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Theory of International Politics 1st Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 31 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: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
This is not a review of the content of the book, but of the formatting of the Kindle edition. The format reproduces exactly the page layout of the print book. On the iPad, this means that one either needs to make the typeface very small (not a trivial problem for readers with imperfect eyesight) or constantly scroll up and down on the screen, which is annoying. Moreover, as the listing indicates, this format does not work on the classic Kindles. Amazon should offer a "standard" Kindle format for all books it sells on the Kindle store.
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Format: Paperback
Ken Waltz' argument in "Theory of International Politics" goes like this: A true theory of international politics begins with the structure of the international order, not with the structures of its component states. The international order is anarchic; it "rewards" states that help themselves and "punishes" those that don't. Self-help for a state means having armed forces, forming alliances, maximizing its strength relative to other states, etc. Facing the same external pressures, states tend to have the same external behavior, even when their domestic structures vary.

Waltz sees many parallels between international politics and microeconomics, where a theory of markets doesn't depend on a theory of the firm. (Once you understand how markets reward certain firms and eliminate others, you can deduce how most firms must behave most of the time.) Waltz also has many sharp things to stay about social science theory, statecraft, the behavior of bipolar international systems, the status of world order as a collective good, and much more. Some of his writing is belabored and repetitive, but some of it sparkles with wit.

I took off one star because much of the discussion is abstract and ahistorical to the point of laughability. But this is a great book, which repays careful reading. It will sharpen any reader's understanding of international politics.
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