Brief Overview

It is the belief of realism that the state can only maintain its independence and pursue its interests in an international society. Therefore, to establish and maintain a society of sovereign states is the goal of realism.

Formal Definition

The preservation of the sovereign independence of the nation state can be approached from two directions. First, it is essential that a nation acknowledge the legitimacy and accept the authority of the state. Second, it is also essential that the nation state operate within an international society where the members acknowledge each other’s right to exist and pursue their own interests. Realists identify two mechanism—reciprocity and the balance of power—that are intended to maintain sovereign equality and to take account of the power inequalities at the same time.

Detailed Description

With regard to international order, realists subscribe to seven beliefs. First, the nation state is the best available type of political organization. Second, all states must maintain a capacity to defend themselves. Third, the interests of the state are restricted to the well-being of the nation. Fourth, power is a determining feature of relations in an anarchic arena. Fifth, states must accept that their ability to shape the rules and institutions governing the international society must be dependent upon their position in the international power hierarchy. Sixth, it is rational for states to promote an international society. Finally, nothing is immutable about either the state or the international society. The state, operating within an international society, represents the optimum mode of global organization.

Recommended Reading

McKinlay, R. D., & Little, R. (1986). Global problems and world order. London: Printer.

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