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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.