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The seminal text on neorealist analysis! From Theory of International Politics: National politics is the realm of authority, of administration, and of law. International politics is the realm of power, of struggle, and of accommodation. . . . States, like people, are insecure in proportion to the extent of their freedom. If freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted. The seminal text on neorealist analysis! From Theory of International Politics: National politics is the realm of authority, of administration, and of law. International politics is the realm of power, of struggle, and of accommodation. . . . States, like people, are insecure in proportion to the extent of their freedom. If freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted. Organizations that establish relations of authority and control may increase security as they decrease freedom. If might does not make right, whether among people or states, then some institution or agency has intervened to lift them out of nature s realm. The more influential the agency, the stronger the desire to control it becomes. In contrast, units in an anarchic order act for their own sakes and not for the sake of preserving an organization and furthering their fortunes within it. Force is used for one s own interest. In the absence of organization, people or states are free to leave one another alone. Even when they do not do so, they are better able, in the absence of the politics of the organization, to concentrate on the politics of the problem and to aim for a minimum agreement that will permit their separate existence rather than a maximum agreement for the sake of maintaining unity. If might decides, then bloody struggles over right can more easily be avoided. TABLE OF CONTENTS: 1. Laws and Theories 2. Reductionist Theories 3. Systemic Approaches and Theories 4. Reductionist and Systemic Theories 5. Political Structures 6. Anarchic Orders and Balances of Power 7. Structural Causes and Economic Effects 8. Structural Causes and Military Effects 9. The Management of International Affairs


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The seminal text on neorealist analysis! From Theory of International Politics: National politics is the realm of authority, of administration, and of law. International politics is the realm of power, of struggle, and of accommodation. . . . States, like people, are insecure in proportion to the extent of their freedom. If freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted. The seminal text on neorealist analysis! From Theory of International Politics: National politics is the realm of authority, of administration, and of law. International politics is the realm of power, of struggle, and of accommodation. . . . States, like people, are insecure in proportion to the extent of their freedom. If freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted. Organizations that establish relations of authority and control may increase security as they decrease freedom. If might does not make right, whether among people or states, then some institution or agency has intervened to lift them out of nature s realm. The more influential the agency, the stronger the desire to control it becomes. In contrast, units in an anarchic order act for their own sakes and not for the sake of preserving an organization and furthering their fortunes within it. Force is used for one s own interest. In the absence of organization, people or states are free to leave one another alone. Even when they do not do so, they are better able, in the absence of the politics of the organization, to concentrate on the politics of the problem and to aim for a minimum agreement that will permit their separate existence rather than a maximum agreement for the sake of maintaining unity. If might decides, then bloody struggles over right can more easily be avoided. TABLE OF CONTENTS: 1. Laws and Theories 2. Reductionist Theories 3. Systemic Approaches and Theories 4. Reductionist and Systemic Theories 5. Political Structures 6. Anarchic Orders and Balances of Power 7. Structural Causes and Economic Effects 8. Structural Causes and Military Effects 9. The Management of International Affairs

30 review for Theory of International Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nate Huston

    I nerded out on this one. Waltz's style can tend to make him come off as pompous. From what I understand, that is completely intentional. However, the logic of his argument is nearly unassailable, and that appeals to my engineery-type brain. According to Waltz, the world "hangs together" in a balance of power among states. The complex nature of the anarchic international system requires a system theory to describe those forces that operate upon the states. In a system theory, the units and the I nerded out on this one. Waltz's style can tend to make him come off as pompous. From what I understand, that is completely intentional. However, the logic of his argument is nearly unassailable, and that appeals to my engineery-type brain. According to Waltz, the world "hangs together" in a balance of power among states. The complex nature of the anarchic international system requires a system theory to describe those forces that operate upon the states. In a system theory, the units and the interaction between them don't matter. What is interesting is effect of the system on the units themselves - how they are constrained by the forces imparted by the system. In his system, Waltz describes states as the primary actors and repeatedly reminds the reader that the internal composition of the states do not matter. The primary factors involved are the constraints placed on the states by the system, not the interactions between the states themselves. Each state arrives at policies and decides on actions according to its own internal processes, but its decisions are shaped by the presence of other states as well as by the interactions with them. Structurally, Waltz says that we can describe and understand the pressures states are subject to. With that said, we cannot predict how they will react to the pressures without knowledge of their internal dispositions.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Taw

