The Rich Tradition of Australian Realism

Published on Sep 1, 2009in Australian Journal of Politics and History0.405
· DOI :10.1111/j.1467-8497.2009.1520a.x
Michael Wesley3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Lowy Institute for International Policy)
Australian International Relations (IR) developed as a discipline at the same time as its emergence in the rest of the Anglophone world. A deep reading of Australian writing on international relations since the 1920s reveals a distinctive tradition of IR scholarship, shaped very much by this country's international circumstances and the pragmatic culture of political inquiry that pervaded its universities and diplomatic institutions. Three characteristics frame the Australian Realist outlook. The first is experiential, a preoccupation with the particularities of Australia's international position — size, isolation, wealth, population, culture — and how these factors can help understand the ways in which Australia relates to the world beyond its shores. The second is systemic pessimism, a tendency to be apprehensive about broader global stability. The third is pragmatism, a predilection for understanding the essential attributes of the situation itself, rather than using the situation to inquire into the general nature of the international system. These characteristics have fostered sustained attention to three sets of issues: geography, demographics and race, and power differentials in Australian Realist scholarship.
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