1 Realism Realism resists the application of morality to war. Such resistance is typically part of a more general moral scepticism that is applied not just to the extreme circumstance of war but to international relations in general. The reason for this resistance is twofold. In the first place, it springs from the conviction that the reality in question is morally intractable, the dynamics of international relations and war being seen to confound most, if not all, attempts to apply an alien, moral structure to them. Secondly, and more urgently, it arises from
Events at the beginning of the twenty-first century have served to demonstrate to us the truth of the insight at the heart of the recent renewed interest in realist political theory that politics is characterized by inevitable and endemic disagreement and conflict. Yet much contemporary liberal political theory has taken place against the backdrop of an assumed widespread consensus on liberal values and principles. A central theoretical question for our day is therefore whether liberalism is a theory of politics consonant with the modern world or whether it is grounded in untenable theoretical presumptions and foundations.
This monograph offers the first comprehensive overview of the resurgence of interest in realist political theory and develops a unique and urgent defense of liberal politics in realist terms. Through explorations of the work of a diverse range of thinkers, including Bernard Williams, John Rawls, Raymond Geuss, Judith Shklar, John Gray, Carl Schmitt and Max Weber, the author advances a theory of liberal realism that is consistent with the realist emphasis on disagreement and conflict yet still recognizably liberal in its concern with respecting individuals’ freedom and constraining political power. The result is a unique contribution to the ongoing debates surrounding realism and an original and timely re-imagining of liberal theory for the twenty-first century. This provocative work will be of interest to students and all concerned with the possibility of realizing liberalism and its moral aspirations in today’s world.
Euro-realism is, formally at least, the cause which European Conservative and Reformist politicians are seeking to advance – a practical, common-sense approach to European integration, ECR MEPs claim, which tries to maintain what they consider to be good about the European Union while calling a halt to any further attempts to achieve ‘ever closer union’. Aspects of this sound eminently reasonable; it might even be akin to the type of reform agenda that politicians such the French President, Emmanuel Macron, would endorse as they seek to get
7 The moderate hegemony of liberal realism Legitimacy is a central concept in realist thought. Though the popular caricature of realism, especially in international relations theory, encourages the view that might is synonymous with right, that the ability to rule is the same as the right to do so, realists have often stressed that this is not the case. Rather, there is an important difference between rule as mere domination and rule as authoritative that the concept of legitimacy allows us to determine. This begs the obvious question of how liberal realism
6 The partisan foundations of liberal realism The aim of this chapter is to explore the ramifications for liberal theory of taking seriously the fact of political pluralism that incorporating the realist vision of politics demands. Any political theory that requires addressing or managing pluralism, be it moral, religious or political, will need to have an account of the origin and nature of that disagreement, for this will be crucial in determining the appropriate response. Realism has offered several different such accounts ranging from the clash of interests
This chapter outlines the primary differences between realist and institutionalist perspectives on alliances and provides the theoretical background that frames the two hypotheses outlined in the Introduction. We argue that realism and institutionalism are distinctive, even if they are not necessarily exclusive of each other, and they arrive at quite different conclusions about the relevance of formal
5 Bernard Williams and the structure of liberal realism The hankering for political consensus that lies at the heart of liberal theory is not some epiphenomenal offshoot of an underlying epistemological commitment to a form of Platonism or value monism, but is driven by the moral commitment to place theoretical and practical limitations on the ends to which political coercive power can be put. This is a noble objective. Yet as we saw in the previous chapter, even attempts to modify the nature and content of the required consensus to a set of less substantial but
2 Neoclassical realism and leader psychology: a theory of foreign policy ‘As a professor’, recalled Henry Kissinger after having completed careers in both academia and in government, ‘I tended to think of history as run by impersonal forces. But when you see it in practice, you see the differences personalities make.’1 I argue in this chapter that Kissinger the professor and Kissinger the statesmen were both correct: ‘impersonal forces’ and ‘personalities’ combine and interact in any compelling explanation of foreign policy choices. Such explanations, while
Introduction This strategy is guided by principled realism. It is realist because it acknowledges the central role of power in international politics, affirms that sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests… We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress . The White House, ‘National Security Strategy of the United States of America’ ( The White House, 2017
once authored, not because of his own idiosyncratic way of doing politics but because of the strategic realignment that his presidency represents. According to Trump, his administration’s security strategy is guided by ‘principled realism’. The apparent incoherence of his foreign policy is as indicative of what this entails as his specific interactions with other governments. With every diplomatic encounter imagined as a stand-alone opportunity to strike a winning ‘deal’, the norms-based, multilateral system of global governance becomes