    I read Waltz's books and articles as a graduate student and again, years later, as a professor. This book merits the attention it has held, now, for decades. With a simple explanation of the utility of theory alongside the introduction of structural realism, Waltz changed political science and the study of international relations. He made clear that there is value, if not descriptive truth, in simplifying assumptions and parsimonious explanations, in using a lens that lets us watch and predict I read Waltz's books and articles as a graduate student and again, years later, as a professor. This book merits the attention it has held, now, for decades. With a simple explanation of the utility of theory alongside the introduction of structural realism, Waltz changed political science and the study of international relations. He made clear that there is value, if not descriptive truth, in simplifying assumptions and parsimonious explanations, in using a lens that lets us watch and predict behavior on the basis of a few key variables, even in the most tangled, complex web of dynamics. His work serves as a foundation for endless discussions of the levels of analysis, the role of power in international relations, rationality, the nature of the game, the roots of states' interests, and the possibility of cooperation. It can be effectively compared with feminist literature, constructivist writing, and, of course, liberalism. By so clearly and succinctly laying out his argument, Waltz creates room for all of these bigger conversations. This book (and I recommend it alongside his first) is must-read literature for students of world politics and valuable for anyone interested in international relations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mostafa

    A book for all seasons! Highly recommended to students and lovers of IR. If you want to know better Waltz, read his own writings, not ones about him.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Raj Agrawal

