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on 1 November 2005
I read this book for a course in international relations.
I found it a fascinating history and analysis of different theories of the causes of war.
This book should not be described as either 'neo-realist' or simplistic. I believe it's more similar to classical realism or the 'English school'
I think those reviewers who described it as simplistic or neo-realist are confusing it with Waltz's later work. It was his 'Theory of International relations' that became more reductionist and simplistic and claimed that domestic politics was irrelevant to foreign policy.
In 'Man, the State and War' by contrast he provides a history of different views on the causes of war - human nature , the form of government (e.g democracies/republics thought to be less likely to start wars than dictatorships/monarchies) , or the nature of the international system (anarchic in the sense that there is no authority or power above states to judge which is the aggressor and punish aggressors).
He clearly states in the conclusion that while he thinks the last of the three is the major cause the firt and second also play a role.
I may disagree with this conclusion (I believe the second factor and especially culture and assumptions about war to be at least as important) Waltz never claims - at least in this book - that the international system is the sole cause of war.
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on 1 May 2001
Waltz's central argument is that the world is comprised solely of states (which are autonomous and rational) bouncing off each other in a billiard ball model. After reading this book, I was surprised that so many people accepted it so uncritically. In Waltz's analysis, there is no room for nationalism, ideology, bureaucracy, guerilla's, media or even capitalism. Take for example the Vietnam war. The fact that a communist guerrilla group had a good chance of gaining power (through the ballot box), was deemed a threat to the US. The US bueaucracies (the CIA being the exeption), being in the whole culture of the cold war, argued that this was a huge threat, yet could be easily quashed. The US believed that they needed a rightwing quasi-fascist regime because they would be more open to capitalist exploitation by western companies. After years of fighting, US public opinion shifted, influenced heavily by the American media. In other words, the nature of the domestic state changed, and had an effect on international politics - something which Waltz maintain could not happen). Indeed, everything about why the Vietnam war began and why it ended, is an example of society affecting international politics.
Waltz's dichotomy between orderly internal politics and disorderly international politics is absurd. From the third world perspective (where 80% of people live) its domestic politics which is disorderly and international politics that is structured, orderly and controlled. The whole theory would be more realistic if it was turned on its head.
Waltz's theory is borne out of positivism, which believes that truth and knowledge is seperate from the world, and objective knowledge is achievable. In other words, Waltz's believes that a fundamental Rabbi and a Hamas guerilla can agree on whats 'really' going on in Israel, and what is the most appropriate solution to the problem. This is obviously absurd. Nazi Germany is probably the most studied period in history, yet historians still argue (and will continue to do so) what 'really' caused the second world war. They all depend on facts, its just that their interpretation of the fact is subjective. History is about selecting facts, so how can it be anything but selective? Many will disagree with my analysis of the Vietnam War, but that in itself proves the point that knowledge is subjective.
In short, there are over six billion people in this world, each with their own sexuality, gender, nationality, ethnicity, class, identity, ideology, religion etc,etc. There are power agents other than states e.g. corporations, media, institutions, guerilla's, capitalism. Waltz's analysis can't incorporate any of these things, yet any realistic theory of what the world is like must do just that
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on 14 March 1998
Written as a doctoral thesis some 45 years ago, Kenneth Waltz's MAN, THE STATE AND WAR continues to be a staple in the field of international relations theory. Waltz's groundbreaking piece is a thorough analysis of the difficulties associated with the war-peace continuum. Through his exhaustive research of some noted theorists such as Thucydides, Morgenthau and others, Waltz articulates the need to look beyond the individual and state level causes of war, and look to the system for the answers. MAN, THE STATE AND WAR continues the tradition of realism through its emphasis of a state centric system and by analysing the field of international politics through power arrangements. Where Waltz goes beyond the classical realist is through his assertion of the importance of systemic influences in international politics. His later work, THEORY OF INTRENATIONAL POLITICS is a much more indepth analysis into the need for a structural theory of politics, however this piece lays the groundwork for all other material. For students of international politics, or for those who are interested in deeper questions as to why world politics sometimes does not seem to make much sense, Waltz will provide you with some answers in an articulate and interesting fashion. Despite its relative age, it still bears reading today.
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on 18 May 2015
The most important book I read while studying International Relations at university. International Politics, according to Waltz, is a distinct entitity and a major problem in itself - offensive to utopians everywhere.
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on 7 March 1998
Look, it's this simple: if you are a serious student of international relations, you should read and know this book thoroughly. Waltz looks at three levels of analysis: Man (Individual), the State, and War (the international system). Along with Morgenthau, Waltz is one of the key writers representing the realist paradigm of IR. Despite all the revisions and attacks against this text, it's still a classic in the field.
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on 12 May 2003
This book was written when International Relations was in its infancy and I find myself hoping that such a book is a relic of past times and not representative of current standards of IR scholarship - as a philosophy masters student who takes in interest in IR theory, I found myself tripping over bad theorising/argumentation on almost every page. Statements instead of arguments. Conclusions plucked out of thin air. It's interesting, but doesn't deserve its reputation as a classic. If anything, it's success demonstrates the lack of quality literature to act as competition. A museum piece - worth reading to see 'how we used to live'/'what doctoral students used to be able to get away with'...
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on 15 July 2014
My daughter needed this for A levels. She was reasonably happy with it.
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on 22 September 2016
Great read.
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on 14 July 1998
Kenneth Waltz's book is the best book that I have ever read. I have an extensive collection of books about international relations and political theory and thus far, this book is the best in its field. If you ever wandered why the United States (a democracy) and/or Iraq (an authoritarian state) act the way they do in the international system, this book will be very useful. Waltz introduces people to the "levels of analysis," a theoretical concept in international relations that describes why countries act the way they do in an international system that is considered to be "anarchic" and in a "state of war." In short, the three levels are: 1) the individual, 2) the nation-state, and 3) the international system. He goes into each levels to see which one of these is the best level that explains why countries (democracies and authoritarian) go to war. To understand why countries go to war, do we need to look at the persons that are in pow! ! er, do we look at the nation-state and its political, historical, and social formation, or do we need to look at the international system? Read and find out! You'll be surprised! The best quote (paraphrase) from this book (which are many) is one that says to the effect: "There is no such thing as total victory [in war], only different levels of defeat." In other words, for example, a country or a coalition of countries may win a war, but this victory is temporary (in space and time) until the next confrontation. The problems between the United States and Iraq comes into mind. Again, this is the best book in this field for anyone interested in political science/international relations and for those who are interested in a very good and enlightening read. Let me know what you think.
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