Realisme merupakan teori dalam ilmu hubungan internasional yang cukup populer. Berbagai perkembangan mutakhir pemerintahan Amerika Serikat dibawah Presiden George W Bush menunjukkan realisme politik muncul lagi.

Berikut salah satu definisi realisme:

Realism. Also known as Political Realism or Realpolitik, Realism remains one of the dominant schools of thought within the field of international relations. With a long intellectual pedigree, dating at least from Thucydides’ (ca. 460–400 B.C.E.) history of The Peloponnesian War and the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527) and Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Realism is distinguished from contending approaches by three assumptions regarding the nature of international politics.

First, the international system is anarchic and based on the principle of self-help. By anarchy, Realists do not mean that international politics are chaotic. Indeed, some proponents argue that relations between nations do exhibit regularities and are even driven by widely accepted social norms. Rather, for Realists anarchy simply means that the international system lacks any political authority higher than the state. Unlike domestic politics, where a hierarchical pattern of authority exists to enforce private agreements and public laws, sovereign states stand in relations of formal equality. As a result, states are ultimately dependent on their own resources to protect their interests, enforce agreements, and maintain order.

Second, states are the dominant actors in world politics. Both private actors, such as multinational corporations, and intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN, exist and influence international politics. Realists assume these actors are subordinate to states. Private entities and intergovernmental organizations act within the political arena, but they do so only with the consent of national political authorities.

Third, in
Hans Morgenthau’s classic statement (Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 5th ed., rev., New York, 1978, p. pp.5
), “statesmen think and act in terms of interest defined as power,” broadly conceived to include both material and psychological, military and economic capabilities. The “national interest,” in this view, is to maximize power. Because power exists only relationally, it follows that world politics is inherently conflictual; all countries cannot increase their power or satisfy their national interests simultaneously.

Kenneth Waltz (in Theory of International Politics, Reading, Mass., 1979, p. pp.118
) has recently refined this third assumption, clarifying the ambiguity between power as a means and as an end. “At a minimum,” he writes, states “seek their own preservation and, at a maximum, drive for universal domination.” Only after survival is assured, he continues, can they afford to seek other goals; as a result, states act, first and foremost, to maximize security.

Realism emerged in its modern form largely in reaction to Idealism, a more normatively driven approach which held that countries were united in an underlying harmony of interest—a view shattered by the outbreak of World War II. Rather than study the world as it might be, Realists maintained that a science of international politics must study the world as it was—an insistence that resulted in the Realists’ self-acclaimed appellation.

The generation of Realists writing immediately before and after World War II, now referred to as the classical Realists, shared an essentially pessimistic view of human nature. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971), Nicholas Spykman (1893–1943), Hans Morgenthau (1904–1980), and others believed that the struggle for power was inherent in human nature. Viewing humankind as unchanging, these Realists held out little hope for any transformation of international politics. Rather, they focused on the principles of diplomacy and mechanisms—such as the balance of power, international morality and world public opinion, and international law—which regulated and restrained the inevitable clashes of interests between states.

Contemporary Realists, often called Neorealists or Structural Realists, have sought to inject greater theoretic rigor by defining concepts more clearly and deriving testable hypotheses. Neorealists have also focused on the international system, examining how different structures—defined in terms of ordering principles, the functional differentiation of the units, and distributions of capabilities—produce varying patterns of world politics which cannot be explained simply in terms of the interests and policies of individual countries. Most fundamentally, Neorealists derive the causes of international conflict not from innate human characteristics but from anarchy. Given the necessary reliance on self-help, a state must prepare to defend itself against potential threats from others. In so preparing, however, it (perhaps unwittingly) threatens others—thereby creating a vicious cycle of increasing threat and insecurity. Thus, even though all states may possess thoroughly pacific intentions, international competition and conflict may still arise.

In the approximately forty-five years since it emerged as a clearly defined school of thought, Realism has stimulated a diverse research program. In a recent review,
John A. Vasquez (The Power of Power Politics: A Critique, New Brunswick, N.J., 1983
) identifies five foci within Realism: the study of 1) foreign policy, which has sought both to clarify the concepts of national interest and power in the context of past and present policy problems and develop models of national decision making; 2) systemic processes, especially those that regulate international conflict; 3) the causes of war; 4) deterrence and bargaining, with a particular emphasis on nuclear weapons and strategy; and 5) supranationalism, including international organizations and international regimes. Since the early 1970s, a Realist school of international political economy has also emerged. Focusing on the interaction of power and wealth, this school has been particularly concerned with the relationship between hegemony, or the presence of a single dominant state, and international economic openness and closure.

Critiques of Realism.
No theoretical approach to international relations, especially one as central as Realism, is without its critics. Although by no means an exhaustive list, it is possible to identify five general criticisms.

