Idealism and Realism essay

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The debate between the realists and idealists has led to the emergence of other arguments over the decades, thus, presenting a scenario where there are debates based on previous ones. Although the consensus may never be reached, there are aspects that reveal some form of truth in matters relating to the realists’ critique of interwar idealism. Through such works as Carr’s work titled “The Twenty Years’ Crisis” among other works by other realists, there are facts established that manifest themselves in the real world, especially in Britain, revealing some truth on the realists’ critique towards idealism. Idealists tend to advocate for reforms rather than analyzing the situation at hand (Rich 2002, p. 118). According to the idealists, power is not as important to sovereign states as compared to the peaceful states and the well-being of the people. Additionally, the Britons to be specific have put aside the critical role of power when dealing with issues relating to international politics. It is convincing that power is greatly, though not entirely, significant to states. Additionally, Britain has watered down the importance of power in matters relating to international politics.

The following discussion proves to show the areas in which these accusations are true as far as Britain and international politics are concerned. It will also address the most prevalent areas that show the dominance of idealists in Britons political arena as criticized by the realists. Globalization, in spite of terrorist acts, continues to remain the major actor in the political stage. Unlike the idealists concern over the well being of the people, the states, including Britain, continue to worry about power balance in whatever activity they undertake. Even though the government and other political institutions are dominated by idealists by talk, the actions are driven by realism.


Carr, Zimmern, Mitrany, Neol-Baker amongst other realists had much criticism against the idealists. Basically, they felt that the idealists were more focused on making the political field what it ought to be rather than accepting what it was already (Schmidt 2012, p. 9). Power was a significant part of the states regardless of the place in question. Judging from the past, the desire to acquire more power drove Britain to colonize the African states and other states globally. Even from an individual level, there is the need for power that drove men to make slaves of other men in the ancient days. Of course, other people argue that the need for better economic and social environment was the main force driving the Britons to colonize the African countries. However, it is clear that they would have released all its colonies once it accumulated wealth, yet it continued to rule over South Africa even after the other colonies had gained independence.

Idealists feel that the states hold morals higher than power. According to idealists, states first consider whether their actions benefit the people before evaluating the advantages of the actions in as far as power is concerned. According to Carr, the idealists perception aligns in matters where “wishing prevails thinking” (Carr 2001, p. 8). Carr states that there was more emphasis on generalizing issues, as opposed to observing them. He further notes that the idealists did little to critically analyze the available means or existing facts. In reality, the issues are far deeper and more complicated than they are put by the idealists. Peace is not as easily obtained as it is put by the idealists. The two main world wars mostly came about as a result of need and quest for power. World War II, to be specific, originated from other wars such as Sino-Japanese war and other states that were interested in power amongst other benefits that came with winning such a great war.

When it comes to the current scenario, power is as significant to the states as their political and economic stability. The idealists believe that ending poverty corruption and other issues in the country should be accompanied by doing the same in the other countries. Britain has played significant roles in assisting other states to fight poverty, corruption and diseases, especially in the countries of Africa. Although these are good deeds as agreed by both realists and idealists, the intentions towards accomplishing these deeds differ from both perspectives. The idealists feel that Britain takes part in such activities as a way of ending the deteriorating state of affairs in the third world counties. Through the implementation of policies advocated by Britain, these states can be able to access better living conditions (Kenny 2008, p. 22). The idealists feel that the Britons intervene in the affairs of the third world countries for the sake of making the world a better place for everybody and for the sake of leading by example. While this may be true, there is another realist aspect to such actions.

Observations have shown that the western countries tend to impose policies and give funds to the developing countries with attached conditions. In the case of the African countries, Britain, the United States and other countries which are economically well-off, tend to provide aide and funds to the countries in need with attached conditions altering the political arena or the governing parties of the countries in question. For example, Zimbabwe faced pressures from diverse forces with the inclusion of Britain when its inflation rate became unbearable (Rescher 2010, p. 102). Britain was more aggressive when the reigning president Mugabe ordered for the evacuation of the Britons in the country. It is significant to bear in mind that the Britons in this case dominated the best lands in the country. The idealists might argue that the pressure was to stabilize the economic situation in the country. However, the real thing was that President Mugabe had undermined Briton’s power, and thus the country was facing the “wrath” of the Britons.

Carr felt that the Britons ignored the reality with the issues at hand. He felt that the Britons failed to carefully observe the world around them (Mearsheimer 2005, p. 140). The Britons’ agenda was to change the relationship between the states. This agenda did not include balancing power. In reality, the many actions were intentionally or unintentionally driven towards obtaining more power. The emergence of rapid globalization has propelled the growth of this urge. The mouths advocate for idealism while the actions tend to bend towards realism. The need to obtain economic power and dominance among the developed or first world countries is in the agenda of many countries. Britain, for example, establishes many trade treaties and relationships between itself and the developing countries. However, the country that benefits the most is Britain, as opposed to the trading partners. These countries benefit from more than fifty percent of the imports from Britain while Britain imports less than this percentage from them. While Britain thinks of improving the trade relationship between the countries, its actions achieve different goals.

It is relevant to understand that the need for power is not necessarily negative. Through the need for power, there has been some form of order in the world. Globalization has led to the communal undertakings of some tasks such as global policies regulating the ways in which issues pertaining to various sectors should be addressed. For example, Britain as a powerful political and economic state has influenced Europe as a continent. It plays a role in the implementation of policies that play a role in ensuring that the continent is in order. Through establishing a court that deals with international crimes, establishing policies that govern trade and other issues of international interest are advantages of power (Guzzini 2004, p. 540). Although this may have occurred unintentionally, the Britons’ actions are mainly fashioned towards realism. For example, Britain, like other states, has imposed sanctions on some countries in the Middle East, as well as North Korea. These sanctions when evaluated are not meant towards enticing these states to become better countries, but they are about power. A keen observation over the state of affairs reveals something interesting. The powerful countries do their best to remain in power over the other countries considered as developing. Additionally, the countries in power seem to fight amongst themselves as to who is more powerful over the other.


Idealists tend to believe that international politics is more interested in upholding morals over power. Whilst this is true in some scenarios, the majority of cases show that power is quite crucial in international politics. Britain may seem to uphold morals by word of mouth, but some of its actions show something different. Globalization has called for the engagement of states in the affairs of other states in order to establish a cohesive global community. The issue of power is in the minds and actions of world leaders more than the idealists tend to appreciate. Whilst the realists tend to water down the fact that there are parties that still uphold the moral aspect of politics, they are right about the issue of power balance amongst the state. Countries in the Middle East and Asia are in possession of nuclear weapons in order to gain political power. Britain has carried out some activities because it wants to be in power. Power interest is real, and it should be taken with seriousness.

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