A political philosophy based on using rationality, realism, and circumstance to define policy and action, rather than using morals or ethics. Realpolitik is often associated with power politics.
The term was first used in 1850s Germany (the term is a German one) by politician August Ludwig von Rochau, who used it to describe his view of a powerful Germany. The theory would become associated with German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Notable people associated with realpolitik include Niccolo Machiavelli, Bismarck, and Henry Kissinger. Critics of realpolitik often compare it to the harshness of Machiavellianism. Supporters simply equate it to pragmatism.
The Financial Times notes that in realpolitik, “politics is about power, about maneuvering coalitions, about social forces and their capacity to influence politics, and about the power of ideas in shaping political possibilities.”