Power Systems–The historical competition between Idealism and Realism
An accurate definition of the current IR system and how power is distributed is crucial in forming a sound foreign policy. For all of world history, there have been two competing views of how the world and international relations work. These two competing views include: (1) realism and (2) idealism.
- Realism is the idea of accepting the world as the world really is in reality and dealing with that reality with realistic policies and expectations.
- Idealism is the idea of dealing with the world as we would want it to be and addressing the problems of the world as we think they should be.
As you can imagine, one of these ideas has proven to work really well and the other idea has failed miserably each and every time is has been tried (often at the cost of tens of millions of lives). Consider the following in your response:
- What are some of the key differences between countries (past or present) that follow realism and/idealism? Are there any differences in success or failure rates that we can point to for each system?
- What economic systems have resulted from the ideas of realism and idealism? What are the names of these different economic systems and where have they been tried? What are the success or failure rates of these systems?
- Research two countries whose relationship has been in the news recently. Visit a reputable Website, newspaper, or TV broadcast to catch up on the latest events in their interactions. Next, discuss why it is sometimes difficult to define the current IR system and if you had to choose from one of the many suggested names, which one would you select? Justify your response.
- Compare and contrast at least three (3) key differences between the world before 1945 and the world after that year with respect to international relations. Next, explain the causes of the transition (from realism to idealism). Provide support for your response.