    [Disclaimer: This is a snapshot of my thoughts on this book after just reading it. This is not meant to serve as a summary of main/supporting points or a critique – only as some words on how I engaged with this book for the purposes of building a theoretical framework on strategy.] Waltz presents his theory in the context of his proposed definition of what a theory is (and is not), against a backdrop of his criticism of existing reductionist and systemic theories of his time. It is important to [Disclaimer: This is a snapshot of my thoughts on this book after just reading it. This is not meant to serve as a summary of main/supporting points or a critique – only as some words on how I engaged with this book for the purposes of building a theoretical framework on strategy.] Waltz presents his theory in the context of his proposed definition of what a theory is (and is not), against a backdrop of his criticism of existing reductionist and systemic theories of his time. It is important to understand that he writes in competition with liberal explanations of international politics, as well as a relatively stable bipolar international system. Nevertheless, his concept of a political structure is viable, as it provides a means to explain events and anticipate outcomes. In my view, a structure implies governance – as Waltz implies himself through his explanation of the influence of markets (90). The bipolarity of Waltz’s context, by its nature, provide the necessary foundation for such a structure. This in effect was the external pressure that became the policing force. If realism’s premises were infallible (which it does not claim for itself), then the policing force would be effective at eliminating force-on-force conflict. This did not prove to be true. Finally, Waltz’s handling of non-state actors appears dismissive to me, especially from the perspective of hindsight. Non-state actors have been able to have a significant impact on US engagement in international politics, and non-state actors have been able to drain power (and subsequently, influence) from the US and former USSR. The UK has also seen a significant power drain from non-state influences such as illegal immigration and terrorism. My initial impression of Waltz’s critique of the existing theories of his time is that while he qualifies his own simplification (for the purposes of developing a coherent theory), he criticizes others’ reduction for the same purposes. His theory appears to be a combination of the two types of theories, which he proposes takes the best of both. However, any error in both in effect multiplies as well, thereby creating more opportunity for predictive error. I disagree with Waltz’s premise that theories need be predictive, although it would be helpful if they are at least anticipatory. To his credit, Waltz is consistent with Man the State and War in that power is the ultimate aim of the state; however, power is to be gained for a purpose. The accumulation of power does not necessarily equate to positive control. Power provides freedom of action (194), which permits greater room for error without significant loss of influence, and “great power gives its possessors a big stake in their system and the ability to act for its sake” (195). The goal is the ability to manage for the sake of state interest. A greater stake in international management allows for pursuit of state interest. Does the idea of international management therefore imply an international governing force whereby some states operate in a governed position of international relations while others operate in a governing position – thereby doing harm to the realist premise of anarchy? Subsequently, weaker states by necessity cannot pursue power to support its interest, but instead must align through institutions and relationships to pursue their interests. This is perhaps ignorance on my part in understanding the gamut of international relations theory. Waltz clearly hopes that bipolarity will be the permanent state of politics, since he sees that it provides a predictable balance in international relations. He sees the international structure of states as relatively hierarchical, with power being measurable. I do not see power as easily measurable given the impact of asymmetric information (Jervis; Brauer & van Tuyll) and cognitive bias (Kahneman; Jervis; Khong; Corbett) on value assessment. Additionally, if bipolarity worked, then limited wars could only be accounted for as they extended from US and USSR interest – clearly not the case for Vietnam and Korea. Civil wars and weaker-state interests made limited wars more complex, as well as draining strategic influence from both of the superpowers. Waltz saw the US as having a desire to maintain the bipolar system (203); however, major international crises such as the fall of the USSR, the UK’s withdrawal from colonialism, and the non-state actor attacks against the US, and more recent US overreach have all conspired to put the US in a sole superpower role with dynamic international influence. Some are already arguing that we are quickly moving toward a true anarchic state of international politics with no state-centric management. States may no longer have the only voice in initiating war. Waltz’s most dangerous assumption, that “competition produces a tendency toward the sameness of the competitors” (127), is what can lead a powerful state to miss the hostile actions of another state (or non-state actor). While some states may see force as the primary tool to acquire power, the Internet has made information a powerful tool. Iran, North Korea, and Russia have been asynchronously effective at shaping the information environment in their favor. Waltz could not have foreseen this development, but he does try to provide flexibility: “to be politically pertinent, power has to be defined in terms of the distribution of capabilities; the extent of one’s power cannot be inferred from the results one may or may not get” (192). The anticipatory potential of his theory gets lost in its need to be explanatory. Finally, with regard to Waltz’s “4 p’s” – “poverty, population, pollution, and proliferation” (209), he seems to stray outside his paradigm. I think he could have tied this well into his theory by suggesting that superpowers should help with this issues as long as they provide influence within the states they assist. Where this can be harmful is when by affecting these issues, we harm a state’s economy. This becomes problematic because, in my opinion, morally can be expensive. Correcting for any of Waltz’s 4 p’s may not provide a positive cost/benefit for any of the participating states, and also may create animosity within the state receiving such help. Also, regional hegemons may believe that help coming from other regions to be a threat, thereby creating tension between hegemons that otherwise would not exist.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Waltz's argument of an anarchical order in international politics and its ramifications regarding state's behaviour was logically presented. I specifically read chapter five and six, one on political structure and the other anarchy. One question I have is how realists account for the shift of power in international politics or in a cruder term how do one state triumph over another in an anarchical order? If all states pursue realpolitik, then presumably status quo will likely remain, the stronger Waltz's argument of an anarchical order in international politics and its ramifications regarding state's behaviour was logically presented. I specifically read chapter five and six, one on political structure and the other anarchy. One question I have is how realists account for the shift of power in international politics or in a cruder term how do one state triumph over another in an anarchical order? If all states pursue realpolitik, then presumably status quo will likely remain, the stronger states, the great powers, will remain strong while the weak will remain just as they are. Is there a realist explanation for the rise of the Third Reich? Obviously in not concerning itself with domestic politics, it does not. This is what puzzles me. There is a relationship, as far as international politics is concerned, not only between each constituent in a structure but also between any internal change within a constituent and the ability of that constituent to impinge on its relations with others, is there not?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Naeem

    An application to International Relations theory of an idea made famous by the Scottish Enlightenment: human or unit-level actions create structures which, though not designed by any humans or unit-level entities, nevertheless constrain humans or unit-level entities. Translation: actions create patterns that constrain actions. Is there more to the book that is worth considering? I don't think so. Better to read Waltz's man, the state, and war. Nevertheless, if you are going into the field of IR, An application to International Relations theory of an idea made famous by the Scottish Enlightenment: human or unit-level actions create structures which, though not designed by any humans or unit-level entities, nevertheless constrain humans or unit-level entities. Translation: actions create patterns that constrain actions. Is there more to the book that is worth considering? I don't think so. Better to read Waltz's man, the state, and war. Nevertheless, if you are going into the field of IR, it would be a miracle if you managed to avoid this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    You can't do IR and not read Waltz. Unfortunately, he's not the best writer in the world, and it seems like he fudges a lot to get from his premises and conclusions. In spite of all this, he changed IR like no one else has since.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Well-written, manages to get the whole world of IR theory moving with two assumptions. Not the most defensible of all IR theories, it is one of the most important, not simply for neorealism.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Branimir

