Realism and rhetoric in international relations

Francis A. Beer, Robert Hariman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


The conduct of international relations has always involved skillful use of persuasive discourse. Relations between states might depend on factors such as military capability and natural resources, but the decisions made about the conduct of peace and war are also a result of the successes, failures, habits, and nuances of persuasive appeal among elites and publics alike. For the most part, however, academic research in international relations has not focused on the forms and effects of conversations, speeches, debates, narratives, or discourses in political practice. This systematic inattention to the role of words in foreign affairs is the result of a specific intellectual history that emphasized the material bases of international politics as it "really" was. Political realism, historically known as reason of state or Realpolitik, was contrasted with both the Utopian tendencies of philosophical idealism and the liberal overvaluing of verbal agreements that was epitomized at Munich. As it was linked to the modern valorization of scientific method, the doctrine of political realism became the dominant theory within the contemporary discipline of international relations. By 1960, political realism had "swept the field in the United States"; one more recent study suggested that 90 percent of the hypotheses in behavioral studies in the discipline were realist in conception.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPost-Realism
Subtitle of host publicationThe rhetorical turn in international relations
PublisherMichigan State University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9780870134616
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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