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Social Research Assignment: Article Review on Structural Realism after the Cold War


Task: Your task is to prepare a social research assignment critical reviewing K Waltz, 'Structural Realism after the Cold War', International Security, 25 (1), 2000, pp. 5-41.


The concept of structural realism focused in this social research assignment depicts that power is the most important factor that have a close association with international relations. According to structural realism principles of international structure is absolutely decentralized. In international relations there is absence of formal and central authority. The primary components of reality are understood with the help of structural realism . When one party has the power to pass laws but cannot enforce laws on the citizen of the nation it can be termed as structural realism. The aim of this essay is to critically analyze an article named “Structural Realism after the Cold War”, written by Kenneth N. Waltz.

Critical analysis of the selected article
A strong argument has the ability to provide probable answers. They tend to avoid providing conclusion. Reliable information but not necessarily deductive is required for providing strong argument. While analyzing this article it can be found that Kenneth N. Waltz has marked democratic peace as a thesis. “Democracy fighting democracies” has not been marked as a theory instead the aimed at explaining it as a thesis. The concept of democracy bringing peace has not been proved by the author here. Instead, the work of several other authors has been used to present the arguments associated with the topic. This can be marked as one of the major strengths of the argument. On the contrary, the concept of structural realism proposed by Waltz have received several criticisms because this theory is considered to be invalid after cold war.

In addition to this, an article can be marked as a strong one, when the author presents evidences and examples, associated with it in order to defend his/her own theory. Evidence that are related to the topic is known as the primary achievement of a person who is presenting the argumentative essay. In this article Waltz focused on defending his own theory of structural realism so that it no longer receives any kind of criticism from scholar across the world. He mentioned in the article that the international system is anarchic in nature but the system is unipolar. Furthermore, the author has also mentioned that international system seeks power. Waltz in his article has mentioned that it is the responsibility of states to make their own decisions that can further help them to focus on their security. When states can make their own decisions then the balancing power in the entire international system is mentioned. For example, he mentioned that in the 19th century, German historians were not sure whether peace within states can be implanted even if they face constant dangers from outside the state.

The objective behind writing this thesis statement is to help the reader understand the topic on the basis of which further research has been done by the author. Thesis statement are generally presented by the author in an indirect style 4. Once, the thesis statement is presented then it is followed by several arguments that helps in supporting the thesis statement. There is no exception in case of this argumentative essay.

The first argument that has been presented by Waltz is related to democracy. It has been said that even if number of democracies increase it might not assure peace within states. The author states that to ensure peace, governing bodies especially in USA and America have made sure to influence people with logic. This might ensure peaceful intentions within the state or the country. This statement proposed by Waltz was further contradicted by many other scholars. Their point of view was further presented within the argument. For example, Jack Levy said that democracy practiced in right kind can ensure peace within the state. This means liberal democracies have the capability to ensure peaceful actions within one single state. On the other hand, the point of view of Christopher Layne has been presented that showed that many liberal democracies declared war against other liberal democracies. Thus, from the above discussion it is clear that constant contradiction of point of view among authors have been presented logically within the article.

As per Waltz , the theory of structural realism or the idea of neorealism impacts the field of international relations. The structural realism as per Waltz states that the power is the most significant and determining factor in the arena of international relations. Waltz has considered the aspects like power politics in international relations, the conflicts as well as competition in the international political platform, its enduring attributes and the scope it has for potential cooperation.

However, there are several aspects which waltz have not considered, making simplified assumptions. One crucial criticism by Keohaneof the theory of structural realism or neorealism is pertaining to the definition of the state interests. Keohane states that Waltz in neorealism, has not said anything regarding predicting the state interests . It is further criticised because the theory of structural realism as a systematic theory is not able to make any predictions about the state interests. Therefore, structural realism as a theory cannot draw any deterministic inference.

The main argument of Waltzis that the deconstruction of Derridean effectively describes the reason behind the presence of ethics in neorealism. It further explains the reason why ethics cannot be overcome .

The major drawbacks of Waltzhave been pointed by Newman. There are serious difficulties in the theory of structural realism. The structure of the theory is not sufficient for picking out the relations across the globe.

The defensive realism of Waltz provides a state-centric and systematic approach to international relations and politics . The main components of the defensive realism of Waltz include the anarchy and distribution capabilities. The anarchy in defensive realism has been defined as the absence of the government. The theory also looks into the capabilities’ distribution across the international system.

The structural realism by Waltz as described in the article is different from the classical realism. The classical realism mainly concentrated in the wish or desire to acquire the power, so that the power-based influence can be exerted. The power that is acquired would facilitate dominance and control which are the basic human instincts. The structural realism, on the contrary, focuses on the international political system. It further explains the reason behind the behaviour of the powers at the international platform.

The structural realism has several significant insights. They provide in-depth idea of the presently prevailing balance of powers as well as the effects on the international politics. Specifically, the structural realism theory provides useful insights which facilitate detecting the weaker states of the developing world. In the OECD world’s post-modern states, the structural realism throws light on the power politics . When the context changes the relevance of a theory also changes. In the present-day world, the Cold wars that occur, like the one between China and the United States, which the world experienced in recent times, the confrontation is quite different from the Cold Wars of the previous era, like the one between the United States and Russia . Today, neither China nor the United States has the capability to gather a troop of warriors behind them, backing up or fighting for either the noble ideological reasons or the unsaturatedmaterial gains.

As per the overall analysis on social research assignmentit is stated that the structural realism after the Cold War became more prominent and important. However, in the recent years, there are students and scholars of international relations who consider realism to be obsolete. The power politics, anarchy, power balancing and self-help are of the previous era. The new era today, has eclipsed the idea of realism. They have been replaced by newer and innovative ideas. There is a need for newer ideas.

1 Arenhart, Jonas R. Becker, and Otávio Bueno. "Structural realism and the nature of structure." European journal for philosophy of science vol. 5, no. 1 (2015) p.111-139.
2 Beirlaen, Mathieu, Jesse Heyninck, Pere Pardo, and Christian Straßer. "Argument Strength in Formal Argumentation." FLAP vol. 5,no. 3 (2018) p.629-676.
3 Hemberger, Laura, Deanna Kuhn, Flora Matos, and Yuchen Shi. "A dialogic path to evidence-based argumentive writing." Journal of the Learning Sciences vol. 26, no. 4 (2017) p.575-607.
4 Waltz, K.N., 2000. Structural realism after the Cold War. International security, 25(1), pp.5-41.
5 Keohane, R.O. and Waltz, K.N., 2001. The neorealist and his critic. International Security, 25(3), pp.204-205.
6 Lundborg, T., 2019. The ethics of neorealism: Waltz and the time of international life. European Journal of International Relations, 25(1), pp.229-249.
7 Ainsworth, P.M., 2009. Newman's objection. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 60(1), pp.135-171.
8 Halperin, S., 1998. Shadowboxing: Weberian historical sociology vs state-centric international relations theory. Review of International Political Economy, 5(2), pp.327-339.
9 Brown, C., 2009. Structural realism, classical realism and human nature. International Relations, 23(2), pp.257-270.
10 Brawley, M.R., 2013. The politics of globalization. University of Toronto Press.
11 Zhao, M., 2019. Is a new Cold War inevitable Chinese perspectives on US–China strategic competition. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 12(3), pp.371-394.


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