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The Evolution of International Relations


Discuss about the Classical Realism for Marxism and Neoliberalism.

The concept of international relations has evolved over time. With this evolvement, it has led to the creation of various political theories such as Liberal Internationalism, Classical Realism, The English School, Marxism, Neoliberalism and others (Burchill et al. 2013). The foundation of the Classical Realism has been established after the sorrowful and tragic end of the Second World War. Classical Realism states the notion that the occurrence of international politics and political discord lies on the inherent features of human essence and identity. Order is regarded as the pivotal point of Classical Realism (Seifert 2013). Some proponents of Classical Realism believes that order helps in the molding of nations and by which humans can bring a positive transformation in the environment albeit in a ponderous process. The essay outlines the fact to demonstrate an explanation of a theory of international relations and to present a reflective writing in collaboration with the theory.

Assumption is said to be an occurrence, which is inevitable, bound to happen, and does not require any attestation of facts. Assumption can be related to any things, establishments or even human beings. The theory of Classical Realism is based on many valid assumptions (Brown 2012). I believe, they are-

  • According to their innate nature, human beings are self-centered and possess weak ethics. They cannot liberate themselves from the immoral act that they took birth to reflect on their actions.
  • The impulsive craving for power and control over any person or entity is the most universal, persistent and menacing inborn nature of human and it surpasses all other nefarious tendencies of humans.
  • The prospect of wiping out the impulsive craving for power among humans can be termed as an idealistic or utopian expectation. Utopian expectation involves the belief to expect for something quintessential or consummate. In fact, the belief seems too good to be true and is not always enforceable in reality.
  • The famous political scientist, Thomas Hobbes summed up global politics as a fight for power and a struggle of everyone against everyone.
  • The concept of global methodology states that all nations must develop strong and effective defense system to combat any potentially dangerous aggressive action committed by any foes.
  • In terms of nation-building art, defense power holds more relevance than financial power. Financial power serves only as a requirement to procure national authority, influence and class.
  • The prospective confederates can assist a nation to hone its capability to protect itself. However, its allegiance and steadfastness must not be conjectured.
  • The nations must never blindly delegate the duty of self-defense to intercontinental corporations and must take steps to modulate global comportment.
  • The fundamental objective of every nation must be to publicize national concern and interest and to secure sufficient leverage to facilitate the objective.
  • Expansion of powers will only show its results when there is a presence of equilibrium of power, expedited by effort-less alliance networks.

Many eminent political scholars have associated themselves with the theory of Classical Realism in International Relations. The propagators to the theory of Classical Realism are known as Classical Realists (Rossi and Sleat 2014). Each of the Classical Realists has left their marks upon the arena of International Relations with their big ideas.

Niccolo Machiavelli has emphasized his concept of classical realism in his brilliant book, The Prince (Machiavelli 2014).  Machiavelli states that state protection can be studied as a type of power which itself can contribute to the upkeep of state authority.

Thomas Hobbes, another supporter of the classical realism theory stressed on the substantiality of order. The existence of order is paramount in the understanding of Classical Realism (Spragens Jr 2015). Order can aid humans to transform the world into a beautiful place by incessant evolvement, organization and adaption.

Hans Morgenthau, who is considered to be a latter-day Classical Realist thinker, remarkably emphasizes upon the prevalence of a global ethical code that possesses the ethical obligation to steer reasonable and rational stagecraft (Levine 2013).

Reinhold Niebuhr, the renowned American political analyst led to the formation of the movement of Christian Realism. He had played a major role in the sequences of the Second World War and had based his religious notions on Protestantism (Troy 2013). He was extremely well liked and charismatic in his native country- United States and also in the other continents.

Assumptions of Classical Realism

From the above discussion of the classical realists, I can understand that the Classical Realists differed in their views and opinions within the realm of Classical Realism. Their varied viewpoints and outlooks make the study of Classical Realism fascinating and unputdownable.

Classical Realism has many striking strengths and similarly, inconspicuous weaknesses. According to me, the study of both strengths and weaknesses makes the theory of Classical Realism so arresting and contradictory. The strengths of Classical Realism are-

Classical Realism helps to provides us with a valuable perception as to why the gory and brutality has miraculously lessened since the advent of the 20th century. It states the reason to be the inherent effort of the progressive democratic nations to bring the other nations into their liberal and advanced domain. Classical Realism identifies the necessary requirement for all the theories of International Relation to be in touch with the practical world and harsh reality (Frankel 2013). Classical Realism also links specific contextual scenarios for distinct occurrences. Classical Realism advocates peace and harmony and actively dissuades human beings from committing any acts of ruination or spoliation since it strongly upholds the notion of a utopian world. The theory of Classical Realism states to us that the possible abolition of disputes and acts of destruction is not related to the financial materialism but to the development of harmonious relation and comradeship among the modern states.

