it will trigger other countries to ally to fight it to restore the balance of power. Felix and Richard (2018 pg.-125) concur with Rose and Gideon 1998, Pg.144) by admitting that the state balance of power is one biggest reasons the international system is lawless. Thus, no country in the world has managed to become a superpower to force others to follow its rule. State power alliances are determined by political and cultural similarities among different countries (Richard and Ashley, 1984, Pg. 225). Therefore, it is essential to note that power helped us understand why America and the Soviet Union were great friends during world war two. The two countries saw a similar threat from Germany, balancing the German power. Even though the real state saw a balance of power as a prudent strategy to manage the world, Felix and Richard (2018 pg. 123-124) assert that realist critics know the act as a way of authorizing war and hostility. Despite the criticism, classical realism remains integral to international theory, with more other models concerned with critiquing the idea. In addition, realism continues to offer many important insights about the world of legislation due to its history of providing tools of statecraft to state leaders.

Even though The Peloponnesians and Cold War’s occurred thousand years apart, their similarities are striking. Sandrina and Isabel, (2017 Pg. 18- 20.) Advanced that both wars lasted for many decades and with the Cold War adopted various themes used in the Peloponnesian war where soldiers used crude weapons to fight compared to the current modern world. Richard and Ashley, (1984, Pg. 225) agreed with Sandrina and Isabel, (2017 Pg. 18- 20.) on the comparison of two wars due to the same ambition of the nations involved. However, Richard and Ashley, (1984, Pg. 225) involve countries with past golden age and were also part of the previous conflict witnessed in the world. Athens city had its intellectual prestige age before the advent of the Peloponnesian war. Moreover, Sandrina and Isabel, (2017 Pg. 17- 20.) confirm that the Peloponnesian war came after Athens had just fought the Persian king. The Cold War started with the involvement of Americans and the Soviets after World War II, just like Athens had a prestige period during World War II and the cold war as their country continued to thrive economically.

Even though there was no physical fight during the cold war, greatness over other countries dominated the world as it shared its links from the Peloponnesians war. Sandrina and Isabel (2017, pg. 18) assets that the cold war and the Peloponnesian war were not extraordinary as both governments were trying to exert muscle on the best way to govern. Similarly Rose and Gideon, (1998, Pg.144) concur with Sandrina and Isabel’s (2017, pg. 18) assertion that Sparta and Athens fought over the best way to rule in the Peloponnesian War by Sparta triggered the war to derail the growth of Athens was experiencing during that time. Sandrina and Isa el (2017, pg. 18) opine that Sparta got annoyed by the rapid growth Athens was experiencing because growth was the measure of greatness during the cold war, an assertion that Rose and Gideon, (1998, Pg.144) Contended with. Nevertheless, the cold war was not only about space and arms but also about state control, as asserted in classical realism. The Americans were determined to control the expansion of the Soviet Amalgamation’s impact on its neighbors to stop the extent the communism.

The cold war was a conflict designed to test the people and restraint of world history between the two most powerful countries. Felix and Richard (2018, Pg.128) argue that the cold war heats up in the global affair coming second to the Second World War, with former friends standing against each other to control the post-war globe. Similar Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019 Pg. 146) agreed with Felix and Richard (2018, Pg.128) but underscore that the Peloponnesian war was to certain extent regional but both war confrontations gave birth to some similarities; The Americans being a liberal state with protection for its people, while the Soviet Union being a totalitarian governed under utopia communism (Baylis, Smith, and Owens, (2019 Pg. 146). As a result, the two ideological differences were the major underlying factors in the cold war commencement. However, facts reveal that the cold war was mainly classical combat of power nations repeated through the periods of Athens and Sparta.

Some similarities connect the Americans and Athens, mainly because their founders were passionate about Athens’s philosophy and political beliefs. The Peloponnesian war was aggressive, while the cold war was ideological. Both Sandrina and Isabel (2017, Pg. 20) and Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, Pg. 146-148) agreed that the cold war and Peloponnesian wars were fought for tangible reasons, mostly defense and the protected entrance to resources by controlling terrain and extracting tributes. Like the Cold war, Sandrina and Isabel (2017, Pg. 19) maintained that superpowers possessed massive military personnel; Sparta supported a massively large military and depended on other states they had captured to subsidies the expenses.

The impact of the Peloponnesian war on the cold war gave evidence for the relevance of realism theory. Peloponnesian influence on scholars in America was the foundation of the Cold War regarding the struggle between superpowers Scholars Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, Pg. 146-148) and Sandrina and Isabel (2017, Pg. 17) submit that the writing of the cold war in the early year derived its inspiration from the Peloponnesian war. Consequently, many scholars raised the attention to the importance of the Peloponnesian War to understand the Cold War, and with world leader’s equated American power to that of the Peloponnesian War, as described in history.

