Realism versus Marxism Free Essay Sample
The field of international relations is extremely complicated. Over the centuries, different authors tried to explain the phenomena of the relations among the countries. As a result, numerous theories appeared, and most of them countered each other’s assumptions through the statements that they made about the nature of international relations. One of the most popular theories is realism, which emphasizes the states’ central roles, the anarchy of international relations, and the justification of any means. At the same time, Marxism focuses on the role of economic structure and economic relations both on individual and international levels. Even though these theories were created in the 16th and 19th centuries respectively, they are still applied by some scholars that try to explain modern international relations. Moreover, some of their concepts appear to be extremely applicable. Thus, realism and Marxism have different core features, but both of them are still used as the means of understanding some dimensions of international relations.
To begin with, realism is a theory that puts the state’s power and interest at the center of any affairs. As different theorists tried to stress diverse components of classical realism, several branches were created. Classic realism is believed to be introduced by Niccolo Machiavelli (Galston, 2010). The philosopher was the author of many fundamental works. In his writings, Machiavelli advised the statesmen and countries. Among these pieces of advice, the most popular one is that the end always justifies the means. What is more, Machiavelli believed that one should never forgive and that the allies should only form a union in case it is beneficial for all of them (Galston, 2010). However, as international relations brought new challenges, neorealism and neoclassical realism appeared, hence emphasizing international anarchism and military power as the key categories of modern realist standpoint in international relations.
It is important to state that realism was and remains extremely applicable for understanding international relations, especially during periods of a war outbreak. Theorists had proof of their statements about the fact that all the actors are rational, while all states only do what is best for them. Moreover, the modern supporters of realism could state that their assumptions about the key role of military power were right (Behr, 2009). Furthermore, the anarchical character of international relations and actors was proved by the affairs of the 20th century. What is more, realists benefited from these affairs, as they countered the other theories (for example, idealism as well as institutionalism) since international cooperation did not bring substantial results. Therefore, realism was truly one of the most applicable theories.
Nevertheless, structural theories were also attempting to understand and explain the sphere of international relations. Namely, neorealism, which was also a structural theory, paid attention to military and political sectors. Moreover, anarchy was used as a characterization of the international affairs framework that makes realism assumptions become the reality. Marxism can also be considered a structural theory (Bakshi, 2011). Therefore, it has some common features with neorealism. However, Marxism pays attention to categories different than power, interest, and military. Namely, Marxism states that economic structure and production relations are the defining characteristics of the international relations field.
Karl Marx, the theorist who created Marxism, was not just a scientist in the sphere of international relations. What is more, his theory was introduced not just to serve the international relations field. Rather, it tried to investigate the nature of individual relations. Marx believed that the structure of society is built in a way that the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie can exploit the national proletariat (Bakshi, 2011). as the scholar insisted that oligarchs with the help of their capital push people from poor backgrounds to work even if they do not want to do it. Such a situation led to alienation – a concept that means a mismatch between what a person wants to do and what he or she must do to survive.
The way to get rid of the alienation is to conduct a revolution against capitalism. Therefore, it is obvious that Marx was not just a theorist who tried to explain international relations. He was a revolutionary ideologist who tried to change the world order that seemed wrong to him (Bakshi, 2011). Even though Marxism is often criticized, as it did not prove to be effective in terms of constructing a society (USSR), it was successful at explaining many concepts, such as revolution, social change, alienation, capitalism, and others. As a result, Marxism remained an important political theory that is still used by some theorists who try to explain the formation of the international capitalist order. It is different from realism since it states that economic relations and historical mercantilism are defined in the sphere of international relations. Realism puts national interests, international anarchy, and military might on the top, so the theories are different in terms of the main categories they use.
Modern days bring more and more specific variables that were not present in the past. However, both realism and Marxism appear to be extremely useful even though they were introduced long ago. Beginning with realism application to modern international relations, it should be stated that the states truly make decisions and act according to their interests, thus devoting little real efforts to the common good, as the idealists desire. Moreover, a multipolar international system and numerous local conflicts demonstrate that there is truly anarchy among the actors of international relations (Cozette, 2008). For instance, it cannot be said precisely how some states are going to behave in different circumstances. Another concept, the central role of states, is one of the cornerstones of political realism, which denies the real capacity of international organizations. It is obvious that, for example, the United Nations is not able to solve numerous security issues that appear from year to year simply because each country makes decisions according to its interests, and none of them is ready to sacrifice its interests to make the world a better place. Thus, realism applies to the current situation, as its concepts successfully explain modern affairs.
Marxism is not as successful in terms of explaining international relations as realism. However, its concepts are still extremely interesting when applied to the modern scenario. Marx believed that machines may substitute workers and thought that it may be a positive factor in case workers around the world unite and overtake the control of the production capacities. In such a way, they could divide the results of machines’ work, but it can be done only through a revolution conducted against the bourgeoisie. Taking the robot age into account, such a theory may be the solution for those who think people’s lives can be endangered by the work of machines. What is more, capitalism has become the dominating world order, especially after the United States became a world hegemon (Galston, 2011). Undoubtedly, economic power plays an important role in American expansion to the East and other parts of the world. Transnational corporations, which are also important international actors, also possess economic potential and affect international relations. Unfortunately for the theory, economic assets are not the only category that determines international relations like Marxism states, so this theory cannot be fully applied to modern-world affairs. Therefore, Marxism is extremely useful for understanding economic relations and their importance, but it cannot explain the entire field of international relations.
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Another problem of Marxism is its inability to create a roadmap for statesmen that could be followed to reach its ideals. The historical attempts to apply Marxism in the construction of the state failed. Namely, the Soviet Union, by its decomposition, proved that the theory of Karl Marx remained only a theory. At the same time, since the 16th century, realism made effective advice for rulers, beginning with Machiavelli’s ideas. However, realism, especially in its initial form, is criticized as a cynical theory (Galston, 2010). It does not try to create a better world, neither it creates a basis for positive social changes as Marx tried to do. Nevertheless, realism explains the affairs greatly. Moreover, the ability to admit that the world has no chances for a positive change makes realist theory almost invulnerable, and such status may only change in case some other theories prove to be right.
All in all, both realism and Marxism are fundamental theories of international relations. Even though they were created centuries ago, they can still explain many affairs that occur in the modern world. Realism states that countries are the main actors in international relations. What is more, according to this theory, national interest, the anarchy of international relations, and the military might are the most important categories of interstate politics. Marxism is different, as it is a structural theory. Economic relations are put at the center of personal and international affairs in this theory. Concepts of realism seem to be embodied in modern international relations. However, Marxism is not as successful in explaining to them as it is supposed to be.