Machiavelli and the Limits of Realism in International Relations
Damian Ilodigwe

All through its history, realism, as articulated in various ways by its exponents such as Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Carr, Niebuhr, Morgenthau and Waltz, has been a highly contentious perspective on the nature of international relations. In the contemporary configuration of international relations, the ding-dong affair between realism and idealism centers on the realist assumptions regarding the selfish nature of man and the anarchic nature of the international system vis-à-vis the idealist prospect for peace and co-operation among nations. Our aim in this paper is to interrogate the claims of realism by considering Machiavelli‟s conception of International relations as articulated in The Prince and the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius. While there is a point to the realist pessimism regarding human nature and its potentials for co-operation as well as the realist correlation of politics, power and interest, it is arguable that the metaphysics and anthropology of human nature that undergirds the entire realist understanding of international relations is one-sided and this one-sidedness explains the apparent rift between realism and idealism, as evidenced by the debate between both perspectives. Our contention is that once we revise the metaphysics and anthropology that drives realism, to take into account some larger issues concerning the nature of reality and human existence, it becomes possible to reconcile the tension between realism and idealism, such as to allow for a more adequate conceptualization of the nature of international relations and its dynamics.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jirfp.v7n1a3