The Role of Human Nature


The traditional understanding of international relations brings forward the assumption that modern politics needs security against external threats. The concept of social security in international politics is the topic of discussion that dominates many debates. People tend to think that others may use their power to abuse offices and the political identity. Security depends on the competition and aggressiveness that exists in human beings. Scholars of international relations have tried to discuss t classical realism attempting to dismiss the claims of philosophical and religious arguments based on human nature. However, Charles Darwin’s theories appear a useful basis for discussing various social competitions and providing justification for contempt differences of human beings (Wallace 1996).

Although the theories of evolution are very controversial and sometimes not easy to understand, they are still applicable to this philosophical study. In various political descriptions common for the western societies, there are various ideas of man eat man society (Rothstein 1994). In these cases, only the strong survive. The law of survival suggests that the very idea of survival suggests some struggle and, therefore, the weak are usually eliminated in the process.

Throughout the human history, the idea of international relations has been developed to such extent that it has received many sub-divisions. The key issues of the hottest debates have been related to the relationship between the human nature and international politics. The relationship between idealism and realism has also been elevated to the status of the key issue in the great debate about international relations, international politics and human nature (Gilpin 1984). International relations can be considered a social science that deals with various assumptions and facts about human nature and the identity of human beings. Different aspects of behaviour have been highlighted in numerous debates. As a result, the approaches to political science have now included social sciences as well thinking in philosophical dimensions.

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Background Information

International relations did not initially begin as an area of inquiry. It was not until the American school of political science published a book that explored the subject. That was a time when the United States itself was in the process of awakening. After a long period of contemplation of the role that the US was supposed to play in the international community in terms of politics, early American thinkers decided to bring political science to the international realm. The initial scholars under the umbrella of the international politics were international lawyers from all over the world. The fact that the US wanted to achieve the status of the superpower made the topic an area of much interest from many scholars in the field. Thus, the field of international relations cropped up and turned into a discipline of political science.

As time went by, the elements of evolutionary theories were creeping into the minds of scholars who started to realize the necessity to discuss the subject of the international relations in formal arguments. This led to the fact many have become thinkers in the realms of international politics. The initial way of thinking about the argument was based on using evolution to explain classical realms from the perspective of human nature. Socio-biology has also been attributed to the argument, yet the main pillars have evolved within the evolution theory. These arguments have brought out truths about the features of the experience of human beings. These include violence, ethnocentricity, competition, and patriotism. A certain paradigm has dominated the field of international relations, posing propositions that the threats of conflict and violence are two inherent features of human nature. Various researchers in the field of socio-biology have reinforced this line of thought.

As it has been already mentioned, the argument of human nature includes the concepts of violence and ethnocentricity of humanity, as well as the importance of competition. One more feature has been identified recently. Human nature has been said to pose another feature – that of insecurity throughout the dimensions in which it operates. The matter of competition is best understood through exploring the degrees of differences, as well as proneness and vulnerability to war.

The key questions that cause wars and the restoration of peace seem to have never been resolved in any of these processes. The structure of the international politics seems to have been hardly defined at all. The facts about international relations can explain the nature of international politics, just as many aspects of international relations can explain the political state of a country. According to classical realists, structural anarchy or the lack of a centralised authority is a key element that clearly describes that nature and scope of international politics with relation to international relations and its central theories. This creates situations in which disputes are never resolved, and thus, leads to the rise of the so-called security dilemma in different perspectives. They view conflict as a natural state of affairs as opposed to the consequential view that is common for the realists.

Statement of the Problem

There does not exist a single stated approach that is able to cover the complexity of international politics today. The theoretical orthodoxy is not enough to describe the problems surrounding the idea of international relations and international politics. There is a need to make a comparison of the various theoretical dispositions that are possibly available and may be effectively used to explain the essence of human nature in the context of international politics and relations. The competition between the theories has brought about a platform in which scholars are able to do research which will produce findings to one table for analysis. However, the studies have not yet established the existing relationship between international politics and its connection to human nature. The main question addressed in this research is extent to which the human nature is a factor that to be considered in the study of international politics. Various theories of international relations are putting together various connections that international relations might have within the realms of human nature.


This study will be based on a few objectives that are aimed at finding out the possibility of having a conclusion on the matter at hand. The main objectives are:

  1. To reveal the relationship between international politics and human nature
  2. To develop possible theoretical explanations that brings clear-cut distinctions between human nature and the quest for political power.
  3. To relate international relations and international politics to the nature of humanity.


It is suggested that the study be guided by the following questions:

  1. What is the relationship between international politics and human nature?
  2. Using theoretical explanation, what are the distinctions between human nature and the quest for political power?
  3. How do relations and international politics relate to the nature of humanity?

Theoretical Background

In the study of international politics, there is a need to relate some facts to various theoretical imaginations in order to view the real situational consequences and, probably the causes and the measures which can be used to mitigate such problems. In this way, this paper has identified the theories of realism as the main thinking pillars that are further divided into classical and structural realism.

