PSCI 355
Realism Fall 2009
Division II Writing Skills
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Class Details

Realism in politics is both an approach to international relations and a political sensibility. As a sensibility, it values limits, questions good intentions, and worries about grand ambitions. It takes the basic contours of human behavior as given and beyond the control of actors to alter, perhaps giving rise to a kind of passivity in response. The realist sensibility tends to doubt the efficacy of human action, to believe that attempts to improve the terms of human interaction not only are doomed to fail but also are likely to make things worse. Realists are not necessarily conservative–a few are radical–but they have learned much from conservatives. By temperament, they are not confident of the capacities of human agencies. Realism also is a distinct approach to the conduct and the study of international relations. Realists have basic tenets–states are primary actors and operate to increase their relative power in a world in which anarchy puts a premium on self-help–that guide their thinking about international relations, but the readings on realism in international relations will highlight the underlying politics of realists. We will consider the realist emphasis on power, the status of morality, the relationship between power and morality, what critics of realists have to say about the realist treatment of these issues, and how realism in international relations connects with realism as a political sensibility. We will read works by Carr, Greene, Kissinger, Lenin, Machiavelli, Mearsheimer, Orwell, and Waltz.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1203
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: five 7-page papers, alternating weeks with tutorial partner
Prerequisites: none; Political Science 202 or 203 is recommended
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: PSCI International Relations Courses

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