Posts Tagged ‘self-help’
One might think its strange to do a book review on a work published over 40 years ago, but too bad, I just finished Kenneth Waltz’s ‘Man, the State, and War‘ two days ago, so deal with it! Actually, there are many good reasons to discuss Waltz’s first major publication in international relations, mainly the fact that his analysis and conclusions are still largely spot on. The world has changed in a multitude of ways in recent decades, but one thing that has not changed is the anarchial structure of the international system.
In ‘Man’, Waltz layouts three ways one can view the sources of peace and war in world politics. To do this he performs extensive literature of all those who took on the questions of war and peace, including Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Cobden, Marx and many more.
1st View – Human Behavior – ” Wars result from selfishness, from misdirected aggressive impulses, from stupidity. If these are the primary causes, the elimination of war must come through uplifting and enlightening men (p.16)” In other words it is the human faults of our leaders and population which lead to war and if we can correct or mitigate these imperfections, war would be less likely.
2nd View – “The internal organization of states is the key to understanding war and peace. Removing the defects of states would establish the basis for peace.” Definition of a “good” state: (a) Marx – according to the means of production, (b) Kant – according to abstract principles of right, (c) Woodrow Wilson – according to national self-determination and democracy. This view argues for basically the Democratic Peace Theory, which states that democratic governments do not fight war with each other and therefore if the world was full of them, war would no longer exist. So the internal nature of a state is the most important factor in world peace.
3rd View – “With many sovereign states, with no system of law enforceable among them, with each state judging its grievances and ambitions according to the dictates of its own reason or desire – conflict, sometimes leading to war, is bound to occur. To achieve a favorable outcome from such a conflict, a state has to rely on its own devices, the relative efficiency of which must be its constant concern (p.159).” Waltz is describing a world where states live with no higher authority. A world where each state lives in a self-help system where they must watch out for only themselves as that is what every other state is doing.
Waltz, who twenty years later would write the immensely influential neo-realist doctrine ‘Theory of International Politics‘, admits that all three views have a place in the study of ‘why states do what they do’, but largely leans on the 3rd view that the anarchial state system is the largest influence on state behavior and war and peace. As was mentioned before, much has changed since this remarkable piece was written, the United Nations has grown, the EU was formed, greater and greater legitimacy has been given to multilateral institutions and policies, the global economy has brought states closer together, but states still live in a self-help world where there is no authoritative body to come to their aid.
The battle of what makes states, and for that matter non-state actors, tick and act the way they do will always be debated and Waltz’s ‘Man, the State, and War’ does an excellent job laying out three major frameworks. However, I must emphasize that this is a ‘theory’ book and will not be the smoothest, quickest read.
Which view of world politics makes the most sense to you? Are all three equally important? What views may be missing? Was this the nerdiest post you’ve ever read?