Classical Realism

Realism is a tradition that was popular in the Cold War. It focuses on the international affairs directed at eliminating war under the circumstances of the struggle for power among various self-interested states. Realists usually believe that power is the driving force of international politics. Many states usually view this from the economic point of view. This means that no state has the right to shift power in its own favour. Otherwise, there come the consequences that are evil in nature, according to researchers.

Realism was the basic feature that prevailed among the states that were in the quest for power. Realism cannot function as a single and separate theory; its prospects are better understood through the discussion of classical realism. Cardoso & Faletto (1978) developed the dimensional views of classical realms in an attempt to define and contribute to the discussion of the nature of man in international politics.

Classical realists contend that state behaviour can be viewed rationally. They suggest that state behaviour should be rational. National interest is the basic indicator that many states use in describing the people who form the citizen lot. A clear definition of national interest related the latter to survival, security, relative capabilities, and power. National interest may vary in many ways depending on a political state.

There exist a number of differences between realists in real life. The best way to differentiate between is by asking the question, why do states desire power? For Morgenthau, the answer would definitely be human nature. For structural realists, human nature drives states to pursuing the power within international political systems (Morgenthau 1978). This theory does not cover any cultural differences among states. Another question is about the amount of power that is for a state or individual. Waltz mentions that maximizing the world power can bring forth truly unrealistic punishments, which can otherwise be avoided.

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It is true that realism began more than half a century ago during the era of the Cold war (Morgenthau 1978). Morgenthau (1978) brings forward the view that effects of human nature on the government are crucial. According to him, human nature has not changed since the days of classical antiquity. Realists such as Niebuhr (1960) were the main contenders of the theories and that the general thought was that man was a victim of his own actions. If the roots to problems of human beings are to be defined, one should consider their tendency to originate from his actions and thus no one should be blamed.

Other writers suggest that it is not important to have faith in human nature. Even though human nature does not change, there is a need to have a way out when the realist theories do not work in the end. Carr (1995) says that the desire of a man for power is the motivational factor in his quest for political power. This therefore means that doing justice and receiving it in return is a matter of choice. The absence of the international government is believed to lead to the operation of states under extremely unrealistic rules and regulations.

Therefore, human nature has a direct influence on the way international politics is played and on the outcomes faced by the same humans. It is very difficult to change the nature of human beings because of the rigidness of the human mind and many other human factors. Waltz insists that he is not against realism, but he has a new approach of thinking in terms of human relations to the international politics (Carr 1995).

Importantly, power is based on the amount of material or property that a state owns. This acts as a tool for measuring what a nation has and what it needs. Mainly, these materials are in the form of military assets and other military materials that can be easily viewed by the concerned. In gaining power, there are five assumptions that states make in order to make the struggle worthwhile. These include

  1. Power is the main actor in the world politics
  2. All states possess the capability of defending themselves using the military
  3. There is uncertainty on the intentions of another state.
  4. The ultimate goal of the struggle is survival
  5. The states act rationally.

None of the assumptions above is advocating nations to fight for power. However, when the five assumptions are combined, the states then become preoccupied with the idea of balancing power. This means that the acquisition of power will be at one’s expense (Waltz 1969).

Relationship of Concepts to the Topic

International Politics and Realism

The problems of a particular nation are best described in terms of the nature of the international system. Actions may be a response to internal or external political forces that are the major driving forces. Rational policies could be the propellers of power and represent the interest of the society in general. This means that realism has been an easy tool for the international relations scholars due to its connections to the society in which men’s feelings and behaviours thrive.

International politics and relations have used the realism model as the main tool for the framework developed for understanding the international disorder. There are scholars who have subscribed to the premises of realism and there are those that have completely refused to agree to the respects that have been presented by classical realists. However, those differing are basing their opposition on the insufficiency of precision and rigor in the presentation of the facts of the theory and the relations within the brackets of international politics (Allen 1999).

According to Armstrong (2008), classical realism has always been considered an extension of pessimistic theories of human nature. This means that the connections with theological perspectives of the theories have always been evident. Ego and self-interest are not specific to few individuals in society, but are the main features of those within politics. Therefore, these people are the core characters of the realism theory. Many scholars have considered the human nature as a constant measure rather than a variable in the process of political analysis. For international relations, this could be an unsatisfactory claim, and does not count as an explanation to the way international relations and politics are related to human nature (Armstrong 2008).

In addition, if human nature were able to explain war, then the biggest question would be to account for peace and cooperation (Gaddis 1986). Due to this obstacle to the hypotheses in various studies, many scholars have turned to the structure of the international political system as a substitute to human nature. By doing this, the scholars will be able to account for state behaviour, thus, making the study unfruitful. Concepts of power and its balance in a state have had so much contradictions and lacked precision (Claude 1962). Therefore, prescriptive and descriptive elements of realism are possibly into another contradictory experience.

Those who view human nature as competitive, egocentric and aggressive never participate in scientific analyses of the same concepts. Scientific investigation leads to a ground of questioning and interrogation into the traditional assumptions and comprehension. Human potential is measured at this stage and thus a conflict hierarchy is created and formulated.