First, the predictive power of Realism, and its status as a positive theory of international relations, rests on the objective determination of the national interest—whether it be defined in terms of power or security. Only if the national interest is clear and unambiguous can the theorist discern whether countries do, in fact, adopt appropriate policies. Yet, “the trouble …,” as
Arnold Wolfers noted in ‘National Security’ as an Ambiguous Symbol (Political Science Quarterly 67, no. 4 [December 1952], p. pp.484
), “is that the term ‘security’ covers a range of goals so wide that highly divergent policies can be interpreted as policies of security.” As a consequence, the predictive and, in turn, explanatory power of Realism is weakened.

Second, many Realists, and especially Neorealists who explicitly exclude domestic policies from their theories, have treated the state as a unitary actor. Critics have charged that even if this “billiard-ball” view was appropriate for describing international relations in an earlier era, it is of declining relevance today. With the growth of private cross-border communications and organizations, and with the rise of economic interdependence, the “hard shell” of the state has crumbled. According to
Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye in Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (2d ed., Boston, 1989
), relations between some countries and in some issue areas are better characterized by “complex interdependence”—where multiple channels connect societies, no clear hierarchy exists between the “high” politics of military security and “low” politics of economic affairs, and military force is of less utility.

Third, Neorealists have recently been criticized for being “statists,” that is, assuming that states are the primary actors in world politics without explaining why they emerged as the predominant form of political organization or considering how they might evolve in the future. Fourth, and closely related, Neorealists have been challenged for not developing a dynamic theory which can explain the evolution of the international system through time. Specifically, critics within the “agent-structure” debate have argued that Neorealism must incorporate how the actions of “agents,” or decision makers operating within the constraints of the system, affect in turn the structure of the system. In
Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Response to My Critics (in Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics, New York, 1986), Waltz
recognizes both of these problems and accepts them as inevitable limitations of relevant, “problem-solving” theory.

Finally, Realism does not adequately ground the national pursuit of power or security, however defined, in the interests and incentives of individual foreign policy decision makers. Classical Realism was developed before many of the advances in modern political science, and Neorealism seeks to derive strictly systemic theories of international politics. From a public or rational choice perspective, which accepts the methodological individualism of neoclassical economics, there is no necessary reason why the interests of self-seeking politicians should coincide with the national interest. Given the difficulties of translating social preferences into public policy, a considerable gap will often exist between the interests of the people as a whole and actual policy. To the extent that such difficulties arise, the explanatory power of Realism is further weakened.

Despite these limitations, Realism remains a powerful, simple, and elegant theory of international politics. Rather than focusing on ideology, national regime types, stages of economic development, and other particularistic or time-bound factors, Realism builds its explanations on the most general and enduring features of international politics—the struggle for power and security by self-seeking states within an anarchic international system—and in doing so provides both a persuasive explanation for conflict within the international arena and a guide for managing such disputes.

Normative Critique.
Realism is often criticized for being amoral, and perhaps even immoral, in its elevation of the national interest over other ethical principles. Realism, as defined above, is a positive theory of international politics, and as such is not motivated primarily by normative concerns. Yet, to the extent that Realists enter the policy arena, whether as direct participants or outside experts, this criticism is not entirely inappropriate.

Realists do consider standards of conduct at the international level to be different from those governing behavior within states. In an anarchic world, national leaders must, at times, adopt or countenance actions that would be legally or morally repugnant in relations among individuals. As the environment changes, Realists maintain, definitions of morality must change too. As
George F. Kennan writes in Morality and Foreign Affairs (Foreign Affairs 64, no. 2 [Winter 1985–1986], p. pp.206
), the “primary obligation [of a government] is to the interests of the national society it represents, not to the moral impulses that individual elements of that society may experience.”

As always, Realists emphasize the importance of studying the world as it is rather than as we wish it to be. This commitment to “realism” carries over into the evaluation of policy. As
Hans Morgenthau concludes in Another Great Debate: The National Interest of the United States (American Political Science Review 46, no. 4 [December 1952], p. pp.988
), “The contest between utopianism and realism is not tantamount to a contest between principle and expediency, morality and immorality. … The contest is rather between one type of political morality and another type of political morality, one taking as its standard universal moral principles abstractly formulated, the other weighing these principles against the moral requirements of concrete political action, their relative merits to be decided by a prudent evaluation of the political consequences to which they are likely to lead.”

Edward Hallett Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939 (New York, 1939).
Stephen D. Krasner, Defending the National Interest: Raw Materials Investments and U.S. Foreign Policy (Princeton, N.J., 1978).
Robert Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, N.J., 1987).
Alexander Wendt, The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations International Organization 41, no. 3 (Summer 1987): pp.335–370.

David A. Lake

David A. Lake “Realism” The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2e. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press Inc. 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.