Difference Between Classical Realism and Neorealism

Classical realism contends that defects in human behavior imply that nations would inevitably seek dominance in the international system,


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but neorealism takes a broader perspective of the global system’s institutions and contends that this is what explains status transfers in the global community.

Realists think that nations are inherently cutthroat, whilst neorealists think that nations are inherently collaborative.

Classical Realism vs Neorealism 

The difference between classical realism and neorealism is that Classical realism focuses on personal and internal concerns, whereas neorealism focuses on how the framework of the global network influences state behavior. Neoclassical realism strives to reconcile the two viewpoints. Because classical realism and neorealism both are concepts of international relations, significant discrepancies exist between them.

Classical Realism vs Neorealism

Classical realism was not a cohesive philosophical school. It gathered from a broad range of materials and presented opposing perspectives on the individual, the government, and the globe.

Classical realists were linked mostly by their opposition. The fortune of classical realism, which was founded on a blend of histories, literature, and religion, declined through the 1960s age of social-scientific functionalism.

Kenneth Waltz presented neorealism as an offshoot of classic balance-of-power (or “realist”) concepts of international affairs in 1975 as well as in 1979.

Its main conceptual assumption is that in world diplomacy, war can occur at any moment. A documentary on the everyday routines of the impoverished is an instance of neorealism.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonClassical RealismNeorealism
PowerPower is an endpoint in itself for classical realists, a consequence of human nature.Power is a route to an aim for neorealists, and the ultimate purpose is survival.
EmphasisFocuses on personal and domestic affairs.Focuses on how state behavior is influenced by the global system.
StatesBelieves that all states are competitive in nature.Believes that all states are cooperative in nature.
KindsIs a soft theory.Is a harsh theory.
BeliefBecause human actions are uncertain, they cannot be susceptible to prevalent guidance documents.States are grasped by a sense of protection and are inherently confrontational.

What is Classical Realism?

In International Politics, classical realism emphasizes the significance of human nature.

It contends that authority is inherent in social culture since the rules that regulate politics are enacted by people, and it also stresses that international politics is a battle for dominance that stems from human psychology.

According to the hypothesis, humans are selfish, paranoid, and violent, and they struggle for finite commodities, which causes them to fight one another for profit.

Individuals’ desire for control and greed is said to be the reasons or foundation of disputes that arise between them.

Furthermore, Hobbes recognized three primary reasons for warfare that are essential to human existence: competitiveness, tentativeness, and pride. 

Humans are naive, stupid, and easily influenced, therefore they are prone to making poor choices in order to optimize their profits.

Classical realism is a state-level concept that contends all governments want power in order to fulfill national objectives.

Realists believe that in order to exist, nations must expand their authority by continuous innovation such as financial, technical, political, and militaristic methods. 

According to the thesis, states want to enhance their dominance while decreasing the strength of their adversaries, and all they do is in the interest of authority building.

States in this perspective regard people with power as adversaries, since power is scary when it is not in your control.

What is Neorealism?

Neorealism differs from the elderly hypothesis mainly in its effort to be more expressly conceptual, in an economics-like style—particularly in its self-conscious analogies of great-power

diplomacy to an oligopoly market structure and its willfully simplistic presumptions about the essence of international relations. 

Neorealism can sometimes be known as “structural realism,” and some neorealist authors allude to their concepts as “realists” to stress the connection between their ideas and prior viewpoints.

Its main theoretical assumption is that in international politics, war can happen at any time. 

The international system is seen as utterly as well as permanently chaotic.

While conventions, legislation and organizations, philosophies, and other variables are accepted to influence the conduct of specific countries,

neorealists often maintain that they do not change the vital part of warfare in international politics. 

The basic reasoning is also unaffected by changes in the nature of political entities, from great civilizations to the European Union and all those in between.

The theory claims to focus on how “international structure”—primarily the allocation of capacities, particularly among the main powers—shapes results.

The concerns highlighted by the neorealist concept are spread across the literature, making it difficult to locate a single concise articulation of the problems. 

Main Differences Between Classical Realism and Neorealism

  1. The origins of global struggle and war, according to classical realists, are located in a flawed human character, but neo-realists believe the underlying reasons are located in the international political system.
  2. In classical realism, the state is metaphysically greater to the system, as opposed to neorealism, which allows for more activity in the global version.
  3. Classical realists distinguish between status-quo and revolutionary forces, but neorealism views governments as unitary entities.
  4. Neo-realists, greatly inspired by the 1960s behaviouristic movement, try to develop a more thorough and empirical contribution to the subject of global relations, whereas classical realism confines its analysis to personal values of foreign politics.
  5. Classical realism comes across as soft whereas neorealism has a harder approach.


  1. https://www.e-ir.info/2009/07/23/comparing-and-contrasting-classical-realism-and-neo-realism/
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781118474396.wbept0864
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