Realism and Human Nature

Contemporary views on international relations and politics rely on the key concepts that form the basis of arguments developed in the past. Idealist approaches have been introduced explored in debates that specifically discuss realism. Hans Morgenthau has done various formulations of realism and human nature. Idealism failed to address the natural laws that led to human violence and aggression (Morgenthau 1978). Morgenthau argues that international politics is directly linked by the natural quest for power. In the formulations that were made by Morgenthau, the main suggestion was that there is political realism. According to the scholar political realism was typical for the state in which the society was governed by clear objectives that were rooted in human nature (Petersen 1999).

The real description of human nature, according to Morgenthau, is related to the evils that are driven by power and lust. The desire to dominate is propelled by the human lust for power (Morgenthau 1978). This view has been developed by the authors of various hypotheses about human nature. Inasmuch as Darwinism was introduced to realism, human nature has been linked to gravity. The quest for political power is usually driven by human nature. Many of those in power continue to seek more power and authority in various capacities of their leadership. States have withdrawn their responsibility of morals due to their hunger for power. This is a clear picture that human nature has destroyed the human himself and created a state of suffering within the society. Here human nature has been said to be poor, short, solitary, nasty, and brutish.

Intergroup relations have led to situations of winners and losers. This, therefore, means that the conflict between nations will forever remain a persistent force rather than a passing entity of human relations in the world (Niebuhr 1960). However, human nature has various dimensions or basic influential aspects that have not been covered by various scholars. These include the fact that the nature of humanity has a connection to the immediate environment. All the miseries of humanities are rooted into the nature of humanity; and the effects are reflected back to the same society that creates them (Waltz 1969).

Waltz (1969) presents a different view of his idea in terms of human nature. According to him, all the troubles of human beings are brought about by the same beings. This means that even the problems that are being discussed in this paper are the origin of human nature. These will include war and violence. However, this does not mean that Waltz is against realism, it is just that he cannot bring forth a foundation of the theory. It is difficult to study the main forces that give men the desire to vie for political power. This excludes the factors of human nature. If it were for human nature, then every citizen of each country would vie for a political post in any election and this would make the situation really bad.

Classical realism is conceived around the constraints of egoism and aggressiveness. These are still reflected in the international relations and the politics of the world. When scholars view human nature against the political power, it is best to maintain an individual point of view rather than generalizing on humanity. Humans lust for power as well as individual achievement. In this view, each human is a threat to another and therefore there is the security dilemma. Aliens and foreigners are considered irrelevant in such cases that involve power and gain. The struggle for power by top political principals leads to unending wars between the citizens who are the actual voters of such violence (Waltz 1969).

Realism was an implementation of the politics of human nature and the international government. They later make power their need and pursue it with all their power and desire. Human nature has not changed even if measured before the areas of classical antiquity. They will forever remain the men they were. Human nature is more into moral responsibility than it is into the other dimensions of nature. The aspect of power is the only desire that human beings have on earth. They go for other international aspects that form a better part of their needs. In some cases, civilization applies and may form the central part of the natural humans at a given point.

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The studies reveal that the introduction of international politics has been a contribution that will forever remain on the realm of humanity. Realism can be used to explain some of these aspects because there are cases where the idea of human nature is quite unclear. The more people want power, the more they will fight for it. The real description of human nature, according to Morgenthau, is related to the evils that are driven by power and lust. The desire to dominate is propelled by the human lust for power (Morgenthau 1978). Intergroup relations have led to situations of winners and losers. This therefore means that the conflict between nations will forever remain a persistent force rather than a passing entity of human relations in the world (Niebuhr 1960). Human nature has made a contribution to the international relations and international politics. The stability of the aspect of human nature leads to the stability of the relationship with international politics. Man has always wanted power even in the creation stories. Therefore, the quest for power is not a new thing to him. It is human nature. Wanting more power than another person is also another natural behaviour of man, which is observable in many states in the world today.


There is no concept that can cover the complexity of international politics. The theoretical orthodoxy is not enough to describe the problems surrounding the idea of international relations and international politics. The concept of social security in international politics is the issue that dominates many debates. People tend to think that others may use their power to abuse offices and the political identity. Throughout human history, the idea of international relations has undergone many sub-divisions. Elements of evolution are among the thoughts that have been crossing the minds of the people taking part in various theoretical discussions. So the idea of the human nature is an influential part in international politics. The prospects of realism are better understood through the exploration of classical realism. Cardoso& Faletto (1978) have brought out the dimensional views of classical realms in an attempt to define and contribute to the nature of man in international politics. Classical realists have a view that state behaviour can be viewed rationally. This therefore suggests that state behaviour could be rational. National interest is the basic indicator that many states use in describing the people who form the citizen lot. Various scholars have tried to present their arguments on realism and the ultimate truth that remains is that human nature is a constant and not a variable (Gaddis 1986).

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