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.
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'...