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PSIR 2A-5.2 Realist – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] What do you mean by offensive and defensive realism? [2023/15m/200w/4b]

Offensive and defensive realism are two prominent theories within the field of International Relations that provide different perspectives on how states behave in the international system, particularly with regard to the pursuit of power and security.

Offensive realism, often attributed to John Mearsheimer, posits that states are inherently power-seeking and that the international system is characterized by anarchy and self-help. In this theory, states have a relentless drive to maximize their power and security. They are driven by a survival instinct in an anarchic world where there is no higher authority to guarantee their security.

States are not satisfied with simply maintaining their current power and security; they aim to expand and gain a dominant position in the international system.

Offensive realists argue that states are often trapped in a security dilemma. An increase in one state’s security can be perceived as a threat by others, leading to an arms race and competition for relative gains. States may engage in balancing (aligning with other states to counter a powerful adversary) or bandwagoning (aligning with a powerful state to gain security) strategies to respond to the power and ambitions of other states.

Defensive realism, associated with Kenneth Waltz, provides a different perspective on state behavior in the international system. It acknowledges the importance of power-seeking but emphasizes that states are primarily concerned with their own security and survival. They are more focused on maintaining their current level of security and preventing threats rather than aggressively seeking expansion.

Defensive realists argue that states engage in balancing behavior to maintain a balance of power in the system, which can lead to stability and deter aggression. Here, states are less concerned with relative gains and prioritize security and achieving absolute gains. Moreover, states are limited by the capabilities of other states and the inherent uncertainty of the international environment.

In summary, offensive realism and defensive realism represent two contrasting perspectives within the realist tradition in IR. These theories provide different lenses through which to understand state behavior in the international system and the dynamics of international politics. [343 words]

2] What is the realist prescription to the States to ensure their survival in an anarchical world? [2022/15m/200w/4b]

Realism posits that states are the primary actors in the international system and that the international system is anarchical, meaning there is no central authority to govern interactions between states. Realism emphasizes state survival and power maximization as core objectives for which it prescribes certain strategies.

Realism advocates that states must prioritize their own security by relying on self-help mechanisms. This includes maintaining a strong military capability, building alliances or coalitions with other states to enhance security, and pursuing a policy of deterrence to dissuade potential threats.

Realism emphasizes the importance of balancing power to prevent the domination of one state over others. States seek to maintain a relative balance of power through various means, such as forming alliances, engaging in power politics, and engaging in strategic calculations to counter potential threats.

Realists view international relations as a competitive arena where states engage in power politics to protect and advance their interests. Realism encourages states to adopt a pragmatic approach to foreign policy that is based on the realities of power dynamics and self-interest. This often involves making strategic alliances and compromises, even with states that may have different values or ideologies, to ensure survival and protect core national interests.

The realist prescription primarily reflects a perspective that prioritizes state power, security, and self-interest in an anarchical world. Complementing it with other theories, such as liberalism and constructivism, can enhance the perspectives on state behaviour by emphasizing cooperation, norms, and institutions as key factors in shaping international relations. [248 words]

3] Discuss the emergence of neo-realism and its basic tenets [2021/15m/200w/2b]

Neo-realism emerged partly as a response to the limitations of classical realism. It is primarily associated with the work of Kenneth Waltz and his book “Theory of International Politics.”

Classical realism, associated with scholars like Hans Morgenthau, focused on individual states and their pursuit of power in international relations. However, neo-realists believed that classical realism provided insufficient analytical tools to explain the patterns and dynamics of state behaviour systematically.

Neo-realism shifted the focus from individual states to the international system as a whole. It argued that the structure of the international system, particularly the distribution of power among states, played a crucial role in shaping state behaviour. Neo-realists sought to develop a theory that emphasized the impact of the structure and constraints of the international system on state actions.

Neo-realism placed significant importance on power and the distribution of power among states. It argued that states are primarily motivated by their pursuit of power, as power is seen as a crucial means to achieve security and survival. The balance of power, characterized by the distribution of capabilities among states, was seen as a key determinant of state behaviour and international stability.

Neo-realism highlighted the concept of the security dilemma, which arises from the pursuit of security by individual states. This dynamic creates challenges for cooperation and stability in the international system.

Neo-realism contended that states are primarily concerned with their relative gains rather than absolute gains in interactions with other states. This perspective often led to scepticism about the possibilities for sustained cooperation among states, as states were seen as primarily driven by self-interest and security concerns.

The emergence of neo-realism brought a more systematic and structural understanding of international relations, emphasizing the impact of the international system and the distribution of power on state behaviour.

4] Bring out the major differences between the classical Realism of Hans Morgenthau and Neorealism of Kenneth Waltz. [2018/10m/150w/1d]

Realism is concerned with the world as it is rather than how it ought to be. The first literature to dominate the realist view was politic among nations by Morgenthau, it was revised and replaced with the publication of Kenneth Waltz’s theory of international politics.

While both theories expect policymakers to act in a rational manner, Morgenthau’s classical view of realism follows the line of thought that state behaviour is power-oriented whereas Waltz’s new view of realism views the actions of states in terms of security.

Classical realism locates the roots of international conflict and war in an imperfect human nature while neo-realists maintain that its deep causes are found in the anarchic international system.

For Classical realists, a multi-polar system would be less prone to conflict because the threat of the other powers forming coalitions is greater. For Neo-realists, a bipolar system is less prone to conflict while a multi-polar system is more prone to violence because their focus is on security and a simpler system would be more stable.

Power, which is the central concept of realism has also been approached differently. While for Morgenthau the most important material aspect of power is the armed forces, but nation’s character, morale and quality of governance are equally significant. Waltz predominantly emphasizes materialism like military strength, economic capability etc., due to his commitment to scientific realism.

Realism has continuously evolved since its advent in the early twentieth century. However, even in its current form, it maintains the fundamental centrality of the state. [252 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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