Classical Realism

However, it is only in the post World War 2 period that Classical Realism is formalized as a social science of world politics

It sheds the racist and ultra-nationalist lineages of early twentieth century ‘geopolitics’, but develops other themes of Thucydides, Hobbes, and European grand strategy thinking

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Classical Realism takes off in the United States in the 1940s, primarily in the work of European immigrant intellectuals

Based on their experiences in Europe during WW1, the Great Depression, and WW2, including the rise of fascism, they developed a very bleak theory of world politics.

Key Ideas

Classical Realism demanded a realistic study of world politics – how it operates in reality, not how it should work ideally

Thus, it rejected political efforts to create a world through the implementation of preconceived, or abstract, moral principles

Rather, it sought to explain world politics through observations of existing realities

E.H. Carr

In his 1939 book, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, British historian E.H. Carr lambasted “utopians” who had trusted transnational ties or institutions to overcome states’ innate attraction to power, competition, and armed conflict.

Carr acknowledged normative and ideological appeal of liberal thinking

However, he ultimately argued that in the existing milieu of jostling nation-states, the realist paradigm was a superior guide and predictor of political behavior.

Indeed, later that year Hitler invaded Poland, launching World War II.

Hans Morgenthau

One of the major 20th Century thinkers of International Relations

Born and educated in law in Germany

He flees Nazi Germany and moves to the US in 1937

After WW2 he was a consultant to the US State Department, and worked with George Kennan

He also advised the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, before being dismissed for his criticisms of the Vietnam War