Isaiah Berlin (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Nor is Berlin easy to identify seamlessly with those intellectualpositions that he explicitly propounded—liberalism andpluralism. Berlin’s place in the history of political thought istherefore, at present, paradoxical and unsettled. He appears as animportant, and indeed emblematic, exponent of liberalism—alongwith Rawls, the most important liberal theorist of hiscentury—whose ideas may nevertheless in the end undermine, or atleast be difficult to reconcile with, liberalism. This question hascome to preoccupy many readers of Berlin’s work, and predominate indiscussions of his legacy, to the extent of threatening to overshadowother aspects of his thought.
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In his youth, Berlin’s intellectual development followed that ofEnglish-language philosophy, and he was at one point deeply involvedin the advance of analytic philosophy; yet he drifted away from this,and his later writings and concerns are a world away from mostAnglo-American philosophy of their time. On the other hand, for allhis range of historical and cultural reference and concern with moraland aesthetic questions, and despite the influence of Kant and Kant’ssuccessors on his thought, Berlin seems out of place in the world ofContinental philosophy. Yet it would be a mistake to accept Berlin’sown judgement that he had departed from the realm of philosophyaltogether. For both the views he had formed while working as aprofessional philosopher, and his tendency to connect political,historical and cultural issues to deeper moral and epistemologicalquestions, set his work apart from that of other historians and‘public intellectuals’ of his day (to whom he otherwisebore a certain resemblance).
In the discipline of international relations there are contendinggeneral theories or theoretical perspectives. Realism, also known aspolitical realism, is a view of international politics that stressesits competitive and conflictual side. It is usually contrasted withidealism or liberalism, which tends to emphasize cooperation. Realistsconsider the principal actors in the international arena to be states,which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of theirown national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side ofthe realists’ emphasis on power and self-interest is often theirskepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations amongstates. National politics is the realm of authority and law, whereasinternational politics, they sometimes claim, is a sphere withoutjustice, characterized by active or potential conflict amongstates.