Niall Ferguson Discussion and Types of Realism

NiallFerguson Discussion and Typesof Realism

Indescribing the past international relations, Ferguson introduces theconcepts of realism that shows how different states interact withothers. Ferguson’s description of Fredrick the great as a ruler infavor of preventive wars shows the concept of structural realism thatholds all nations to be anarchies (Ferguson 75). At the same time,the argument by Ferguson that Frederickthe Great opposed Machiavelli shows the beginning of neoliberalismin the days of early political philosophers.The understanding of neoliberalism influenced Frederickthe Great to oppose the thinking of preventive wars, which was a signof nations’ quest to promote anarchy and power, through offensesthat sought superior positions.

Thedifference between structural realism and neoliberalism contributesto the two different views. According to structural realism, a nationdoes not know with certainty what other states are planning againstit, and how they can be offensive. Therefore, nations seek tomaintain their powers and positions through preventive wars that donot seek responsibility to any central universal authority (Waltz617). This is because structural realists see the world as a globalanarchy that operates without a formal central authority to beresponsible to (Waltz 617). Onthe other hand, noeliberalists views that cooperation betweencountriescan only exist if there are mutual gains created from arrangements ofjoint profitability (Fearon 389). According to Fearon (389), thissituation can only be established through compromises for countrieswho seek mutual gains.

Inmy own view, the two types of realism explain different foreignpolicies taken by countries. However, structural realism bestexplains the foreign policy of the United States in the time periodbetween 1989 and 2006, which marks the aftermath of the cold war.This is because structural realism explains the reasons for the U.Sto engage in wars that did not threaten its internal homeland,especially in the gulf region. This shows how the United States tookmeasures of preventive war to maintain its power by anticipatingoffensive plans of the nations it has fought against so far. Inaddition, this theory explains the motivation behind the UnitedStates quest to grow as a superpower, both economically andpolitically.

Inmy own view, one of the strengths and the most persuasive aspect ofrealism is the explanation of conflicts among nations. Structuralrealism explains that the imbalance of powers and competition fordominance as the common cause of war. According to Waltz (618), if awar erupts or a conflict exists, asking why the war took place is theonly way to explain the situation brought by different countries.Secondly, realism explains how rulers stay in power by fighting boththe external threats and internal threats (Waltz 619). According torealism, states defend themselves from other states that seek toaccess more territories and power, as well as domestic uprisings thatmay have different ideologies (Waltz 619). This makes realism a morepersuasive theory, especially in the current world that is dominatedby tensions between nations.

Whilethe theory is persuasive, liberal institutionalistsalsohave a significant feature that ability of states to gatherinformation about others defines international institutions. This issignificant because knowledge of the intentions of other statesdefines the parameters of associating for mutual gains, trading andpolitical interaction between one state and another. This is whatstructural institutionalistshavein common with structural realists because each theory explains aboutthe importance of knowing the intentions of other states. However,they differ because structural realism advocate for competition forpower, while neoliberalists advocate for cooperation with mutualgains.


Ferguson,Nail. &quotCivilization-The west andthe east&quot London: PenguinBooks Reprint edition, 2012, Print

Fearon,James. Rationalist explanations for war. InternationalOrganization, Vol. 49, No. 3(Summer, 1995), pp. 379-414

Waltz,Kenneth. The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory. The Journal ofInterdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4, TheOrigin and Prevention of Major Wars(Spring, 1988), pp. 615-628