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Realist Approach to Security

Lecture 2

Core Assumptions
Most important groups: Nation-states
Most important sense of in-group cohesion: Nationalism
Some groups have more influence on politics and resources

Self Interest

Power Centrism
Key to politics is interaction under the shadow of potential
use of material power to coerce

Condition of Insecurity
Groupism, Egoism and Power centrism leads to
conflict in the absence of Anarchy
Anarchy renders security problematic
Insecurity is underlying cause of war
To be secure people strengthens the bond within
Groups fall under security dilemma

Presence of groups (nation states ) in Anarchy can
lead to competition and war irrespective of variance
in internal politics
For security states opt for alliances
Defensive Realism
Stronger the group identity (nationalism) harder it is to
conquer groups
Nationalism and technology make conquest hard
States maximize security resulting in an international
system with more potential for peace

Offensive Realism
With no authority to enforce peace agreements states
remain uncertain about security
Conquest may seem hard due to technology and group
cohesion but no guarantee of future security
States maximize power (less chances for peace)

Neoclassical Realism
Theory explains specific foreign policy behaviors
Accepts the specific international conditions, which
particular states face but focuses more on specific
features of given situation
Security calculations are made by filtering the
international imperatives through specific domestic
variables of the states

Balance of Power Theory

Under conditions of Anarchy any state can resort to
force to get what it wants.
States are compelled to guard against the possibility
that one state might amass the power to force all
others to its will
Internal balancing (increasing state strength)
External balancing (Alliances)

E.g. Britain and France against Russia in Crimean


Balance of Threat
States balance against threats
Threat is driven by combination of three variables
Aggregate capabilities (mil, eco. potential)
Geography (location)
Perception of aggressive intentions (behaviour)

During cold war U.S.S.R was inferior in power

capabilities even than the U.S resorted to balance its

Security Dilemma Theory

In arming for self defence a state might decrease its
security via unintended effect of making others
Severity of security dilemma depends upon
Ability to distinguish offence from defence

Theoretically Anarchy is constant but there can be

significant variation in the attractiveness of
cooperative or competitive means for achieving high
level of security and probability of war

Offence-Defence Theory
Conflict and war are more likely when offensive
military operations have relative advantage over
defensive ones
Easier it is to distinguish offensive from defensive
military operations greater the probability of peace
and cooperation
Focus is on role of perceptions and misperceptions
When leaders believe offence is relatively easy war
and conflict are more likely and vice versa

Hegemonic Stability Theory

Powerful states tend to seek dominance over all or parts of
international system
This action fosters some degree of hierarchy within
systemic anarchy
Theory explains
How cooperation among major powers emerge
How international orders( rules, norms, institutions) emerged and
are sustained

Any international order is stable only to the degree that the

relations of authority within it are sustained by the
underlying distribution of power
Current globalization order is sustained by the U.S power

Power Transition Theory

How orders breakdown into war
When challenger states gain relative power vis--vis
dominant states there are conflicts, which might lead
to war and breaking of order
War or at least cold war like rivalry between the U.S
and China is likely unless Chinas growth slows
down or the U.S finds a way to accommodate Chinas