The Theoretical Foundation of Realism

Nigerian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 35-47, November 2009

32 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2009 Last revised: 20 Jul 2013

Date Written: January 22, 2009


Realism has a strong intellectual tradition within the study of international relations and it has already developed into a mature school of thought with several distinct branches of theory. However, its dominant position as a central theoretical tool to an understanding of the international system is now being vigorously challenged by other schools. These schools are Idealism, Liberalism and Epistemism. They seek to undermine and de-emphasize the relevance of two key tenet of political realism - power and state .The concepts of 'power' and 'state' is at the heart of realism explanation of international relations. Thus, the central thrust of the essay is to reinforce realism's predominance in the theoretical interpretation of international relations. In the process of analyzing this, the essay will also provide a historical overview of realism from antiquity through mediaeval period to contemporary times. It also went a step further by identifying paradigmatic problems associated with the qua meaning of realism. The paper's conclusion is that for realism to be able to maintain its relevance as an important tool in the theoretical understanding of international relations, there is the urgent need for its proponents to address, among other things, their penchant to create ambiguity as regards its core precepts.

Keywords: Realism, international relations, state, power

Suggested Citation

Falode, Adewunmi James, The Theoretical Foundation of Realism (January 22, 2009). Nigerian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 35-47, November 2009, Available at SSRN:

Adewunmi James Falode (Contact Author)

Lagos State University ( email )

Lagos State

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