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Differences and commonalities between 'Realist' writers such as Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Morgenthau

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  1. Historical background and purpose of writing.
  2. Pillars of Realist theory.
  3. Human nature.
  4. The state and the ruler.
  5. International politics.
  6. How much of a 'realist' are they?
  7. Conclusion.

Although realism, as a discipline in International Relations has only been around since the Second World War, it has a tradition that can be traced back to the time of the ancient Greeks. The fact that realism still provides a viable, though frequently criticized theory in politics can be owed to the enduring foundation layed down by Thucydides, Machiavelli and Hobbes, and to the significant contribution of Hans Morgenthau. In this essay I am going to present a comparison of these theorists, who, although each having a completely different historical setting, thus a different starting point, have tried to deal with the same dilemmas like human nature, the state and the sovereign and power and ethics in international politics. First I am going to introduce the differences of historical background and purpose of writing. Then I will present the commonalities and differences in their thoughts on the following points: human nature, the sovereign and the state, international politics. Finally, I will briefly reflect on the question how realist these authors can really be considered.

[...] Available from JSTOR at www.jstor.com Hobbes as quoted in Dawson, D. (1996) The Origins of War: Biological and Anthropological Theories. History and Theory, Vol No Available from: JSTOR at www.jstor.org. Thucydides . History of the Peloponnesian War.,The Melian Conference. Available at: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/melian.htm Lebow, R.N. and Kelly, R. (2001)Thucydides and hegemony: Athens and the United States. Review of International Studies. Vol Available from: Classical Political Theory and International Relations Course Pack. Cogan as quoted in Ahrensdorf, P.J. (2000) The American Political Science Review. [...]


[...] Conclusion In this essay I tried to present the differences and commonalities between Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Morgenthau. It can be concluded that although they had completely different historical backgrounds they reflected on and emphasized the same points, although differing in their views to a certain extent. I came to this conclusion by looking at their historical background and compared their purpose of writing. Then I compared their views on three main points: human nature, the state and the ruler and international politics. [...]


[...] Hans Morgenthau, in his Politics among Nations was not trying to give a model of politics or leadership, as Hobbes and Machiavelli did. Although he was deeply influenced by the historical circumstances, thus Nazism in Germany, his main aim was not to provide a model of politics, rather a model of political theory , a model of realism. However, his way of looking at politics and forming his theory shows his disillusioned account of politics, and most significantly of human nature. [...]

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