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Squandered OpportunityNeoclassical Realism and Iranian Foreign Policy$
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Thomas Juneau

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780804793056

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804793056.001.0001

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Neoclassical Realism

Neoclassical Realism

(p.17) 1 Neoclassical Realism
Squandered Opportunity

Thomas Juneau

Stanford University Press

This chapter reviews the literature on neoclassical realism, and explains its evolution as well as its strengths and weaknesses. Neoclassical realists agree with other realists that power is the chief determinant of foreign policy. Yet a reliance solely on structural factors – a state’s position in the international distribution of power – cannot account for underwhelming performances, structure explains the context in which a state operates but says little about the content of foreign policy. Neoclassical realists thus posit that domestic factors act as intervening variables or ‘transmission belts’ converting systemic pressures into choices. In addition, neoclassical realism is a theory of mistakes differentiating ideal or optimal foreign policy (responding solely to structural pressures) from actual, sub-optimal choices, which arise as a result of the filtering effect of domestic pathologies.

Keywords:   Neoclassical realism, realism, power, structural factors, intervening variables, domestic pathologies, foreign policy, theory of mistakes

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