The realist theoretical tradition has never enjoyed a strong position in Europe. During recent decades, although it is commonly claimed otherwise, it even seems to have lost its limited traction and most of its relatively few representatives. The aim of the article is to analyse this evolution, highlight how realist theorists have contributed limited conceptual or theoretical innovation, been unable to adjust their research agenda to current analytical challenges, and produced relatively few comprehensive empirical studies informed by one or more realist theories. Instead, we observe three main activities. Some realists do meta-studies on realist theory. Others do retrospectives, for instance, (re-)discovering the qualities of classical realist scholars or classical concepts such as the security dilemma. Still others practice ideology that may enjoy certain functions in legitimising national foreign policy orientations but has limited theoretical quality. Thus, textbooks are probably the only remaining context in which realism is presented as constituting a dominant orientation; a fact that highlights the complex and problematic relationship between reality and representation.
Jørgensen KE, Ergul Jorgensen FA. Realist theories in search of realists: The failure in Europe to advance realist theory. International Relations. July 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0047117820940355