    Classical, canonical text in IR theory. It provides probably the most influential reinterpretation of the realist international political thought since Thucydides and re-examines all of the important conceptual constructs used in the field of IR: the anarchy of the structure, the balance of power, the state survival as a primary goal, the security dilemmas… you have it all there. Although I disagree almost completely with the structural neorealism, as developed by Waltz in the book, and I do not Classical, canonical text in IR theory. It provides probably the most influential reinterpretation of the realist international political thought since Thucydides and re-examines all of the important conceptual constructs used in the field of IR: the anarchy of the structure, the balance of power, the state survival as a primary goal, the security dilemmas… you have it all there. Although I disagree almost completely with the structural neorealism, as developed by Waltz in the book, and I do not share most of his philosophical and epistemological commitments, I find it rather ridiculous that I have considered myself a student of international politics, for some time now, without having read this book. Additionally, to amaze me further, this is an elegantly written, depressingly convincing and, as regards its treatment of the international system’s causal forces, virtually unmatched academic work. Therefore, it goes without saying: anyone who is professionally devoted to the study of international affairs should be acquainted in depth with Waltz’s “Theory of International Politics”.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    The concepts and ways one ought to think about international politics are well elucidated, but I found Waltz's focus on systems theory to be the biggest takeaway. This book is a textbook example on good argument structure. Waltz lays out the difference between theory and law, and bases his analysis of the current argument landscape in the political science field on this. Though I've commented on the main concepts from the other parts of the book in other reviews, the ending was absolutely worth The concepts and ways one ought to think about international politics are well elucidated, but I found Waltz's focus on systems theory to be the biggest takeaway. This book is a textbook example on good argument structure. Waltz lays out the difference between theory and law, and bases his analysis of the current argument landscape in the political science field on this. Though I've commented on the main concepts from the other parts of the book in other reviews, the ending was absolutely worth the time it took to get there. He looks specifically at the responsibility of nations that hold power and contrasts their role in bipolar vs. multipolar systems. He discusses some of the distinct challenges in mandating behavior within systems, as most wielding of power is born at the unit level. His main thesis when examining geopolitical power in the economic, political, and military domains is primarily that the three have important differences and all serve a goal of maintaining national autonomy. As I reflect more I'll add to this review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    I read this book for a Fundamentals of International Relations course in university. While I found Waltz's arguments convincing, the first few chapters are very dry, often involve complex discredits of past theory and a lot of technical details regarding economics. But what else can you expect from a book like this. I appreciate it as the work of theory exploration that it is, but can't say that I particularly enjoyed my experience reading it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Boro

    Perhaps the book is foundational because of what it does from Chapter 5 onwards, yet I find myself particularly invigorated by the first four chapters. Waltz appears (probably too) much in secondary literature, to the point that he is oversimplified in most cases. I would have misjudged him for the rest of my life if I wasn’t pushed to examine this classic piece.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This book is so influential. It is a must read for students of International Relations. It is the beginning of the theory of structural realism.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Z.

    This is a hard book with very dense writing. A founder of neorealism, but one who needs an interpreter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    SpaceBear

    o In this book, Waltz discusses structural anarchy as the defining characteristic of the international system. He argues that any theory of international politics must be guided not by the manner in which the interacting units within that system affect the structure, but rather the reverse, and the manner in which the two interact within an overall system. For Waltz, theories that infer the international from the domestic are reductionist in nature. Structures are defined in terms of three o In this book, Waltz discusses structural anarchy as the defining characteristic of the international system. He argues that any theory of international politics must be guided not by the manner in which the interacting units within that system affect the structure, but rather the reverse, and the manner in which the two interact within an overall system. For Waltz, theories that infer the international from the domestic are reductionist in nature. Structures are defined in terms of three parts: ordering principles, functional differentiation of units and distribution of capabilities In the context of anarchy, self-help becomes the dominant motivation of actors. All actors collectively pursuing self-help creates a balance of power in which the most powerful states seek to maintain peace and balance. Later chapters look at the differences between multipolar and bipolar systems, with Waltz asserting that the latter is more likely to maintain peace and order. This, he asserts, is due to the lack of potential challengers to the status quo and the special capabilities that the two superpowers have in negotiating, their vested interests, and the potential costs of disorder or a change in the system.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eleanore

