- Paperback: 251 pages
- Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc; Reissue edition (28 February 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1577666704
- ISBN-13: 978-1577666707
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,54,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Theory of International Politics Paperback – 28 Feb 2010
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"The late Kenneth Waltz was a towering figure in the academic study of the field of international relations. Waltz's theoretical insights and his seminal contribution to neorealism will remain an enduring part of our understanding of how the world works in years to come. There are few books that can match the rigor and theoretical depth of Waltz's Theory of International Politics." --Nader Entessar, University of South Alabama
"Waltz's Theory of International Politics is a classic and has great value today as power relations shift among major states in the system." --James Rae, California State University, Sacramento
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"This is one of the seminal texts in international relations. I'm thrilled to see it in print again. Thank you so much for committing to it!" -- Christopher Moore, Bethel UniversitySee all Product description
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To paraphrase, Waltz states the aims of this book is three fold: to review the field of international political theory, to construct his own theory, and to examine some applications of his theory. The first three or four chapters are dedicated to reviewing systematic and/or reductionist theories of international politics, as well as the theory of theory itself. Much of this material is a lengthy review of the scientific method as applied to the social sciences, and the shortcomings of building a theory for a 'soft' science, like international relations. If you're familiar with the issues, skimming through or even skipping over the early chapters, probably won't compromising your ability to follow the arguments he makes in the rest of the book.
It is in the middle section of the book that Waltz develops his theory, which is structuralist. He contends that it is the structures of states: large, small; weak, powerful, etc which are more deterministic in international relations than the states' policy goals or intentions. He examines the internal and external forces that impede or propel nations in their dealings with one and another. Politics internal to nations, is the realm of laws and customs. Politics external to nations is the realm of 'might makes right.' Only to those nations that are on an equal footing with one another, is the notion of international laws somewhat applicable. Nations that are disadvantaged, suffer what they must at the pleasure of the more powerful. The point he makes is that these structural forces determine what actions or non-actions a nation can take and what results can be expected. Structures are sticky, and states are constrained by them.
To elaborate on structure, Waltz compares the anarchy of international relations to the standard description of international relations: the pursuit of power balance. Waltz contends that balance of power alliances are a consequence of structure, not the result of policy. Survival of the state is paramount and states will form alliances with any other state that will improve its prospects for survival. Violence, or the threat of violence is the natural state of affairs in the international realm. Increasing international interdependence (through increased specialization) is a way to minimize the challenge of violence and increase economic advantage. This, however, is accomplished at the expense of forfeiting independence. Yet this loss of independence raises the threat of non-violent coercion. Thus, a balance between specializing to maximize efficiency on one hand, and the need to maintain skills and resources for credible response to potential threats on the other, must be met.
Waltz points out that the interplay between micro and macro in economics has an underappreciated corollary with national and international policy. Small decisions at the national level play out into larger consequences at the international level. International policy thus follows national policy, as international agencies are not powerful enough to dictate national policy.
In the relations between states, at one end of a continuum is anarchy and on the other is the hierarchy of governance (the UN, trade agreements, etc.). These international agencies are often believed to be structural in nature, but in reality they are the process of international policy, as these agencies have no authority of enforcement. All states develop a mix of acceptance levels for anarchy and hierarchy.
The behavior of states in the lawless international realm is characterized by 'realpolitik,' where interest and necessity are the guiding pursuits. Waltz's system theory of balance of power is built up from the micro motivations, the actions and interactions of the states. He concludes that the only requirement for the emergence of balance of power outcomes is that the international order be anarchic and the states populating it all wish for their survival.
Security and stability is the goal of balancing behavior. Increase in, or maximization of power is not necessarily desired, but maintaining position in the system is. International politics is a competitive realm. Competition tends toward sameness and socialization to the system. When internal resources are inadequate, competitors may need to turn for assistance from others.
Assessing international structure becomes an issue determining poles: bipolar or multipolar, as well as determining the power basis - economic, political, and militaristic - of the allied states. States are ranked by size of population, size of territory, available resources, economic capabilities, military strength, political stability and competence. To be powerful, a state traditionally would need to be strong in all; today that is not the case. Changes in these rankings effects the poles and the balances of power.
Recognizing a parallel between the economics of firms and the relations of states, Waltz details how the international realm is characterized by the law of small numbers. The state of affairs for a large number of equal units (states or firms) leads to either anarchy or centralized despotism, and often oscillating between these two extremes. A small number of large units with many more lesser ones leads to less volatility. Collusion and bargaining promotes stability, and collusion and bargaining become easier with smaller numbers. While in economics the law of small numbers has the undesired effect of benefiting producers at the expense of consumers, in the international realm, it is a desired effect.
It is generally accepted that increasing interdependence between states improves stability. Waltz concludes otherwise. Much depends on the definition of the term, Waltz seeing it as the level of sensitivity between states, not the generally accepted 'dependence' between states. Per Waltz's definition, if the growth of interdependence outpaces the development of governmental or structural control, then the conditions exist for increased volatility.
If smaller numbers are better, what number is optimal? Waltz concludes the answer is two. Interdependence breeds hostility and fear. In multipolar systems, worries abound about the strength and combinations of others. While with bipolar systems, the importance of alliances is lessened, increasing each party's reliance upon more reliable internal resources, rather than depending on external balancing.
In multipolar systems, who is a danger to whom is always uncertain. In bipolar systems, who is a danger is never in doubt. Competitors in bipolar systems evolve to become more like each other. With less interdependence, greater certainty of threats exists, along with like areas of understanding, lessening volatility and increasing stability.
In power politics, the action forces the players into two rival blocks, but members continue to vie for advantages and to worry about changing alliances. If each block has a member of overwhelming strength, a bipolar system of two great powers emerges.
In the early going of this book, Waltz employs few historical references, making for difficulty in visualizing his concepts. In the later chapters, which are the most pertinent and of the most value in this book, he does reference history and current states extensively. Keep in mind that this book was published after the Vietnam War, but ten years before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Interestingly, he does make some prescient predictions about Europe and China that are not far from what has transpired.
Waltz offers many insights into the nature of power, force, and strength in the realm of international affairs. His overall point is that despite national interests and policy intentions, it is the relative strength of states that determines the structure of international relations and which channels the course of foreign policy