I believe that Classical Realism places undue emphasis on the assertion of power and authority. The cupidity of power cannot be evaluated or certified. Therefore, it challenges the authencity of Classical Realism. It places the foundation of Classical Realism on dubious grounds. The theory of Classical Realism also tends to undermine the role of important facilitators such as the intercontinental firms and global organizations. In fact, at times, I have seen that the external issues surrounding a state, such as governmental aggression, climactic disruptions and population effects, influences the affairs of the state more significantly, than the internal circumstances (Cox 2016). However, Classical Realism fails to take note of this fact and therefore it cannot provide weighty clarifications about the recent global events. The most mentionable weakness of Classical Realism is that it gives faulty commendation of the practice of law and justice. It is not necessary, that law and justice will always act as a savior to all the problems faced by the global citizenry. There have been instances where the whole ordeal of law was altered by an influencing personality to suit his or her devious action.

Notable Proponents of Classical Realism

After the completion of this teaching period, I can say that my perspective on international politics has definitely undergone a huge change. Previously, I used to think that the cause of violent military actions could be attributed to the existence of deficiency in the defense system or due to boundary violation or other political intricacies. Now I have restructured my understanding in the lines of the assumptive conclusions of Classical Realism.  The 21st century has been terrifically marked with violent and horrible occurrences of aggression, belligerence and war mongering. Certain instances, which can be cited, are the US invasion of Iraq, the Russian annexation of the region of Crimea in Ukraine and the horrific incidents of racial cleansing in the African countries (Kaldor 2013). I have learnt that the insatiable greed of power makes the human population to commit such acts of butchering and antagonism. Humans become blinded by their pleoxonia of power to such an extent that they fail to reflect upon the possible, disheartening consequences of their actions. Undoubtedly, humans are selfish and self-centered by nature. Due to this when a person reaches to the peak of indomitable power, he or she fails to think straight and fanatically tries to establish oneself in the minds and eyes of the public, as a God-like figure. This instinctive nature can be related to the character analysis of many famous political leaders and can also serve as a valid cause behind their regrettable exploitations. The scenario of global politics is also nothing but an incessant fight for attaining maximum domination and supremacy over countries and economies, alike.

If I have to take an illustrative example to highlight my reflections on Classical Realism, nothing can be more appropriate than the Japanese aggression on the city of Pearl Harbor in America. The incident occurred on the fateful day of December 7 in the year 1941. It was the period of the Second World War (Prange, Goldstein and Dillon 2014). The whole world was deeply stupefied by this sudden and unexpected act of force and assault. America was a rising superpower at that time and the other countries would think twice to plan the destruction of such a strategic location in America. The attack committed by Japan was simply unbelievable and far-fetched. However, a follower of the theory of Classical Realism would not find it amusing because it directly correlates with the assumptions of its theoretical concept. This act of treachery by the comparatively less powerful Japan can be attributed to the notion of Classical Realism, which promotes the emergence of a utopian environment by amplifying the necessary ardor and frailties of humans and by dissuading inhumanity and ferocity. Additionally, Japan desired to attain full-fledged power to become one of the superpowers.

At the end of this discussion, I have come to the conclusion that Classical Realism is in fact a very well thought and distinguishable theory of International Relations. Classical Realism is one of the oldest theories of International Relations, dated back in the era of the Second World War. It has been subjected to intense evolution over the years. Classical Realism has been propagated by the old generation thinkers as well as by the modern political intellectuals. Like all theories, Classical Realism has its share of strengths and weaknesses. However, it is one of the influencing theories of International Relations, which helps us to reflect effectively upon the global acts of bloodshed and genocide.


Brown, C., 2012. The ‘practice turn’, phronesis and classical realism: Towards a phronetic international political theory?. Millennium, 40(3), pp.439-456.

Burchill, S., Linklater, A., Devetak, R., Donnelly, J., Nardin, T., Paterson, M., Reus-Smit, C. and True, J., 2013. Theories of international relations. Palgrave Macmillan.

Cox, R.W. ed., 2016. The new realism: Perspectives on multilateralism and world order. Springer.

Frankel, B. ed., 2013. Realism: Restatements and Renewal. Routledge.

Kaldor, M., 2013. New and old wars: Organised violence in a global era. John Wiley & Sons.

Levine, D.J., 2013. Why Hans Morgenthau was not a critical theorist (and why contemporary IR realists should care). International Relations, 27(1), pp.95-118.

Machiavelli, N., 2014. The prince and other writings.

McKeogh, C., 2016. The political realism of Reinhold Niebuhr: a pragmatic approach to just war. Springer.

Pouliot, V. and Mérand, F., 2013. Bourdieu’s concepts. Bourdieu in International Relations: Rethinking Key Concepts in IR, pp.24-44.

Prange, G., Goldstein, D.M. and Dillon, K.V., 2014. December 7, 1941: the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Open Road Media.

Rossi, E. and Sleat, M., 2014. Realism in normative political theory. Philosophy Compass, 9(10), pp.689-701.

Seifert, J., 2013. Back to'things in themselves': A phenomenological foundation for classical realism. Routledge.

Spragens Jr, T.A., 2015. The politics of motion: The world of Thomas Hobbes. University Press of Kentucky.

Troy, J. ed., 2013. Religion and the realist tradition: from political theology to international relations theory and back. Routledge. 

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