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The Cold War and AfterHistory, Theory, and the Logic of International Politics$
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Marc Trachtenberg

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152028

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152028.001.0001

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The Question of Realism: An Historian’s View

The Question of Realism: An Historian’s View

(p.3) Chapter One The Question of Realism: An Historian’s View
The Cold War and After

Marc Trachtenberg

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses how the argument about the systemic sources of conflict is far more problematic, even in principle, than many people seem prepared to admit. It further argues that there are ways in which systemic forces can play a stabilizing role. The chapter begins by outlining the kind of thinking that lies behind the view that a system based on power is not inherently unstable—or, more precisely, the basis for the view that realist policies, policies that make sense in terms of the basic logic of the system, actually make for a relatively stable international order. It then examines some key arguments on the other side, especially fundamental arguments about the way an anarchic system is supposed to work. The final section looks at policy arguments, and especially at what they can tell us about the fundamental assumptions that lie at the heart of the realist understanding of international politics.

Keywords:   systemic forces, political system, state power, international order, anarchic system, international politics

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