Theory of International Politics 1st Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1577666707
ISBN-10: 1577666704
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

From the Back Cover

"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 University
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc; 1 edition (February 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577666704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577666707
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Peterson on October 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Theory of International Politics is truly a five-star book when it comes to academic impact; I give it four stars only because the writing can be obtuse. Nonetheless, and despite criticism from other Amazon reviewers, Waltz's book lays the foundation of the theoretical paradigm that is dominant among international relations scholars. Anyone wishing to understand the current academic debates among international relations scholars should read at least excerpts of Theory of International Politics.
The reason Waltz's book carries such weight, despite flaws, is that Waltz lays out a simple, theoretically "testable" version of a much broader and older theory (Political Realism). Political Realism, as perhaps best laid out by (the German-turned-American) scholar Hans Morganthau, views nations as the unitary actors in international affairs (in much the same way as Marx viewed economic classes as unitary actors in the political sphere): states have "interests" that they will act on, regardless of the interests, ideologies, cultures, religions, etc. of individual state leaders or even of the individuals who make up a state. This interest is "power," understood as control over one's own destiny and (perhaps incidentally) the destiny of others. It is a very broad idea has a certain gut appeal. After all, the Athenians of Thucydides were Realists when they replied to the Melians' "international law" arguments by saying, "The strong do what they will, the weak do what they must."
Despite this appeal, Morganthau's argument has serious theoretical and historical problems. First, power is so broadly defined that the theory is "untestable." Was Hitler power-hungry?
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Faruk Ekmekci on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
1. Waltz or `Politics without Policy'

The primary goal of Kenneth Waltz in developing a structural theory was its desire to make realism `scientific'. The classical realists had argued that the ultimate cause of war had to with man's evil, power-seeking nature: states formed by men inherently tend to seek power and this entails conflict among them (Morgenthau 1964, 4). However, for Waltz, this was a subjective (unfalsifiable) and thus unscientific argument to account for international politics. Like the classical realists, Waltz start by assuming that states are the major actors in international politics: "non-state actors must "rival" the states to be taken into account (1979, 88-9). He then focuses on the structure of the international system and emphasizes the difference between international and domestic systems. Unlike the domestic systems, the international system does not have an authority above the nation states to enforce the rule of law. Therefore, contrary to the `order' in domestic systems, it is "anarchy" that reigns in the international system (111). And it is this anarchic nature of the system that induces states to be always concerned about security and that leads them to seek power to ensure their survival (85). At a minimum, states seek their own preservation and, at a maximum they drive for universal domination (116). Hence, in Waltz's realism, `prudence' takes the place of `human nature' as the source of power-seeking behavior that which eventually results in conflict. "Anarchy" is therefore the key concept in Waltz's structural realism because all his following arguments derive from the assumption that the international system is anarchic.
Like the classical realists, Waltz assumes that states are rational entities as well (106).
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the groundbreaking book that defined the Neorealist concept of International Relations.Some of the propositions set forth by Waltz are indisuputable: The results of anarchy on state behavior and how it limits interstate competition; How the system forces states to behave in certain ways, making the unit-level factors much less important. Also included is why security considerations always outweigh economic ones, and the benefits of internal balancing versus external balancing. Some of his precepts are more subject to critisicm: The benefits of bipolarity of multipolarity. N Nonetheless, this is the book that made the field of IR a real social science rather than a history-like humanities study. Any real student of International Relations needs to start here to understand both the academic discipline, and the real world of interstate relation.
Eric Gartman
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cornelius on February 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are many problems with Kenneth Waltz's 'Theory of International Politics,' which theorists continue to tackle. Nonetheless, this is, without a doubt, a groundbreaking work. Waltz does something that many social scientists fail to do: build a theory, one that is both elegant and rigorous.

To construct his theory, Waltz begins by defining what a theory is, and proceeds to argue that a systemic theory of international politics is required (Chapters 1-4). These initial chapters could have been frightfully dull, but Waltz layers them with colourful examples. I especially enjoyed the discussion of reductionism; Waltz uses Lenin's theory of imperialism to highlight the problems with reductionist theories of IR. He then deals with the requirements for a systemic theory.

The systemic theory starts with a simple ordering principle: anarchy. The international system has no higher power to regulate affairs between nations, which are in a 'self-help' system. This is an appealing construct, and one that allows for clear conceptualisation of relations between states. At this point, however, I was a little bit put off by Waltz's assertion that international decisions made within the nation state are part of a theory of foreign policy, not international politics. Although Waltz is usually correct in this assertion, it sometimes appears to be a cheap cop out.

This is merely a minor caveat, for I do firmly believe that Waltz's theory is logical, clear, and helps make sense out of international politics.
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