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Discuss The Concept Of Power In International Relations From A Realist Perspective

1309 words - 6 pages

Realism is considered to be the dominant theory of International Relations because it explains the power struggle among states in the international system very well. From the realist point of view, the rule in this system is cruel, or we should say there is no rule in the operation of international relations because the only thing can be relied on is nations’ own power. Power is an important issue in realism. As Thucydides put it thousands years ago, “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. The power they discuss here is not absolute power but relative power. It’s a concept that should be compared with other states. The interesting thing is that nothing seems to have ...view middle of the document...

”(Jackson, & Sørensen, 2003, p.68) The more power a nation possess the higher status it is in the international hierarchy. Power, at this point, is essential to compete with other states.
Realists hold a pessimistic view of human nature: men are born to be selfish and with desire to conquer others. They argue that there should be two different moral standards: one is for individual who follows it in life within the state and the other is for the state in the international system because either of the standards is not appropriate if one conducts it in the other environment. The moral standard for the state allows it to do something that would not be acceptable for an individual. For that reason, no state is trustworthy in the international relation. Basically, a state would want to know if there is any threat from other states that would affect their power. However, it is already hard to know the intentions of other states, and it is almost impossible to predict their future steps. When the state’s interests and the international obligations come into conflict, even the treaties between states can be set aside, let alone other agreements, conventions, customs, rules, law, etc.( Jackson, & Sørensen, 2003, p.69) Even the deal decided today can be broken tomorrow. To deal with the worst situation, the best solution is to strengthen the state itself.
The most concern of realists is national security and state survival. As I have mentioned before, states represent “the collective will of people”. The state has the responsibility to provide the good life to its citizens. However, dreams like pursuing prosperity and human rights would never come true if the state can not guarantee its survival. The question is, whether states strengthen themselves is for defensive reasons or as an excuse to gain more power. At this point, realists have significantly different opinions. Defensive realists such as Kenneth Waltz believe that it is wise for a state to only get enough power because he thought too much power would only bring more uncertainty to a state’s security. “States are profoundly defensive actors and will not seek to gain greater amounts of power if that means jeopardizing their own security.”(Baylis, Smith, & Owens, 2007, p.101) On the contrary, offensive realists such as John Mearsheimer hold the opposite view. They claim that if the circumstances allow the state should maximize its power as much as possible. It is not because being dominant itself is good, but because “having overwhelming power is the best way to ensure one’s own survival.”(Dunne, Kurki, & Smith, 2007, p.72) But there is one thing that can not be denied: both defensive and offensive realists agree that states need power to survive.
Operating in the anarchic system means that state operates in a self-help world, in which states should help themselves to ensure the security. There is no 911 that they can dial when they...

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