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Realpolitik

You may not be interested in realpolitik, but it is influencing all political decision making.

The blue check marks who cried wolf

Outrage is a currency. In 24 hour news, social media, and online traffic. Nobody wins for being 2nd, sober, and serious. Being 1st, fanatical, and furious. Now that gets our attention.

A modern revolution

Today, perhaps more than ever, being the change you want to see in the world, remains a revolutionary act.

Political Realism (or "Realpolitik")

Realpolitik is “the study of the forces that shape, maintain and alter the state” and takes as its premise “that the law of power governs the world of states just as the law of gravity governs the physical world.” (Ludwig von Rochau, Principles of Realpolitik. 1853.)

Realpolitik does not tell us all that could be, but all that is. Without this understanding, could be remains could be.

My guiding principles

I have two guiding principles: President Kennedy, and the Realpolitik (or political realism) framework.

President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 “The President and the Press” speech is powerful. Here is the most important excerpt:

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment–the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

My usage of the realpolitik framework is in the spirit of historian John Bew, who asked: “how can we achieve liberal enlightened goals in a world that does not follow liberal enlightened rules?” 

The answer to this question is important, because ignorance to realpolitik is like playing a game where you don’t know the rules – you will lose this game, and not understand why.

If you want a definition, here is my favorite:

The study of the forces that shape, maintain and alter the state is the basis of all political insight and leads to the understanding that the law of power governs the world of states just as the law of gravity governs the physical world. The older political science was fully aware of this truth but drew a wrong and detrimental conclusion—the right of the more powerful. The modern era has corrected this unethical fallacy, but while breaking with the alleged right of the more powerful one, the modern era was too much inclined to overlook the real might of the more powerful and the inevitability of its political influence. 

– Ludwig von Rochau, Principles of Realpolitik (1853)