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Defensive & Offensive Realism

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Defensive & Offensive Realism

Realists are a dominant school of thought in international relations. After classical thoughts in realism, structural realism or neorealism gained popularity due to its relatively more relevance to understanding global politics. Offensive and defensive realism are actually subdivisions of structural realism or neorealism proposed by Kenneth Waltz in his monumental work ‘Theory of International Politics’—published in 1979. Waltz negates the role of domestic institutions, diplomacy and human nature in defining the states’ behaviour while formulating their foreign policies or while conducting international relations. The ‘sameness’ of states’ behaviour, the world often witnesses in the global political arena, is the net result of the anarchical international system in which order and hierarchy are obscure. Though offensive realists propose that states should become hegemons if they have the opportunity to do so, hegemony is not a long-term panacea to the structural defects created by anarchy and the ensuing security dilemma. To structural realists, especially the defensive ones, the most viable option for a stable international order is the one that curtails conflicts among states, e.g. balance of power and bipolarity.

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