Kenneth Waltz's Man the State and War Term Paper

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Kenneth Waltz's Man, the State, and War - a Theoretical Analysis

The purpose of Man, the State and War is to debunk theories that do not locate the causes of war in the system. Unlike Morgenthau who does not believe international relations can change (because human nature cannot change), Waltz believes that by changing the nature of the system, changes can be made in international relations.

To make his case, Waltz presents three hypotheses or "images." The first image is that human nature is the cause of war. If human nature is evil, corrupt, power-hungry then the same must be true of state behavior since states are made up of and governed by people. Bad people do bad things; because human nature cannot be changed, war cannot be eliminated and the best we can do is manage conflict and war through a proper understanding of the balance of power.

The second image holds that the causes of war are found within states; domestic society conditions human behavior. If so, then different types of social organization should cause different behaviors. Bad states cause war and good states seek peace. Such theories argue that a world of democracies, or a world of capitalist states, or a world of socialist states would bring peace while it is the absence of democracy or capitalism or socialism which leads to war. Waltz does not find enough evidence to advocate one form of state above the others; he says that he is unable to establish a causal link between one type of state and war. Capitalist states have been imperialistic while authoritarian regimes have been peaceful, and democracies have fought the most violent wars in human history. It is true that capitalist states fight wars, but capitalists cause not all wars; likewise, authoritarian states have been known to be aggressive, but not exclusively. Liberal capitalism and Marxism-Leninism are the two best examples of the second image. They have also, alongside realism, been the most powerful international relations theories of the 20th century.

If the government removes all obstructions from the economy, such as tariffs, and subsidies, creating a free market, the sympathy principle and laws of supply and demand will regulate the economy. To make ourselves successful, we will work, invest and invent to satisfy needs revealed by the market. We will compete with others like use to secure as much wealth as possible. We work, invest and invent and compete because we are under the control of the sympathy principle. The economy is regulated by laws of supply and demand with investment and labor moving into sectors where profits are to be made and out of sectors where opportunity has been exhausted.

Maybe the most damning bit of evidence against the second image is that the liberal version seems to depend at least to some extent on human nature. Liberals do have to make assumptions about human nature; they believe that the human desires for self-improvement, the natural inclination to acquire and conform are the sources of liberal order. Liberal beings create liberal states that, like individuals, will be more interested in making money than making war.

Marxism-Leninism is, for Waltz the fullest development of the second image because it anticipates the elimination of the state.

According to this theory all politics and history is explained in terms of class conflict. There are those who own the forces of production, (factories, mills, machinery) and those who do not own but who work. The state is a vehicle that enables the owners (bourgeoisie, in capitalist systems) to control the non-owners (the proletariat which is the industrial working class). In industrial, capitalist society, the owners maximize profit by devaluing labor. In other words, they drive the price of labor down, lowering their own expenses. The difference between what it costs to produce and sell something is profit. "Contradictions" develop within the system. Every capitalist would like to pay his or her workers the least while having other capitalists pay their workers the most; that way, the first, who is in the business of making mousetraps, can reduce production costs while the workers of other capitalists will have enough money to purchase mousetraps.

Every capitalist thinks this way. The result is that consumption stagnates as wages are driven down. Inventories backup, workers are laid off and the economy experiences a contraction. Each time this happens, the crisis lasts a little longer, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Eventually, the working class will rise up in revolution and destroy the system responsible for their misery. By destroying the capitalist system and its classes, the proletariat destroys the state.

Lenin reasoned that the bourgeoisies would find a way to temper the effects of capitalist contradictions. One tactic was the use of colonies as sources of cheap raw materials, cheap labor, and dumping grounds for surplus production and investment. By 1914, however, the world had been claimed and divided among the mature capitalist powers, Britain and France in particular. What was a rising capitalist power, like Germany to do in order to stifle the impact of the capitalist contradictions within its domestic economy? Germany would have to take territory away from one or both of the dominant colonial powers. World War I was the result.

Eventually, through the horrors of the war, the proletariat in Germany, France, and Britain would become aware that they were merely being used by the capitalists; they would realize, guided by Marxists and especially Bolsheviks, that they had more in common with each other than they did with the capitalist class in their home states. They would rise up and destroy the capitalists and eventually the capitalist state system. The war would be the spark for a global, "continuous" revolution.

Of course, we all know that did not happen. Germany and Britain were advanced industrial, capitalist states. France was, even on the eve of World War II, primarily an agricultural society, despite its possession of overseas colonies. Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire were major players in World War I and yet none of them could be considered an advanced capitalist state.

The third image locates the causes of war within the international system; the nature of the system conditions state behavior. Just as domestic society conditions human behavior, war is the result of the nature of the international system. Waltz asks a very important question: "Can man in society be best understood by studying man or by studying society?" His answer is that the best way to understand human behavior is to understand it as conditioned by society; we are products of a social environment.

The same holds true for international relations. Anarchy is the key characteristic of the international system and results from the absence of a central authority, a world government, for example, able to maintain order. Anarchy is not the same as chaos, which is an absence of order. In anarchy, order is a result of the interactions of states. However, order is not automatic. Waltz rejects the idea that a balance of power is inevitable, inherent or natural. Instead, states will use force to get what they want if they value that interest more than peace. This means that states engage in cost-benefit analyses and will choose war if they believe the benefits of a use of force outweigh its costs.

There are at least two problems with this, as Waltz sees it. First, accidents occur from misperceptions and miscalculations. Decision-makers overestimate their own power, or underestimate the power of rivals, or they fail to account for the actions and reactions of others. Second, since there is no central authority to guarantee security, states fear being taken advantage of by rivals. This is the security dilemma, and its use by Thucydides is one of the clearest expressions of…[continue]

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