The most major distinction is between classical realism, which stresses human and domestic causes, and neorealism, which highlights how the international system's structure influences state behavior. Classical realists believe that states act in their own interests and are therefore not concerned with other states' opinions of them; neorealists argue that states do care what others think of them because it affects how they can get things done within the system.
Another distinction is between static realism and dynamic realism. In static realism, states do not change over time; they remain constant entities whose actions can be explained by their current beliefs and desires. By contrast, in dynamic realism, states are active participants in world politics who shape events through their decisions and actions.
Yet another distinction is between internal and external realism. Internal realism focuses on the actions of states within the context of their systems; external realism considers states as independent actors with a will of their own.
Last, but not least, there is a difference between descriptive realism and prescriptive realism. Descriptive realists try to explain past events so that we can better understand why certain things happened; they write historical accounts. Prescriptive realists try to tell people what to do or what should happen in future situations; they offer advice to other states or propose solutions for ongoing conflicts.
Classical realism contends that flaws in human nature mean that states will inherently seek power in the international system, whereas neorealism takes a broader view of the international system's structures and contends that this, rather than flaws in human nature, accounts for power shifts in the international system. Classical realists such as Henry Kissinger and Robert Cooper argue that new technologies have only increased the need for strong leaders who can maintain order in an increasingly interdependent world.
In contrast, neorealists such as William Wohlforth argue that changes in technology have allowed for more sophisticated strategies by states to gain advantage over others. For example, one-off attacks using special forces rather than full-scale wars allow countries to win trade agreements or other benefits from their partners without being fully committed to them. Furthermore, new communications technologies have made it possible for groups or individuals to create problems for states far away from their home countries (e.g., terrorist organizations), allowing smaller states to gain leverage over larger ones.
The most important early proponent of classical realism was Henry Kissinger, who used to say that "power is its own justification". In other words, states will naturally want to be powerful because being powerful gives them advantages in negotiations and conflicts with other states.
Kissinger also argued that traditional ideas about justice in international relations were wrong because they assumed that weak states would always be treated unfairly by stronger states.
(1) how state actions and decisions are founded in human nature; (2) how the anarchical character, or 'State of Nature,' of international politics without a central authority impacts state decisions and actions; (3) the fight for power, or 'idea of power,' in an anarchical society; (4) the role of force in history.
Classical realists believe that political events are based on human nature which is inherently competitive and wants to preserve itself. They also believe that states act according to rational self-interest which leads them to engage in strategic planning to achieve their goals. Last, they believe that states use military force as a last resort because it is effective in achieving objectives while being costly to deploy.
Classical realists focus mainly on two types of states: great powers and small states. Great powers are defined as states that have sufficient resources to influence world politics and small states are defined as states that do not have such resources. According to classical realists, great powers will always seek to increase their power whereas small states will try to stay out of large conflicts because they cannot afford to be involved in them. This belief is called the "great power paradox" because it seems counterintuitive that larger states would want to reduce their power.
In conclusion, classical realists believe that states will act according to rational self-interest which will lead them to engage in strategic planning to achieve their goals.
Although neorealism provides an appealing framework for the study of international relations and considers itself to be an advance over classical realism, as I shall demonstrate throughout this article, it raises more issues than it answers. First, while neorealism has been influential in promoting a realist approach to international relations, its adoption of classical realism as its theoretical foundation is questionable given its emphasis on language and culture as drivers of behavior. Second, by reducing foreign policy actions to the mere application of force or the use of interests to justify war, neorealism fails to account for those policies that do not fit into these categories. Finally, by reducing most decisions about how and when to apply force to military planners who can predict future events with great accuracy but often lack political insight, neorealism risks relegating diplomacy and nation-building to a secondary role.
In this article, I will argue that neorealism is best understood as an attempt to resolve the problems associated with classical realism and therefore cannot be regarded as an outright rejection of that theory. I will also suggest that while neorealism has had some success in promoting a rational approach to foreign policy, it has failed to advance our understanding of how governments actually conduct themselves internationally.
To begin with, it is important to understand that neorealism was not intended as a rejection of classical realism but rather as an attempt to solve some of its problems.
One of the most influential philosophies in international politics is classical realism. Realism is based on a pessimistic view of human nature and centers around power. The Westphalian framework underpins the international system. The works of Thucydides, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Hans J. Morgenthau are important influences on modern realists.
Classical realism can be defined as the approach to international relations that believes that states will act according to rational self-interest, which means that they will pursue their own interests without being influenced by other states' actions. This perspective has many different forms, but it usually involves an assessment of the likelihood that other states will attack or otherwise engage with one another's countries, estimates of how much damage such an encounter would likely involve, and a conclusion drawn from these estimates that engagement or avoidance is in your country's interest.
States exist within an anarchic world order where there is no authority above national governments to enforce agreements made between them. Therefore, any agreement that is beneficial to one state should not be expected to be beneficial to others. If one state does benefit from an agreement, others will also do so to some degree, because all states want to be able to rely on their partners. This means that you cannot expect other states to behave altruistically towards you; instead, you need to figure out what they are going to do anyway and then plan your strategy around this information.