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17.1 True Anarchy

The prevalence of anarchy in the relations between states is the basic assumption of realism, a prominent school of thought in international relations theory. According to realists, international law in practice imposes few direct constraints on the behaviour of states, in part because there is almost no way of enforcing it. In the absence of a suprastate power or arbiter, there are no enforceable rules of conduct, especially for strong states. The harsh interstate environment is anarchic both in the strict sense of lacking enforceable international law and in the broader sense of being violently chaotic. The prevalence of this environment in turn requires that the primary goals of individual states be survival and security.