«Is There a Different Sort of Realism in the Socialist States as There Is in the United States?» - Free Essay Paper

Is There a Different Sort of Realism in the Socialist States as There Is in the United States?


The most effective means of ensuring peace, according to political realism, is the balance of power that arises as a collision of national interests and respect for the rights of each other. The theory should establish and interpret the facts under the terms of political realism. The nature of foreign policy can be understood only on the basis of the analysis of political actions and their possible consequences. However, a simple analysis of the facts is not enough. The research requires certain theoretical models. By evaluating different hypotheses, historians begin to understand the meaning and significance of the phenomenon of international politics. Politicians, both in the socialist states and the USA, think and act based on the concept of interest defined in terms of power, which is proved by examples from the history. The current paper is aimed at analyzing whether there is a different sort of realism in socialist states and the United States.

The Principles of Political Realism

The principles of political realism are universal both for socialist states and the United States of America based on the universal moral principles in the international relations. From the standpoint of political realism, policy, as well as society as a whole, is the subject of the objective laws that originate from human nature (Brown 48). To improve the society, politicians must first understand the laws according to which they live. These laws do not depend on the individuals, and any attempt to change them will result in failure. The literature reveals that human nature has not changed since the time of its discovery by philosophers of the ancient world (Guzzini 37). Therefore, any innovations in political theory cannot be regarded as the dignity and antiquity of this theory. In terms of political realism, theory must establish the facts and interpret them.

The research asserts that a key category of political realism is the concept of interest defined in terms of power (Brown 51). This concept is related to the idea of the researcher and the phenomenon of international politics that specify the political sphere. Admittedly, it differs from other spheres of life, such as the economy, ethics, aesthetics, and religion. Without such a concept, a theory of politics, internal or external, would be impossible because in this case it would not be possible to separate the political phenomenon from the non-political one and achieve at least some kind of order in the political sphere. Experts assume that politicians, both socialist and capitalist, think and act on the basis of the concept of interest defined in terms of power (Guzzini 38). This assumption allows predicting and monitoring their actions.

Good motives protect against intentionally “bad” policy, but they do not guarantee the success of the initiated policy and morality. Brown (68) assumes that in order to understand the foreign policy, a researcher should not be interested in the motives of a statesman, but rather in the ability to understand the basics of foreign policy and to translate their knowledge into successful political action. Political realism recognizes the importance of political ideals and moral principles, but it requires a clear distinction between what is desirable and what is possible.  Many studies indicate that not every foreign policy is rational. Personal qualities, subjective preferences and prejudice can lead to deviations from the rational course. It is especially true for democratic regimes, where the need to enlist the support of the electorate may adversely affect the rationality of foreign policy. However, the theory of political realism should ignore the irrational elements and try to reveal the essence of a rational foreign policy without considering random deviations from the norms (Guzzini 42).

At the same time, political realism suggests that a rational foreign policy is the best because only such a policy can minimize the risks and bring maximum benefits. Opponents of political realism argue that foreign policy must be rational in terms of their moral principles and practical purposes (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 112). Political realism does not mean that the structure of modern international relations, characterized by extreme instability, cannot be changed. For example, the balance of power is a permanent feature of pluralistic societies that is achieved in the conditions of relative stability and peace during the conflict, both in the United States and socialist states. If the factors that form the basis of these conditions could be raised to the level of international relations, it would be possible to create such conditions of peace and stability between the states, as it had been observed between some of them for long historical periods (Maton and Moore 14).

Political Realism as a Struggle for Power

The political realism that is the basis of international politics as well as politics in general is a struggle for power. Power is always the primary goal of international politics whatever the ultimate goals are. Politicians and people, both in the USA and the socialist states, can achieve the ultimate goal of freedom, security, prosperity, and power. They can define their goals in terms of religious, philosophical, economic or social ideals. They may try to facilitate the implementation of power with the help of political means, such as, for example, technological cooperation with other countries and international organizations. However, when they will seek to achieve the objective by means of international politics, it would always mean a struggle of power (Brown 100). The research asserts that not all states are equally involved in international politics (Guzzini 58). Their degree of involvement can be very high, such as in the United States and Russia at the moment, or very low, as in Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Venezuela. It can also be absent, as in Monaco and Liechtenstein (Guzzini 59). The degree of involvement of individual states in international politics can change over time.

