What is Neorealism in international relations?

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Neorealism is the new theory to understand international relations and marks a significant departure from classical realism. While the latter states that international relations are based on human nature and thus influenced by the ego and emotions of international leaders, the former states that international relations are based on anarchy and the distribution of capabilities, i.e. the number of great powers. 

This definition results in a security dilemma: a lack of trust between nations, which leads to internal and external capacity building in terms of military and economic advancements and alliances. While all nations have the same needs, they may follow different routes to get there. However, a lack of mutual trust is a commonality. Depending on the capabilities, there are superpowers in the system towards which countries may gravitate in order to ensure their own safety. Safety and self-preservation are the primary driving forces and prerequisites to the achievement of other goals. This theory leads to three scenarios of unipolar, bipolar and multipolar worlds, depending on how many superpowers are in the system. 

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