    This work remains important and resonant in some truly impressive and surprising ways. I would have more confidence in the success of Waltz's attainment of a true international "systems-theory" though, if a greater part of the analysis didn't come across today as relentlessly presentist (circa 1978) without any touch of imagination as to how the world might change or evolve. While he claims to address multiple different international structures, he really only credibly addresses one, that of This work remains important and resonant in some truly impressive and surprising ways. I would have more confidence in the success of Waltz's attainment of a true international "systems-theory" though, if a greater part of the analysis didn't come across today as relentlessly presentist (circa 1978) without any touch of imagination as to how the world might change or evolve. While he claims to address multiple different international structures, he really only credibly addresses one, that of bipolarity - albeit with great depth and conviction. Nonetheless, this work will continue to confront policy students for generations to come with the enormity of the challenge in contributing something new, explanatory, and useful to the theory of international politics.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Casarões

    Perhaps 'the' book on IR theory to date. Waltz's rigorous, elegant, and compelling arguments have set the standard to everything that American IR scholarship produced ever since and still produces. This is not to say that 'Theory...' is not free from flaws, conceptual contradictions, and all kinds of controversies. You'd better think of it as the beginning of a powerful IR school of thought - neorealism - but not the only thing such school has to offer. Like it or not, 90% of today's IR draws on Perhaps 'the' book on IR theory to date. Waltz's rigorous, elegant, and compelling arguments have set the standard to everything that American IR scholarship produced ever since and still produces. This is not to say that 'Theory...' is not free from flaws, conceptual contradictions, and all kinds of controversies. You'd better think of it as the beginning of a powerful IR school of thought - neorealism - but not the only thing such school has to offer. Like it or not, 90% of today's IR draws on Waltz's magnum opus - either to praise or to criticize him. Some say you can't get international politics right before reading this book. I tend to agree with those.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trav

    Hard going, but thought provoking. Despite his arrogant writing style, Waltz does raise a number a useful points about how the structure of the international system dictates international politics. His focus on differentiating international politics from foreign policy was insightful, and I think he made a good case. One of the main points that TIP leaves in the air is what happens when we hit monopolarity. As he states, the possession of nuclear weapons is not what defines the polarity of the Hard going, but thought provoking. Despite his arrogant writing style, Waltz does raise a number a useful points about how the structure of the international system dictates international politics. His focus on differentiating international politics from foreign policy was insightful, and I think he made a good case. One of the main points that TIP leaves in the air is what happens when we hit monopolarity. As he states, the possession of nuclear weapons is not what defines the polarity of the international system, this also has to be supported by the other aspects of state power.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Manu

    A short review for a book that has had a deep impact on IR theory (apparently). I did not like it. Let me just say that this is despite the fact that I love stuff that is deeply procedural/logical, etc. The fabric of life is entirely absent from Waltz's book - and not just because it exhibits poor writing. What is present in abundance is someone deep fetishistic fascination with an idea without regard to its limitations or its consequences. So yeah, I did not like it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Mervosh

    Well it's better than Morgenthau. Offers a few tweaks to the classical realist theory on international politics, shifting the focus from the state to system level... but in all his penchant for disregarding all non-conforming phenomena as "reductionist" and the inability of the theory to actually predict any action makes this one mostly a waste of time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate Mellifont

    I rated this book 5/5; not because I enjoyed it (I'm not a complete masochist and this is drier than dry) but because it's useful. Waltz theory has been expanded and adapted, but is still referenced at it's core in almost every political debate. One of the basic background books for the study of IR and foreign policy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shamseerkeloth

    One of the most celebrated academic writings of the 20th century. though i have disagreement regarding the way the author making his argument, that is not sufficient to prevent me from giving a good rating to this book. A must read for those who are really interested in International Politics.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gift

    In that time revolutionary, today classic. You can agree with Waltz or disagree. You might even not like his steady repetitions. But you have to admit- this is the kind of political literature you have to read before you die. At least!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas Sutpen

    http://sensemania.blogspot.com/2008/0...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben Rondou

    Foundational book for IR Realism. Not bad.

  26. 5 out of 5

    C.

    I did not understand structural theories of international relations until now.

  27. 4 out of 5

    HARINATH SARKAR

    i want to read this book ,, this books reading very important to for me ,,

  28. 4 out of 5

    Baxtiyar

    I almost read the whole book. It also a bit dry but interesting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brenden

    Theory of International Politics by Kenneth Waltz (1979)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fengchi Chen

    THE BEST BOOK OF IR

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