The involvement of the USA, Russia, and China has increased significantly over the last 50 or even 20 years. Thus, the state’s attitude to international politics is the dynamic option. It changes along ith the change of state power, which can enhance the political involvement of the state in international politics, or the state may lose the opportunity to be active in the international arena. This setting can be changed under the influence of cultural changes, as a result of which, for example, the emphasis can shift to the political activity of trade.

According to Banfield (69), political power is a psychological relation between those who possess and those who have to obey it. Submission to authority has three causes: the expectation of gain, fear of incurring the expenses, respect or love for man or the laws. Power can be carried out by means of threats, laws, charismatic authority or a combination of all of these aspects. It is necessary to distinguish between the following concepts: power and influence; power and strength; applicable power, and legitimate and illegitimate power (Guzzini 68).

Socialist Realism

Socialist realism was discovered in the 19th century under the influence of the revolutionary poets (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 114). Socialist realism is claimed to be a continuous development of valuable individual abilities for the sake of one’s health and longevity and the great happiness to live on earth. Theoretically, socialist realism requires a true artist to create a historically defined depiction of reality in its revolutionary development. It must be combined with the task of processing an ideological education of workers in the spirit of socialism. Socialist realism provides a unique opportunity for the artist to identify creativity, choice of various shapes, styles, and genres (Maton and Moore 18). In fact, these principles were understood with much bias. A true picture of reality in its revolutionary development means that literature and art should be a laudatory illustration of party’s policy, rejecting a true picture of Soviet reality, with its stained disabilities, anti-socialist agitation and propaganda. Therefore, the reality was depicted in bright colors.

The need to disguise false sense of reality has elaborated specific artistic features inherent to all works of literature and art of socialist realism. According to the changes that occurred during the development of the Soviet system, it is possible to distinguish several stages in the history of socialist realism. It was common to praise the party and leaders. Literature and art were narrowed by the illustration of industrialization and collectivization. In the world of art, portraits and monuments of the socialist leaders, mostly Stalin, used to dominate.

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The last stage of the socialist realism development is considered to be the victory of “partisanship” and “nationality”, and these concepts are in turn interpreted as synonymous serving the interests of literature and art. Socialist realism requires isolation from the literature and art of the West, with special emphasis on criticism of “revisionism” (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 115). Theorists of socialist realism referred to Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, the Communist Party, and the Congress resolutions. Numerous books on socialist realism created in the latest decade of the Soviet era, were marked by extreme dogmatism and artificially reduced selected quotations from these sources.

 Many studies reveal that socialist realism paid much attention to controlling the ideological and political content of literature, art, and the media (Banfield 71). For example, in the former Soviet Union, special funds of libraries were designed to store “hostile” and “harmful” books (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 116). The majority of findings reveal that the establishment of socialist realism in literature and art was accompanied by repression, the outcome of which was physical elimination or removal from the literature and sometimes expulsion from the country (Maton and Moore 20).

The Historical Background of Political Realism

Social sciences investigating global political processes as an object of study of social phenomena consider that political realism is closely interrelated with international relations. A more detailed definition of the domain of science cannot be given without such categories as “foreign policy”, “international politics”, “world politics”, and others. According to Klarer (125), the central place among all the above categories belongs to the category of “international relations” that was introduced by the English philosopher John Bentham on the verge of the 18-19th centuries. The appearance of the term in that period was not a coincidence since the boundary between those centuries was an important milestone in the evolution of the phenomenon of international relations. At that time, a system of sovereign nation-states was finally developed in Western Europe. The relations between reigning monarchs and ruling dynasties were replaced by the relationship between the states. No wonder that the concept of “nation” and “state” have become synonymous.

World politics was born and developed on the foundation of international relations, forming a single and inseparable complex. However, there is no a complete identity between the two parts of the complex. World politics includes international policy but is not limited to it, because it has a larger number of subjects. International political relations, as a leading and backbone element of the structure of international relations, do not reflect this structure as a whole (Klarer 126). International economic relations within the same structure composed within the global economy are related to the world political environment. Thus, the relationship between world politics and international relations is quite complex and dynamic. This should be considered when determining the subject of research disciplines for those who study international issues (Brown 103).

