Realism has been the subject of critical scrutiny for some time and this examination aims to identify and define its strengths and shortcomings, making a contribution to the study of international relations.
Structural realism, or neorealism, is a theory of international relations that says power is the most important factor in international relations. First outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, structural realism is subdivided into two factions: offensive realism and defensive realism. Structural realism holds that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system). The anarchic ordering principle of the international structure is decentralized, meaning there is no formal central authority. On the one hand, offensive realism seeks power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. On the other hand, defensive realism argues that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. Defensive realism asserts that aggressive expansion as promoted by offensive realists upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security. While defensive realism does not deny the reality of interstate conflict, nor that incentives for state expansion do exist, it contends that these incentives are sporadic rather than endemic. Defensive realism points towards "structural modifiers" such as the security dilemma and geography, and elite beliefs and perceptions to explain the outbreak of conflict.
Considers the idea that Barack Obama and his administration may be realists, or if not, then possibly pragmatists. Debates the different possibilities as to what to properly label the new president with special regard towards his foreign policy. Obama has rejected the work of George W. Bush as misguided whereas he saw the presidency of his father as being praiseworthy. Considers also Obama's downplaying of human rights for sake of economic and diplomatic relations. Examines the realist philosophy and agenda beginning in the 1970's to offer a full spectrum in today's context. Adapted from the source document.