Realpolitik Definition

Explore the pragmatic approach to politics known as realpolitik, its history, principles, examples, case studies, and relevance in the modern world.


Realpolitik is a term that is often used in the field of international relations and politics. It refers to a pragmatic approach to politics that is based on practicality rather than ideological considerations. In this article, we will explore the definition of realpolitik, its history, principles, examples, case studies, and its relevance in the modern world.


The term ‘realpolitik’ originated in the 19th century in Germany, where it was used to describe the politics of power and expediency pursued by leaders such as Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck believed in using whatever means necessary to achieve a state’s goals, even if it meant sacrificing moral principles.


  • Power and self-interest are the primary motivators in politics
  • States should prioritize national interest over moral considerations
  • States should pursue a balance of power to maintain stability
  • Diplomacy should be used to achieve state objectives


One of the most famous examples of realpolitik in action is Bismarck’s unification of Germany through a series of alliances and wars. Another example is the Cold War, where both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in realpolitik to further their global influence.

Case Studies

One case study of realpolitik is the US-North Korea nuclear negotiations. Despite North Korea’s human rights abuses, the US has engaged in diplomatic talks with the regime in order to prevent nuclear proliferation. Another case study is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, where China is using economic power to expand its influence in developing countries.


In the modern world, realpolitik continues to play a significant role in international relations. States often prioritize their national interests over moral considerations and engage in strategic alliances to further their goals. As the world becomes more interconnected, the principles of realpolitik are likely to remain relevant in shaping global politics.

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