Neorealism and Its Critics: A Summary and Review of a Classic Book
Neorealism and Its Critics is a book edited by Robert O. Keohane that was published in 1986 by Columbia University Press. It is a collection of essays that explore the theory of neorealism, which is a revival of the tradition of realism that emphasizes state power struggles in world affairs. The book was sparked by Kenneth Waltz's Theory of International Relations, which is considered the seminal work of neorealism. The book also includes an introductory essay by Keohane and a concluding chapter by Waltz.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part consists of three essays by Waltz that explain the core assumptions and propositions of neorealism, such as the anarchic structure of the international system, the primacy of security and survival, and the balance of power mechanism. The second part consists of four essays by John Ruggie, Robert Gilpin, Robert Cox, and Richard Ashley that challenge some aspects of neorealism from different perspectives, such as historical sociology, political economy, critical theory, and poststructuralism. The third part consists of three essays by Keohane, Hans Morgenthau, and Waltz that reflect on the richness and limitations of the realist tradition and the neorealist synthesis.
The book is a classic text in international relations theory that offers a comprehensive overview of neorealism and its critics. It is also a stimulating debate that exposes the strengths and weaknesses of neorealism as a scientific and normative approach to world politics. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the origins, evolution, and implications of neorealism as one of the most influential paradigms in international relations.Some of the main themes and debates that emerge from the book are:
The epistemological and ontological status of neorealism as a scientific theory of international relations. Waltz defends neorealism as a parsimonious and falsifiable theory that explains the regularities and patterns of state behavior in an anarchic system. His critics question the validity and applicability of his assumptions, methods, and concepts, such as structure, polarity, and balance of power. They also challenge his positivist and rationalist approach that neglects the role of history, culture, ideology, and human agency in shaping world politics.
The normative and political implications of neorealism as a guide for policy and action. Waltz argues that neorealism is a descriptive and explanatory theory that does not prescribe or advocate any particular values or goals. He also claims that neorealism is compatible with different ethical perspectives and does not justify or condemn any state actions. His critics contend that neorealism is a normative and ideological theory that reflects and reinforces the status quo of power politics and hegemony. They also accuse neorealism of being pessimistic, deterministic, and fatalistic, and of ignoring the possibilities of change, cooperation, and emancipation.
The relationship between neorealism and classical realism as two variants of the realist tradition. Waltz maintains that neorealism is a refinement and reformulation of classical realism that corrects its flaws and inconsistencies. He also asserts that neorealism preserves the core insights and contributions of classical realism, such as the centrality of security and survival, the primacy of state interests, and the constraints of anarchy. His critics argue that neorealism is a departure and distortion of classical realism that loses its richness and complexity. They also suggest that neorealism neglects or rejects some important aspects of classical realism, such as the role of human nature, morality, diplomacy, and prudence.
Neorealism and Its Critics is a landmark book that has shaped the field of international relations theory for decades. It is a testament to the intellectual rigor and relevance of neorealism as well as to the diversity and creativity of its critics. It is also a source of inspiration for further dialogue and research on the enduring questions and challenges of world politics. 061ffe29dd