Kenneth Waltz

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Asking who won a given war, someone has said, is like asking who won the San Francisco earthquake. That in war there is no victory but only varying degrees of defeat is a proposition that has gained increasing acceptance in the twentieth century.

Kenneth Neal Waltz (1924 – 13 May 2013) was a member of the faculty at the University of California and Columbia University and one of the most prominent scholars of international relations (IR) of the 20th century. He was one of the founders of neorealism, or structural realism, in international relations theory.

Sourced[edit]

Man, the State, and War (1959)[edit]

  • Asking who won a given war, someone has said, is like asking who won the San Francisco earthquake. That in war there is no victory but only varying degrees of defeat is a proposition that has gained increasing acceptance in the twentieth century.
    • Chapter I, Introduction, p. 1
  • According to the first image of international relations, the locus of the important causes of war is found in the nature and behavior of man. Wars result from selfishness, from misdirected aggressive impulses, from stupidity.
    • Chapter II, The First Image, p. 16
  • Each man does seek his own interest, but, unfortunately, not according to the dictates of reason.
    • Chapter II, The First Image, p. 23
  • To solve these problems one needs as much an understanding of politics as an understanding of man - and the one cannot be derived from the other.
    • Chapter II, The First Image, p. 38
  • The most important causes of political arrangements and acts are found in the nature and behavior of man.
    • Chapter III, Some Implications Of The First Image, p. 42
  • If we are to have peace, we must learn loyalty to a larger group. And before we can learn loyalty, the thing to which we are to be loyal must be created.
    • Chapter III, Some Implications Of The First Image, p. 69
  • War most often promotes the internal unity of each state involved. The state plagued by internal strife may then, instead of waiting for the accidental attack, seek the war that will bring internal peace.
    • Chapter IV, The Second Image, p. 81
  • The transitory interests of royal houses may be advanced in war; the real interests of all people are furthered by the peace.
    • Chapter IV, The Second Image, p. 98
In anarchy there is no automatic harmony.
  • To build a theory of international relations on accidents of geography and history is dangerous.
    • Chapter IV, The Second Image, p. 107
  • Is it capitalism or states that must be destroyed in order to get peace, or must both be abolished?
    • Chapter V, Some Implications Of The Second Image, p. 127
  • External pressure seems to produce internal unity.
    • Chapter V, Some Implications Of The Second Image, p. 149
  • Once socialism replaces capitalism, reason will determine the policies of states.
    • Chapter V, Some Implications Of The Second Image, p. 150
  • 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.
    • Chapter VI, The Third Image, p. 159
  • In anarchy there is no automatic harmony.
    • Chapter VI, The Third Image, p. 160
  • States in the world are like individuals in the state of nature. They are neither perfectly good nor are they controlled by law.
    • Chapter VI, The Third Image, p. 163
  • The best critical consideration of the inherent weakness of a federation of states in which the law of the federation has to be enforced on the states who are its members is contained in the Federalist Papers.
    • Chapter VI, The Third Image, p. 186
  • Then what explains war among states? Rousseau's answer is really that war occurs because there is nothing to prevent it.
    • Chapter VII, Some Implications Of The Third Image, p. 188
  • In a zero-sum game, the problem is entirely one of distribution, not at all one of production.
    • Chapter VII, Some Implications Of The Third Image, p. 202
No system of balance functions automatically.
  • The implication of game theory, which is also the implication of the third image, is, however, that the freedom of choice of any one state is limited by the actions of the others.
    • Chapter VII, Some Implications Of The Third Image, p. 204
  • No system of balance functions automatically.
    • Chapter VII, Some Implications Of The Third Image, p. 210
  • War may achieve a redistribution of resources, but labor, not war, creates wealth.
    • Chapter VIII, Conclusion, p. 224
  • It is not true that were the Soviet Union to disappear the remaining states could easily live in peace.
    • Chapter VIII, Conclusion, p. 230
  • Each state pursues its own interest's, however defined, in ways it judges best. Force is a means of achieving the external ends of states because there exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise among similar units in a condition of anarchy.
    • Chapter VIII, Conclusion, p. 238

Theory of International Politics (1979)[edit]

  • If we gather more and more data and establish more and more associations, however, we will not finally find that we know something. We will simply end up having more and more data and larger sets of correlations.
    • p. 4
  • I am not saying that such a theory cannot be constructed, but only that I cannot see how to do it in any way that might be useful. The decisive point, anyway, is that a macrotheory of international politics would lack the practical implications of macroeconomic theory. National governments can manipulate system-wide economic variables. No agencies with comparable capabilities exist internationally. Who would act on the possibilities of adjustment that a macrotheory of international politics might reveal?
    • p. 110
  • Differences in the incidence of destruction and "death" do not account for the reluctance to refer to international politics as a harmonious realm, while competitive economies are often so described. Instead, one may say that the standards of performance now applied to international political systems are higher, or at least widely different. As John Maynard Keynes once remarked, those who believe that unhampered processes of natural selection lead to progress do not "count the cost of the struggle" (1926, p. 37). In international politics, we often count nothing but the costs of the struggle.
    • p. 137

Quotes about Waltz[edit]

  • Like any truly great thinker, Ken Waltz defied stereotypes. The preeminent hard-headed theorist of power politics, he savaged the hopes of those who believe that moral energy, liberal principles, or democratic crusades can end war. But he belied the common assumption that realists are callous hawks who relish the use of force. He opposed the Vietnam War, the Reagan military buildup, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq as overreactions to threats that were exaggerated and could be handled by calm containment and deterrence.
  • Waltz is to the study of international relations what Darwin is to the study of biology. I make this claim in terms of the sheer intellectual significance of his theoretical contribution. One cannot make sense of the biological world apart from Darwin’s theory of evolution: equally, Waltz’s structural framework for understanding how states interact under anarchy, with an uneven distribution of power and a desire to survive, offers a powerful theory for making sense of the international system. Neither theory explains everything in their domain — one always needs to know more about particularities — but both provide compelling big-picture explanations of their domains.
  • We differed on the last point, and sometimes on the key, recurring question of American foreign policy: When is military intervention justified, by which he meant, when is it in the national interest? Waltz had no patience for "liberal intervention," or what we might now call humanitarian intervention, because we could never be sure that we would succeed in making things better over the long-term. And he had little patience for supposed national security arguments that could not identify a threat to vital interests — we are not, and therefore should not act like, an empire. Waltz was not an isolationist, but he was definitely a minimalist when it came to the use of force.

External links[edit]

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