State-focused International Relations Theory – or Realism – is the theory of the State as the principal actor in a competitive world where rational decisions are taken by State actors to maximise the power of the State and protect its interests. States exist in an anarchic environment. In offensive realism, States refrain from cooperation and the primary interest is the survival of the State through maximisation of its self-interests. Should international institutions exist, the anarchic nature of offensive realism renders them ineffective. Defensive realism allows cooperation between states should that maximise their benefits, and allows for the formation of powerful international institutions – who only pursue the interests of the member states.
During the era of colonisation, many expansions were driven by the desire for natural resources or mineral wealth (for example. the Spanish conquest of Latin America, Rhodes’ expedition as a Royal Charter company of Great Britain into Southern Africa). Despite decolonisation of the late 20th century, many mining companies still like to “cloak” themselves in nationalities of powerful countries in a form of commercial realism where a company acquires protection of its home nation in a foreign jurisdiction. Additionally, should legal problems arrive, many mining deals are protected by international arbitration procedures under the auspices of international institutions. These “Echoes of Realism” persist until today and are discussed further in the Mining Footprint video here.