The root of Realists were tracing back to the historical philosophers and renaissance thinkers since the time of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War which power is more important than moral and justice. In International Relation, Realists perceives human nature as an egotistic, self interest and inherently violent. In anarchy where it holds the most power are consist of states and people that are the reflection of human nature which are naturally prone to conflict and competition. After the Classical Realism theory of IR were established after World War II, there are another Realist IR theory called Neorealism that emerges during the post world war context. Although both of the theories are based on the similar core of beliefs of power and the importance to balance power in IR. However, they are differences in the process and structure they came into conclusion. In this paper, I will give an explanation on my opinion that Neorealism is a theory which corrects the weaknesses of Classical Realism because both of the IR theories are having a correlative assumptions of human rooted and power of anarchic system. Nevertheless, Neorealism is a collection of Classical Realism that is testable and simple.
First of all, I will outline the concept of Morgenthau’s Classical Realism IR theory and the founding father of Neorealism, Kenneth Waltz’s theory. In order to explain principles and goals of both IR theories for better understanding. Secondly, I will compare similarities and differences of Classical Realism and Neorealism in its five key theoretical assumptions. Finally, I will give a reasons of my argument that Neorealism is just a new version of Classical Realism.
Morgenthau’s explanation on Classical Realism is mainly about the realistic version of human nature as violent and fearful. He believes in the pessimistic view of human rooted that controlled power or states that can explained states behave in the international system. In another word, behaviour of state reflect the behaviour of human. Therefore, states can be explained as selfish, competition, and prone to conflict. Morgenthau focuses his theory on explaining the morality, justice, and ideology that he gathered from the historical intellectual thinkers to demonstrate how human nature can reflect the state which relates to IR. Moreover, Classical realists also view the characteristic of international politics as the struggle for power to ensures security. The main purpose of Hans Morgenthau is to investigate how the power flow and investigate how actors should or should not use their power. In addition, to make a guide book on how to have a power in order to prevent prevent wars. On the other hands, Waltz disagree with Classical Realist concept of human nature in international conflict. In 1979, Kenneth Waltz attempt to create a theory that is based on the scientific and therefore Neorealism was the first mainstream of scientific IR theory. Waltz criticise on Classical Realism as unnecessary complex and claim that it is not a theory because it can not be testify. The first principle of Waltz’s theory is that there is no authority but anarchical system in international system that are power politics. States will always balance power against each other to ensure safety and the great power are the one who operate in an anarchic system. Military capability is required in Neorealist’s view to keep in peace and for survival.
By observing Classical Realism and Neorealism, both theories agree on the concept of power, state competition and survival, and the realist view of human nature which they are mostly agree on the core elements of realist perception. However, these theories are contrary in what reason the conflict have rises. For Classical Realist, they would explain that because of imperfection of human rooted that cause the conflict in international system. Whereas Neorealist view that anarchic structure is the fundamental cause of conflict and wars asides for human nature. To explain more, Neorealist believe that because there is no central authority within the international system. Therefore, states have to always balance their power by relative power. The second differences is the different view in conflict. To explain more, Classical Realist, Machiavelli once said that sometimes leader need to be cruel to protect the state for the overall good and should act with caution. In contrary, structure of the international system is the main significant action for the state. Third differences is that Former Realist talking about morality and justice in politics is significantly important but Waltz reject this view. Even though both of the Realist IR theories agree at some point, however, it just see through the different lens. Waltz did not believe that human nature is the result for war but emphasis on the political structure of balancing power in the international politics.
In my own opinion, I think Neorealism is an upgrade version of Classical realism for several reasons. First of all, Neorealism have their core believe in pessimistic view like Classical Realism. However, Neorealist have change some assumption of their theory to be more simple and testable while the outcome of the equation is same as Classical Realism which is power. Secondly, the contrasting view of both theories can be the evidence that Neorealism have changed from Classical realism. For instance, Classical Realism rely on historical and traditional idea which Neorealism does not include. To be more clear, Neorealism are similar with Classical realism except for their interpretation and the perception of power. As a result, Neorealism are more emphasised on structure of power that can explain International Relations.
In conclusion, I agree with the statement that “Neorealism is a theory which corrects the weaknesses of Classical Realism.” because both of the theories have shared many similarities and common believe which Classical Realism is the original thought of it. While Neorealist agree with at some part and adopt in to the scientific theory to explain international polite of IR. Furthermore, Neorealist uses Classical Realism theory as an inspiration for Neorealism. As a result of changing global trend into science era, Neorealist have gained popularity and developed Classical Realism in to Neorealism by changing their focuses. Firstly, Neorealist are more emphasis in the structural power in IR. In contrary, Classical Realism focuses on the traditional idea of human nature and human are the cause of war. However, in my opinion, overall idea of Classical Realism and Neorealism are almost the same, and I believe that the root of understanding are similar. Thus using different equation and vision to explain state behaviour.