Nov 19, 2020 in Politics

A Critique of Morgenthaus Principles of Political Realism

In the recent years, women rapidly advance in the areas of politics, economics, and military affairs. Nevertheless, the feminists believe that the world still belongs to males and females who come to their company experience discrimination and inferior treatment. Some of them consider that it is because society still lives according to the stereotypes, as well as outdated political and economic theories.


In the article Hans Morgenthaus Principles of Political Realism: A Feminist Reformulation, J. Ann Ticker analyses Morgenthaus failure to create an objective universal theory of international politics. One of the main reasons of his failure may be in the fact that he created the concept of human nature and morality based on masculinity. The author of the article also criticizes Morgenthaus ideas of legalistic-moralistic or idealistic approach to the world politics, which, he believes, are responsible for both World Wars. Ticker stresses that the characteristics of the West conceptual dichotomy (the masculine and feminine ones) are stereotypical. Therefore, Morgenthau made a mistake having used them for his objective universal theory of international politics.

Pluralistic conception of human nature is the basis of Morgenthaus political realism. A politician in his interpretation is a social construct, partly represented in the human nature. The author believes that Morgenthaus theory of the amoral realm of international power is an attempt to reveal the reason for the tension between the moral rules and political actions. Morality, in his concept, is an opportunity to justify the actions of the country in defending its interests. Morgenthau constructs an abstraction which he calls political man, a beast completely lacking in moral restraints...who behave morally in international politics are doomed to failure because of the immoral actions of others, - persuades Ann Tickner ( 1987).

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Moreover, Morgenthaus hierarchical ordering of morality has many common features with the works by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg. Kohlbergs morality scale, in turn, was criticized by Carol Gillian for being based on the masculine conception. It contains six stages, where the highest one is human moral development; on the second level, there is an instrumental concern associated with competition while on the third stage, there is interpersonal morality, which is characterized by sensitivity to the needs of others. Kohlberg argues that women seldom rise above the third level, but Gillian claims it to be a sign of the difference, but not inferiority. Therefore, the fact that in the modern Western culture, morality is associated with masculinity may be considered offensive.

J. Ann Tickner suggests designing a new view on the international relations. She believes that in the modern rapidly changing world, semi-moral political realism can be even dangerous. In addition, the increasing number of problems associated with the economic interdependence makes the nation-state incapacitated. This interdependence is the main constitutive element of the outdated theory. Therefore, the author of the article emphases the feminist perspective on the international politics.

Consequently, one can see how imperfect a popular Morgenthaus theory is for the modern world. Therefore, it should be replaced, and the question of morality in the international relations must be reconsidered.

A Critique of Morgenthaus Principles of Political Realism

Hans Joachim Morgenthau was one of the most famous scholars of the twentieth century, who studied international politics. He created the theory of political realism and developed six rules of it. Nevertheless, modern scholars and public activists are criticizing Morgenthaus ideas for being outdated. Today, it is obvious that Morgenthaus model of realism fails as a theory and as a reliable guide for the policy choice.

In his theory, Morgenthau emphasized the imperatives of power, constraints of anarchy, and human imperfection. While analyzing the international relations, the scholar should develop standards for relative degrees of moral and geopolitical evil, significance of the countrys ideology and regime. However, while separating domestic and international politics, Morgenthau did not pay attention to the impact of ideology on the international system. Consequently, he was not able to realize moral, ideological, and geopolitical reasons of the Cold War. The basis of the realism theory was St. Augustines maxim on the inevitability and the evilness of mans lust for power. Morgenthau opposed the so-called moralism in the foreign policy and maintained the prudence and conservative approach based on the rational pursuit of interest. He renounced the idea that the lust for power could be abolished through the reforms. He neither believed that it could be the way of solving the moral problems of power, because only the human nature, but not institutions, was responsible for the trespass and lust for power.

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Morgenthau denied the principles of the liberal international relations theory, including the natural harmony of interests between the states, collective security provided by nonviolent international organizations, pacifism in the world without power, and defining morality and politics in general. Morgenthau asserted that universal moral principles of power could not be considered through the perspective of concrete circumstances of time and place.

Recently, there was a considerable tension between the feminists and advocates of realism. The feminists usually pay more attention to events that occurred during the war, and the causes of their development. Realists pay more attention to the inner security while the feminists believe that there must be a union of security at different levels of analysis. Realists, following the ideas of the founder of the movement, argue that security is to limit both power and morality. Feminists, however, believe that security should not only be understood as a defense of the state against attack, but it should also take into account that the safety of women may be different. Women are more likely to be attacked by people they know rather than strangers from other states. The feminist definition of security has many levels and aspects; women believe that the security means the absence of any violence, whether economic, military, or sexual. According to feminists, the state itself is the male national security. Realism sees the state as the union that would indemnify itself through the military actions.

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The main source of Morgenthaus error is its overly pessimistic view on the human nature, which is the opposition to the overly optimistic perspective of the unalloyed liberalism. Morgenthau considered the age-old struggle for power in international politics not from the perspective of moral indifference, but rather with a sense of tragedy and sorrow for the terrible crimes of depravity and injustice in history. Morgenthau insisted that public figures had to choose the lesser evil according to ethical consequences, denying the perfectionist ethical intentions. Deep pessimism of Morgenthau leaves several specific mechanisms to guide the foreign policy, with the exception of national interest defined as power that protects both moral and practical sides. Foreign policy is shaped according to the national interests. In fact, the highest moral foreign policy is inspired by the universal moral principles. It is not only a political duty, but also a moral obligation for the nation to consider other nations in its dealings. However, the one pointer, one standard of thought, one rule for action is the national interest.

Modern society must pay tribute to Morgenthau for his attempt to analyze the interests of international politics in the historical perspective, his modern academic depth, and utility. Morgenthaus realism is relevant today; in terms of international organizations designed to protect the peace and tranquility around the world, it explains their disability. This fact became obvious in the events in Syria, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, or the counter-terrorist operation in Ukraine. Of course, Morgenthaus realism needs to be revised; nevertheless, its further development can help overcome the crisis of the modern society. It is also important to say that the political realism is a rather contradictory trend in the field of policy research that has both opponents and supporters.


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