Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Tragedy of Great Power Politics Hardcover – October, 2001
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
This hardheaded book about international relations contains no comforting bromides about "peace dividends" or "the family of nations." Instead, University of Chicago professor John J. Mearsheimer posits an almost Darwinian state of affairs: "The great powers seek to maximize their share of world power" because "having dominant power is the best means to ensure one's own survival." Mearsheimer comes from the realist school of statecraft--he calls his own brand of thinking "offensive realism"--and he warns repeatedly against putting too much faith in the goodwill of other countries. "The sad fact is that international politics has always been a ruthless and dangerous business," he writes. Much of the book is an attempt to show how the diplomatic and military history of the last two centuries supports his ideas. Toward the end of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, he applies his theories to the current scene: "I believe that the existing power structures in Europe in Northeast Asia are not sustainable through 2020." Mearsheimer is especially critical of America's policy of engagement with China; he thinks that trying to make China wealthy and democratic will only make it a stronger rival. This is a controversial idea, but it is ably argued and difficult to ignore. --John Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The central tenet of the political theory called "offensive realism" is that each state seeks to ensure its survival by maximizing its share of world power. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, sets out to explain, defend and validate offensive realism as the only theory to account for how states actually behave. He proceeds by laying out the theory and its assumptions, then extensively tests the theory against the historical record since the Age of Napoleon. He finds plenty of evidence of what the theory predicts that states seek regional dominance through military strength. Further, whenever a condition of "unbalanced multipolarity" exists (i.e., when three or more states compete in a region, and one of them has the potential to dominate the others), the likelihood of war rises dramatically. If history validates offensive realism, then the theory should yield predictions about the future of world politics and the chances of renewed global conflict. Here Mearsheimer ventures into controversial terrain. Far from seeing the end of the Cold War as ushering in an age of peace and cooperation, the author believes the next 20 years have a high potential for war. China emerges as the most destabilizing force, and the author urges the U.S. to do all it can to retard China's economic growth. Since offensive realism is an academic movement, readers will expect some jargon ("buckpassing," "hegemon"), but the terms are defined and the language is accessible. This book will appeal to all devotees of political science, and especially to partisans of the "tough-minded" (in William James's sense) approach to history. Maps.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
I hold a Master’s degree in Political Science and believes that while great power war may occur, it is the civil war type of conflicts and/or groups like Isis that deserve the world’s attention. Further, while I believe realism is an important paradigm in International Relations, the various liberal theories of International Relations and the newer third way theories also have a varying degree of explanatory power depending on the topic.
Mearsheimer’s theory only holds the amount of currency the reader gives to the realist view of the world. For me, while it is plausible the world will end up this way, offensive realism is hard to stomach.
The author argues that the United States is the global hegemon of this time, able to project its power anywhere (via advanced technology and aircraft carriers). That being said, with such dominance, the United States, according to Mearsheimer, benefits in that no nation has established itself as a regional hegemon. Thus comes the conflict with China. As Chinese power grows, Mearsheimer argues that the United States must work to constrain such power, particularly through establishing India, Japan, and Korea as a barrier to Chinese hegemony. The same can be compared to Brazilian power growth in South America.
All in all, this seems to be well on its way to become a standard in neo-realist theory, with all the pros and cons that come along with such a label. Because of Mearsheimer's use of history and example, however, I would recommend this as a starting point for modern theory along with, of course, Waltz and Morgenthau. As with most neo-realist texts, however, this has as a negative in that it has a systematic bias against world organizations, cooperations, and other instruments of global power.
Worth the read.
It is hard to find good realist IR theory these days as so many people doubt that such a system is relevant in a post cold war world. Mearshiemer makes one of the better cases for it existing today and for categorizing the state of anarchy that exists in the world. He rightly recognizes that the potential for great power conflict is not likely in Europe and the Russia is to weak to invade there. His characterization of Asia is very strong and the possible conflict between China and the US is clearly analyzed and presented.
My only criticisms and they were not enough to drop the book down a star was that Africa and the Middle East was virtually ignored. Resource conflict is a major potential area of violence in the future and much of this focused on technological or military threats leaving out the recent prospects of resource conflict. By looking at a regional system these areas should have been included. Overall though excellent realist theory and a very enjoyable read.
Most recent customer reviews
However, one thing is DEAD wrong. Mr.Read more