Throughout Cold War, the interpretation of the Peloponnesian war indicated what realists’ believed. Indeed, the study of Peloponnesian influenced American diplomacy during Cold War and changed how the USA saw the superpower world. Stephen, Rosie, and Christian (2017 Pg. 24) and Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, Pg. 147) underscore that the Americans drew a fundamental difference between the modes of politics in various states. The difference is still the topic of discussion in international relations. Furthermore, realist scholars like Machiavelli and Hobbes agree that Peloponnesian is an intoxicating scenario for states to overindulge.

During America’s competition with the Soviet Union to balance world power. America justified its invasion to control communist influence in various parts of the world. According to Stephen, Rosie, and Christian (2017 Pg. 22), the vital essence of the American invention was to wipe out the Soviet Union from spreading its roots just like Sparta’s deed to Athens. Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, Pg. 143) also concur with Stephen, Rosie, and Christian (2017 Pg. 22 by asserting that American intention of war may have borrowed a lot from Peloponnesian critical realist understanding of international relations through the way war proponent propelled their ideas. However, while the application of the Peloponnesian war is helpful in international relation, the absence of ease with which classical realist considers the relationship with the Cold war justifies the test of balance of power.

The importance of the test between the cold war and the Peloponnesian War is the practical consequences on the American diplomacy during the cold war era. Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2019, Pg. 142) advanced that the end of the cold war needs Peloponnesian war re-examination and the theory interstate. Even though Sandrina and Isabel, (2017, Pg. 16) agree that country may have constant behavior, the possibility of connection is always unavoidable. It is also essential that cold war policy formulators view the Peloponnesian war as linked to the present international relation. The relevance was rooted in and reflected even in the university today. International relation is an essential inspiration behind the formation of realism theory which significantly affected U.S policies after world war two Felix and Richard (2018, Pg.130). The Peloponnesian war also held a necessary place in the strategy of the U.S military college.

After world war two, America and the Soviet Union had intense hatred after the USA joined the war and caused many Soviet Union soldiers to die during the war. The tension between en the two groups grew and forced the cold war. Felix and Richard (2018, Pg.129) posit that the two powerful countries had opposite beliefs about ruling and managing the country, which resulted in chaos and emerged as the core of the cold war. Meanwhile, the Peloponnesian war started due to the Persian burning down the homes of Athens, causing a disastrous war that lasted for some time. On both occasions, the war was triggered by one part feeling infringed, thus taking a stand of revenge.

In conclusion, Classical realism offers a basic proposition about the international system. It provides an understanding of the nature of man, the global system, and the states. Experience helps determine why war occurs and how to avoid it. Even though explaining numerous issues and situations is difficult, classical realism enables theorists to understand our global system better. Hence authenticity remains a leading paradigm of our time; it is worth deepening our knowledge of potential contribution to creating a more stable future. Classical realism is poised to remain an indispensable factoring in global associations. It assists the t tremendous interest of people, leaders, and the government. Even as globalization remains, classical realism will stay to adjust and be fashioned by the current realist. The arguments offered in this effort try to look through the lens of classical realism and the essential appreciation of the human environment and the international system. The primary explanation comes from highlights of Aristotle’s specialist viewpoint, thus, attributed to current power relations in the world. Therefore a complete understanding of the human environment would aid clarify the logical variety behind the pragmatist thought. However, it would require international relations scholars to understand the many fundamental underlying beliefs.


Felix Rösch & Richard Ned Lebow, (2018).Contemporary Perspective on Realism: free to download from E: IR

Hilz, W., 2007. Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, New York 1948. In Schlüsselwerke der Politikwissenschaft (pp. 310-314). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, (2019). Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to I.R, pg.121-150, Oxford University Press

Richard K. Ashley, (1984).”The Poverty of Neorealists.International Organization no.38, 225-86 Link

Rose, Gideon (1998). “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy.” World Politics 51, no. 1: 144-72. Link

Sandrina An unes and Isabel Camisão, (2017).’Realism’ Chapter 1 in Stephen McGlinchey, Rosie Walters and Christian Scheinpflug (eds), International Relations Theory (Bristol, E-International Relations, pp15-21

Stephen McGlinchey, Rosie Walters &Christian Scheinpflug (2017) .International relation theories: pg.17-25 Briston England

Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, Steve Smith, (2020) International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, Fourth pg.56-90, Edition, Oxford University Press


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics