Similarities Between Realism And Idealism

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The international relations schools of thought known as Realism and Idealism identify specific and similar characteristics of actors in the conceptual development of their theories. While many of these characteristics can be generalized as being synonymous with the two theories, both theories make a separate distinction in what specifically constitutes an actor. In Realism, the term “actor” refers directly and solely to the state: a combination of government, leaders, decision-makers, etc, that act as a unitary entity to promote the interests of the state. Idealists, however, expand on what constitutes an actor to include both the state and people. Not only do the principles of Idealism assert that the state and people should be considered actors, in fact, both they must be viewed as actors. Actors have interests; while realists such as Machiavelli insist the state is the only unit of analysis necessary in international politics, idealists argue that just as states have interests, people in government have interests as well. Therefore, Realism and Idealism begin their assessment of actors from two different perspectives, however, both schools of thought go on to identify many characteristics of actors which are largely similar. For both realists and idealists, actors are autonomous; they exist independently and retain sovereign rights over material and non-material resources. In both Realism and Idealism actors are said to possess prioritized interests and preferences.

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