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Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism Critical Essay

Comparisons and contrasts

International relations theorists suggest that realism and neo-realism are both theories that best explain international relations due to their principles which are based on dominance and self- help systems. The book entitled Theory of International Politics by Kenneth Walts defines neo-realism as international relations based on anarchy and capacity distribution.

On the other hand, realism denotes that political power is the central component in all matters related to politics. It is imperative to point out that while both express politics and realpolitik, an exercise of power or principle by a state differentiates the two aspects since they are controlled by competitive self-interest.

One of the key differences between classical realism and neo-realism is their influence that causes conflicts in international relations. The emphasis laid by classical realism is that states are power-seeking units. Thucydides asserts that states are self-interested units. Unlike realism, which is based on power that has the potential to influence other people, nations or groups, classical neo-realism is based on unchanging nature.

Realism points out that power is based on characteristics that can be tangible or intangible, and can emanate from the use of the armed forces, level of income, and the size of a state. It further indicates that power can be based on non-material elements such as influence that may depend on popular support, diplomatic skills and national will.

This also works well under nationalism, ideology, religion and domestic mobilization. Internationally, power is gained by forming rules and sharing them among states. Conversely, neo-realism views the state of anarchy as a source of conflict in international relations. Besides anarchy, states may develop self-help systems of power in the absence of an overarching authority.

Moreover, realism theory is based on the belief that states form the key actors in international politics and are therefore the highest levels of authorities in the globe. Consequently, they form the main center of power which is exercised for survival in the international arena.

Realism is considered as a major struggle for power largely for raw materials and consolidation of markets. This model differs from the neo-realism’s view, which acknowledges the existence of top institutions or authorities that control means of production either at the local or international level.

Prospects for international cooperation

The thought-provoking analysis of John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert Jervis on the need for international cooperation indicates that states have lived in restrictive structures whereby their values and demands have been strictly dictated by the norms and conservative beliefs.

Arguably, these systems have directly or indirectly been structured in political leaderships that predetermined their extent of expression and mode of application.

However, the need for international cooperation curves the necessary autonomy, where expression of the communities and contributions from individuals becomes unlimited. International cooperation will ensure that decisions will slowly but surely shift from a central consideration to the extended boundaries of a community.

According to John Mearsheimer, modern systems offer the best platforms for the establishment of communities based on different interests such as economic development, recreation demands, leadership, and advocacy, among others.

Old mechanistic system of power and dominance should be reformed since this does not merely reduce their holistic inclusion through creative contribution. It also impedes their overall growth and development. Economic integration is an important prospect that is critical in strengthening a region and subsequent development by securing free trade area.

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C., Kaylynn. "Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism." IvyPanda, 26 Aug. 2019,

1. Kaylynn C. "Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism." IvyPanda (blog), August 26, 2019.


C., Kaylynn. "Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism." IvyPanda (blog), August 26, 2019.


C., Kaylynn. 2019. "Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism." IvyPanda (blog), August 26, 2019.


C., K. (2019) 'Book Review: Classical realism and neo-realism'. IvyPanda, 26 August.

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