Realism vs Neo-Realism
Realism and Neo-realism are two different schools of thought that showed a difference between them when it comes to their outlook on international relations. Both of them differed in their approach to the problem of identifying the various causes of conflicts in international relations. Though they have different approaches, there are some important similarities between the two as well. Realism and neo-realism explain the word as it is. They do not explain the word as it should be. So, they are realistic. They both show that domestic politics of a country is separate from the foreign policy. In these two approaches, states are defined as rational actors rather than agents of morality. They also say that the international system basically stays the same.
What is Realism?
Realism paid more importance to the individualistic aspect of social life. Unchanging human nature was given more importance by the realists. Thus, political situations were deemed self-interested in character and nature. Realism aims more at the analysis of the roots of conflict in international relations. It also believes in the implementation of strategies to approach conflict in international relations. When it comes to the politics of realism, what we can see is that realist politics is an autonomous sphere. Realist believes in designing proper definitions of economy and culture. Realism is hierarchical in character. Unlike neo-realism, realism does not believe in the supremacy of central authority. On the whole, it can be said that realists do not believe in anarchy. In realism, power is a very important aspect. The power of a state is considered based on factors such as the military power the state holds.
What is Neo-Realism?
Neo-realism did not pay much of an attention to the individualistic aspect of social life. On the other hand, neo-realists said that the conflict in international relations can be solved and explained more by the state of anarchy. This is one of the main differences between realism and neo-realism. When it comes to the politics in neo-realism, what we can see is that neo-realist’s politics is not an autonomous sphere. Neo-realist does not believe in defining economy and culture. Neo-realism is totally anarchical in character. It is not hierarchical, unlike the realism. Neo-realism takes a different approach to explain the nature of the conflict in international relations. It considers that interstate conflict is rooted in the absence of central authority. When it comes to the use of strategies, although the neo-realist believes in defining strategies to approach conflict in international relations, this approach is more inclined towards security.
What is the difference between Realism and Neo-Realism?
• Definition of Realism and Neo-Realism:
• Realism believes that conflicts arise because states are self-interested and power seeking units as they are made of people who are self-interested and unchanging.
• Neo-realism believes that conflicts arise because of anarchy. Since there is no central authority, the states try to seek power to help themselves.
• Realism focuses its interest on human nature.
• Neo-realism focuses its interest on the structure of the system.
• Realism is interested in power.
• Neo-realism is interested in security.
• Strategical approach:
• Realism believes in the implementation of strategies to approach conflict in international relations.
• Although the neo-realist believes in defining strategies to approach conflict in international relations, this approach is more inclined towards security.
• System polarity:
Both realism and neo-realism speaks about system polarity.
• In realism, since the focus is more on gaining power, unipolar system is the type of system of polarity the realists speak the most about. In a unipolar system, there is only one great power. So, to balance the power in an international system, all other countries have to come together to equal the power of the one great power.
• In neo-realism, biopolar system is the most stable system according to neo-realists. In a bipolar system, there are two great powers. So the international power is balanced. Mutipolar system, though it is talked of by both realists and neo-realists, is not a very favorable topic. That is because it means there are more than two great powers. In such a situation, balancing power can be a great problem.
These are the important differences between realism and neo-realism.
- Niccolò Machiavelli via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
- Robert Jervis by National Defense University Press (CC BY 2.0)