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Is Anybody Still a Realist? Jeffrey W. Legro and Andrew Moravcsik Realism, the oldest and most prominent theoretical paradigm in international relations, is in trouble. The problem is not lack of interest. Realism remains the primary or alternative theory in virtually every major book and article addressing general theories of world politics, particularly in security affairs. Controversies between neorealism and its critics continue to dominate international relations theory debates. Nor is the problem realism’s purported inability to make point predictions. Many speciªc realist theories are testable, and there remains much global conºict about which realism offers powerful insights. Nor is the problem the lack of empirical support for simple realist predictions, such as recurrent balancing; or the absence of plausible realist explanations of certain salient phenomena, such as the Cold War, the “end of history,”1 or systemic change in general. Research programs advance, after all, by the reªnement and improvement of previous theories to account for anomalies. There can be little doubt that realist theories rightfully retain a salient position in international relations theory. International Security, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall 1999), pp. 5–55© 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 5 Jeffrey W. Legro is Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia. Andrew Moravcsik is Professor of Government, Harvard University. We are grateful to Charles Glaser, Joseph Grieco, Gideon Rose, Randall Schweller, Jack Snyder, Stephen Van Evera, Stephen Walt, William Wohlforth, and Fareed Zakaria for providing repeated, detailed corrections and rebuttals to our analysis of their respective work; to Robert Art, Michael Barnett, James Caporaso, Thomas Christensen, Dale Copeland, Michael Desch, David Dessler, Colin Elman, Miriam Fendius Elman, Daniel Epstein, Martha Finnemore, Stefano Guzzini, Gunther Hellmann, Robert Jervis, Peter Katzenstein, Robert Keohane, Stephen Krasner, John Mearsheimer, John Owen, Robert Paarlberg, Stephen Rosen, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nigel Thalakada, Alexander Wendt, and participants at colloquia at Brown University and Harvard University’s John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies for more general comments; and to Duane Adamson and Aron Fischer for research assistance. 1. We agree with much of the analysis in John Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative vs. Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (December 1997), pp. 899–912. But we do not agree, among other things, that balancing behavior per se provides a strong test of realism or that realism is beyond redemption. On various criticisms, see also Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992); Richard Ned Lebow and Thomas Risse-Kappen, eds., International Relations and the End of the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); and Paul W. Schroeder, “Historical Reality vs. Neorealist Theory,” in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller, eds., The Perils of Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and International Security (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), pp. 421–461; Peter J. Katzenstein, Robert O. Keohane, and Stephen D. Krasner, “International Organization and the Study of World Politics,” International Organization, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Autumn 1998), pp. 670–674; and The central problem is instead that the theoretical core of the realist approach has been undermined by its own defenders—in particular so-called defensive and neoclassical realists—who seek to address anomalies by recasting realism in forms that are theoretically less determinate, less coherent, and less distinctive to realism. Realists like E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Kenneth Waltz sought to highlight the manipulation, accumulation, and balancing of power by sober unsentimental statesmen, focusing above all on the limits imposed on states by the international distribution of material resources. They viewed realism as the bulwark against claims about the autonomous inºuence of democracy, ideology, economic integration, law, and institutions on world politics. Many recent realists, by contrast, seek to redress empirical anomalies, particularly in Waltz’s neorealism, by subsuming these traditional counterarguments . The result is that many realists now advance the very assumptions and causal claims in opposition to which they traditionally, and still, claim to deªne themselves. This expansion would be unproblematic, even praiseworthy, if it took...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 5-55
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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