Political realism, Realpolitik, ‘power politics,’ is the oldest and most frequently adopted theory of international relations. (Smith (1986) and Donnelly (2000) provide book-length introductions. Doyle (1997) and Wight (1992) consider realism in relation to two alternative traditions. Forde (1992), Grieco (1997), Jervis (1998) and Wohlforth (2008) are representative single-chapter introductions.) Every serious student of IR must not only acquire a deep appreciation of political realism but also understand how his/her own views relate to the realist tradition. Therefore, let me lay my cards on the table at the outset. Normatively, I rebel against the world depicted in realist theory and I reject realism as a prescriptive theory of foreign policy. Analytically, however, I am no more an anti-realist than I am a realist. Realism, I will argue, is a limited yet powerful and important approach to and set of insights about international relations.
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