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Neo-Realism: a structural theory of IR Kenneth Waltz: Theory of International Politics, 1979. Connection with real life: a critique of Carter’s foreign.

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Presentation on theme: "Neo-Realism: a structural theory of IR Kenneth Waltz: Theory of International Politics, 1979. Connection with real life: a critique of Carter’s foreign."— Presentation transcript:

1 Neo-Realism: a structural theory of IR Kenneth Waltz: Theory of International Politics, Connection with real life: a critique of Carter’s foreign policy and an intellectual platform for Reagan’s foreign policy.

2 Key Assumptions Waltz shares key assumptions with classical realism: sovereignty, statism and self-help. Innovation: international politics works like the market. This means that ‘human nature’ based explanations should be dismissed. Also, explanations based on the nature of states should be dismissed.

3 The International System The interactions of states generates systemic pressures that then states have to contend with. Structural theory. It is these constraints that explain the behaviour of states.

4 Key Aspects of Neo-Realism The notion of systemic anarchy. The position of the state in the system determines external behaviour. The position is the product of ‘power’: you can rank states in order of power. The state is a rational and unitary actor. The notion of national interest. Absence of morality.

5 Polarity How many power centres exist in the system? This determines polarity. Polarity is important because it can help explain how a peaceful stability can be achieved. Mechanism for peace: balance of power. Imbalances are dangerous in a competitive environment.

6 Practical implications Interest-driven policies. Foreign policy becomes a game where countries compete to stay ahead or get ahead. Emphasis is therefore on benefits not morality. Change can only occur through a war which redistributes power around.

7 Criticism There are two categories of criticism: theoretical and political. Theory-based criticism: anarchy is not an immutable condition, states are not the only relevant actors in the system, notion of sovereignty is questionable. Politics-based criticism: if the principles of world politics are immutable, it legitimises inequality and war. Conservatism as the natural state.


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