Literature Review on Man, the State and War

Man, the State and War

A Literature Review

Aisha Alamrii


Literature Information

The current state of study in international politics has become archaic but there is one that has set a bar and is viewed with a state of budding discipline and has been referred, critiqued or somehow found its way in every book about international relations since its arrival. This book is “Man, the State and War” by Kenneth N. Waltz. In this book, Waltz has kept the title of the book as conclusive and apt as possible. This book has enriching content when it comes to components like the root causes of war and how countries deal with it. It is published by the Columbia University Press.
Summary of Literature

To begin with, it can be difficult for a book which is almost 50 years to stay relevant and still b e respected for what it is and “Man, the State, and War” manages to do so with its structured realism. In this book, Waltz provides us with 3 interrelated images and believes that one of three is likely the cause of war among mankind. He examines these assumptions and states that an individual focused on one image completely ignores the two other images. The first images analyses the causes at an individual level and suggests that the root cause of war is the human nature which is to constantly make efforts for personal gains. The second image is an analysis of the world at a state level which suggests that the causes of war lie with the objectives of the state and its influence on foreign policies. The third and last image delves into a systematic level of analysis and puts forward the notion that the anarchic nature of the international system is responsible for the continuous incidents of war. Considering the age of the book, this theory also relates to the phase of the cold war. Waltz himself believes that the third image is the actual answer to why wars take place. Apart from the conduction of these three schools of thought, there are also other underlying theories which can be responsible for war.

By presenting the reader three options to select for the actual cause of war, it seems that Waltz leaves the actual reason of war open to interpretation and it is more likely that the reader will find himself believing in an image more than the other. The concept of three images and several other underlying theories present a plethora of knowledge, observations and experiences about what causes war to happen. This is also a comprehensive study on world politics which explores international conflict and that makes it a significant work in the area of international relations in a business related perspective as well as a psychological perspective and its surpasses its level of relevance. While Waltz also puts weight on the thought systems of Kant (Kant, 1795), Spinoza (Spinoza, 1958) and Rousseau (Rousseau, 1762), his emphasis lies in the image of the system which magnifies the anarchical nature of International Relations. While relying on the philosophies which are pre-existent, he manages to create a defining view on International Relations and world politics.

The arena of world politics is characterized as a “Power struggle” according to (Morgenthau, 1948) while what Waltz has presented here is a systematic image approach which makes it look like nations are just struggling for security. The work can be categorized as a theoretical approach to simplify International relations which is provided on a platter of Neorealism. To this, (Buzan, Jones, & Little, 1993) argue that Waltz needs to “rethink neorealism” as it would provide a clearer insight into the third image projected by him. The realist view of the third image is that a lack of central governments would cause state governments to increase their security measures while a liberalist view suggests that there is a need for international organizations in order to generate a scenario of global governance. This approach can also be noticed in Waltz’s other work where it is “In anarchy, security is the highest end”. (Waltz, 1979) This also leaves open the possibility to determine the distribution of power in the international system and creating equilibrium.
The explanative nature of the theory is not constitutive, and can be ahistorical at several occasions. Waltz focuses on an anarchical system and suggests due to such a scenario spread out through a global scenario and a struggle ensues in its path. It is a definitive approach which is a product of Waltz’s first image and also aligns itself with Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs scenario to justify its connection with human behavior. (Mazlow, 1943) (Booth, 1991) agrees with this scenario believing in the concept of “Security in Anarchy”. There is a counter-argument to this nation presented by (Bull, 1977) that a system anarchy would build mistrust among nations resulting in development of unnecessary secretive behavior.
When taking the second image of state into perspective, the systematic analysis by Waltz prevents the true revelation of state. According to Waltz, a state should continue following its functions disregarding the state’s ideological beliefs. There is a complete denial observed concerning the impact state has on an organizational level on domestic levels. There is also no role observed in the image regarding the non-state actors which do play a part in the international relations. (Halliday, 1994) also agrees to the fact that the definition created about what a state is and what its boundaries and actors are; needs a definite revision. The analysis of the third image depicts a view that how the world functions is that stronger nations collide with weaker nations due to several factors and the weaker nations are knocked back or destroyed in the process. The current situation doesn’t agree with this scenario as globalization has changed the landscape of international relations and the boundaries are merging in the process as nations have started to rely on each other with trust by forming alliances. (Buzan & Little, 1999) also agree that the scenario has changed since the cold war event was in play.
It can be said in conclusion that Waltz faces a question after observing the global scenario that how can a man be the cause of the condition of the society and also a consequence of how society has been and it was the same question that came across (Rossi, 1959) and (Duncan & Schnore, 1999). Bus as Waltz himself interjects, “All three images are a part of nature” and it is impossible to distinguish their impacts at times. On the one hand, the evidence brought forward by Waltz is so persuasive and simple to understand that an individual would start putting puzzle pieces into place and things would start making sense and on the other hand, it cannot be made certain that the suggested changes will be put into play immediately and will have the same effect in a changed scenario.
Booth, K. (1991). Security in anarchy: utopian realism in theory and practice. International Affairs , 527-545.
Bull, H. (1977). The Anarchical Society A Study of Order in World Politics. London: Macmillan.
Buzan, B., & Little, R. (1999). Beyond Westphalia? Capitalism after the Fall. Review of International Studies , 89-104.
Buzan, B., Jones, C., & Little, R. (1993). The Logic of Anarchy: Rethinking Neorealism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Duncan, O., & Schnore, L. (1999). Cultural, Behavioral and Ecological Perspectives in the study of social organizaion. American Journal of Sociology , 132.
Halliday, F. (1994). Rethinking International Relations. London: Macmillan.
Kant, I. (1795). Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.
Mazlow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review.
Morgenthau, H. (1948). Politics Amongs Nations Teh Struggle For Power and Peace. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Rossi, P. (1959). Comment. American Iournal of Sociology , 53.
Rousseau, J. J. (1762). THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.
Spinoza, B. d. (1958). The Political Works. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Waltz, K. (1979). Theory of International Politics. Reading: Addison-Wesley.


Posted on

March 7, 2018

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