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Psychometry and Semantics

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REALIST/IDEALIST TEXTS:Psychometry and Semantics{PRIVATE}Barry J. [email protected] A. [email protected] of Political ScienceUniversity of ColoradoBoulder CO 80309in Peace Psychology Review 1, 1 (Spring, 1994): 38-44.© Peace Psychology Review, 1994; Web Site Copyright©, Francis A. BeerAbstractRealism/Idealism are major rhetorical tropes of international relations. This paper attempts togenerate a thicker specification of their meanings. Canonical international relations texts weresearched for prototypic Realist and Idealist items. Expert coders evaluated the items for goodnessof fit along Realist and Idealist dimensions. The items fell into four groups. Group 1, Realismbut not Idealism, contained items that coders scored high on Realism and low on Idealism. Asone might expect, these items included positive references to "power," "sovereign," "nation," and"state" as well as "anarchical," "armed," "bad," "balance," "defense," "fear," "force," "interests,""military," "struggle," and "threat." Group 2, Idealism but not Realism, included positivereferences to a number of themes including "agency," "agreement," "disarmament,""environment," "government," "humankind," "institutions," "justice," "order," "organization,""peace," "reform," "security," "structure," "transformation," and "welfare." Items in Groups 1and 2 clarify the separate subjective dimensions of Realism and Idealism. They can be used tomeasure Realist and Idealist attitudes in content analysis, psychological experiments, and surveyresearch. Group 3, Both Realism and Idealism, contained items that were functional andpragmatic, blending positive, balanced, moderate references to both schools. Items in Group 3suggest that Realism and Idealism need not be dialectically opposed antitheses, as they often arepresented in the literature, but can be joined in a constructive synthesis. Group 4, NeitherRealism nor Idealism, contained items that were not explicitly linked to general theoreticalconcepts, but were heavily embedded in ideology, such as anti-Communism, or in specificcontexts such as the Middle East. Items in Group 4 raise questions about the general applicabilityof international relations theory in concrete situations of foreign policy. The contexts of specificsituations may contain their own powerful independent logics, activating local rather than globalknowledge.Rhetoric and MeaningThe Realist/Idealist debate runs through international relations discourse. Realist talk begins withthe writings of Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Hobbes, flows through the work of Morgenthau,out to contemporary proponents such as Keohane and Waltz. Realism describes internationalrelations in general terms but draws force from the 20th century Allied experience withWilhelmian and Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union. Keohane (1986: 7)identifies three "key assumptions" of Realism:1. states (or city-states) are the key units of action;2. they seek power, either as an end in itself or as a means to other ends; and3. they behave in ways that are, by and large, rational, and therefore comprehensible tooutsiders in rational terms".Whatever its relationship to international politics, Realism dominates intellectual and academicpolitics. Realist rhetoric is very much a part of the world that it constructs. Not only the state, butalso the speakers, in the guise of theorists, contest for power with their "rhetorical brilliance" andthe "power of their arguments." Realist rhetoric is the hegemonic conversation of internationalpolitics. Keohane (1986:9) notes that "World War II elevated this realist perspective to the neworthodoxy in Anglo-American thinking on international affairs" and that "during the postwaryears, political realism swept the field in the United States."Realism constructs and defines itself in its difference to Idealism, which term it has alsoconstructed as its rhetorical opponent. Realism's political conquest validates its scientific claimto represent the real world. Realism thus subordinates its identified opposite with the labelIdealism, successfully stigmatizing it as unrealistic and utopian (Hillam, 1980). The rhetoricalplaying field is not level. To make matters worse, those critical of Realism, or with a differentworld view, must accept the label imposed upon them if they are to enter the conversation at all.Anti-Realists may struggle to differentiate themselves rhetorically with labels like functionalism,human rights, or world order, but Realist hegemony ultimately defines the terms of the discourse.Idealism, constructed in this way, begins in the same sources as Realism. Idealists, like Realists,point to Thucydides as a foundational thinker, but they contest his identity. For Idealists, ThePeloponnesian Wars is not a canonical primer but a primal tragedy. Thucydides shows howRealism contains the seeds of its own destruction, presenting an example of the terribleconsequences that result when collective morality and ethics are ignored (White, 1984;Rawlings, 1981). Idealism traces its genealogy through such writers as Dante, Grotius, and Kant,through modern authors like Claude, Falk, Jacobson, and Mendlovitz. Idealism also drawsinspiration from 20th century political leaders like Woodrow Wilson, Dag Hammarskjold, andLester Pearson from the struggles to create and develop first the League of Nations and then theUnited Nations. Idealism proposes to escape, from an obsessive fixation on power. It suggeststhat the international system is not inevitably rigid and corrupt – there are elements which canadapt and change in a positive direction.Realist and Idealist tropes are neat in a general, abstract sense but are not always easy to discernin concrete settings. For this reason, we sought to develop a set of items that would clarify therhetorical and theoretical meaning of international Realism/Idealism, as well as provide aninstrument for psychological measurement of Realist/Idealist attitudes. The search of thickersemantic specification occurred in three stages. In the first stage, one of the co-authors selected472 items from a set of canonical texts. Some of these were identified as Realist: Thucydides,(1982) [T]) Machiavelli (1981) [MA]; Morgenthau and Thompson (1985) [MT]. Others wereIdealist: Jacobson (1984) [J]); Falk (1975) [F]); Mendlovitz (1975) [MZ]; Claude (1971) [C]. Afinal set was chosen for its general theoretical importance: Mansbach


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