The theory of international relations belongs to relatively young social sciences, although its origins can be found in the social and political thought of the past centuries and even the millennia. The study asserts that since the subject area of international relationns theory belongs to the area of policy, as a rule this science is related to the field of political knowledge, and in fact, until recently, it was seen as a part of political science (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 117). In the middle of the 19th century, major changes could be observed in the political development of the leading countries in Western Europe and North America. They formed a political system of the modern type that included, apart from the state, political parties, various interest groups, and other institutions. At the same time, these countries definitively established parliamentary democracy, where the election process was regular and systematic. Public policy has changed dramatically, and formed queries in its entities such as political knowledge that could not be obtained using traditional philosophical knowledge. It was necessary to undergo training to obtain the new knowledge in order to work in state and party structures. To meet these needs, a number of universities and institutions created departments of political science.

However, on the verge of the 19th-20th centuries, this problem had not yet been well-developed, and only a limited number of politicians were involved in the international relations. The First World War changed the situation because it penetrated the dimensions that previously were unimaginable, and led to the horrific deaths and destruction. Meanwhile, on the eve of the First World War, a few people realized that international politics at the beginning of the 20th century was significantly different from the foreign politics of the middle of the 19th century (Klarer 128). Many governmental officials were held captive by outdated ideas and opinions and not fully anticipated the consequences of their decisions. The results of the war have pushed the political and the scientific community to the idea of a careful study of international relations, in order to prevent future errors. Not accidentally, the term “theory of international relations” emerged immediately after the First World War.

Political Realism in the United States

The founder and the most prominent representative of the school of political realism in the USA was Hans Morgenthau (1904-1980) (Banfield 86). He stated that international politics as well as others is a fight for power. He regarded the same power as an opportunity to control the minds and actions of people and political power as a relationship of mutual control between those who have power and between the rest and the people in general. In the international relations, this power should be strengthened in order to have an influence on the world. Hans Morgenthau formulated a well-known thesis of political realism, which postulated that the objectives of foreign policy ought to be defined in terms of national interest and had to maintain appropriate force (Maton and Moore 24).  According to this analysis, the categories of “national interest” and “national power” were the key concepts of Hans Morgenthau and other representatives of the American school of political realism, such as Thompson, Kennan, Marshall, and others (Maccarini et al., 121).

From the standpoint of political realism, international relations are primarily interstate relations, where the only real actors are sovereign states. The latter, of course, try to realize their own interests by using all available power at their disposal. Wars and conflicts, thus, seem to be inevitable consequences of the nature of international relations, while hopes to achieve peace in the world based on the legal and moral norms were an illusion. It would be wrong, however, to consider political realism only as a return to traditional views on world politics and international relations. Since the formation of this trend that took place after the Second World War, its supporters had to consider entirely new reality. The emergence of nuclear weapons was one of the most crucial new factors in the world politics. The presence of such weapons was supposed to inevitably lead to the revision of the old ideas about foreign policy. Such review was made by Hans Morgenthau, who had known the formula of paradoxes strategy of nuclear powers.

Another prominent sociologist, political scientist and philosopher who studied world politics and international relations, was Raymond Aron, the representative of French school (Banfield 98). According to him, the foreign policy of the states was characterized by two symbolic figures, diplomat and soldier, in the form of relations between the states (Maton and Moore 29). Each state can rely only on their own strength in relations with other countries, and it must constantly strive to increase its power. Aron saw the specifics of international relations in the absence of a single center, which has a monopoly on violence and coercion (Maccarini, Morandi, and Prandini 123).

The Differences in Political Realism between the United States and the Socialist States

The differences in political realism between the United States and socialist states can be seen from the standpoint of Russian-American international relations since Russia is the main representative of the former Soviet Union that postulated socialism in the world. When analyzing the structure of the interests of the two countries, it is important to take into consideration the significant difference between the status of Russia and the United States in the contemporary world politics. The US remains the global superpower, while Russia is only one of the leading world powers, and its global policy covers only certain matters. Russia maintains an active and often aggressive stance in addressing many global challenges, but always achieves results that radically change the situation (Banfield 102). The difference in potential does not necessarily lead to a conflict of interests and irreconcilable differences. The different statuses of the state may have common or overlapping interests, but it is impossible to ignore such a disparity.

At the global level, the US aims to form Western centric world order, trying to maintain its leadership. It tries to achieve the democratization of the whole world, and is also interested in securing control over the state of the global security environment.

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