Realism and Utopianism Revisited

Nicholson, Michael (1998) Realism and Utopianism Revisited. Review of International Studies, 25 (5). 65 - 82. ISSN 0260-2105

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For Carr, the contrast between utopians and realists was between ‘those who regard politics as a function of ethics and those who regard ethics as a function of politics’. In other words, can we direct society in benevolent directions, perhaps to a utopia, or do we take what we are given and try to rationalize this into some form of moral acceptability? In the context of International Relations, the utopian aspires to a world without war and where power is not the primary determinant of relationships. The realist is more sceptical. Broadly, the realist stresses the constraints in life; the utopian stresses the opportunities. At this level, they are not social theories but temperamental attitudes.

Writing originally in 1939, Carr regarded the realists as those who understood the significance of power in the international scene and whose voices had been neglected in the interwar years. The utopians espoused a set of disparate views prevalent at that time linked by their neglect of power. Carr held these utopian positions to be impractical and dangerous. My aim in this article is to look at some versions of realism and some of utopianism, to see how they have developed today into modern variants. I ask how relevant are these traditions, if traditions they be, to the present world.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2012 10:04
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 23:51

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