Man the State and War A Theoretical Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Man, the State, and War: a theoretical analysis

Thoughtfully addressing the question as to why mankind enters war, international relations scholar, Dr. Kenneth Neal Waltz, surveys classical and contemporary theories of the behavior of man found in the cross-discipline literature of Western civilization. His inquiry includes the works of philosophers, anthropologists, and psychologists. "Man, the State, and War,[footnoteRef:1]" first published in 1959, categorizes theories of international relations into three images for analysis. The first image is that of 'Man." He describes the ways in which international politics are affected by the actions of individuals. The second image is "the State." He explains the workings of international politics and how domestic systems and policies play a vital role in international affairs. The third image emphasizes international systemic factors. He depicts these factors as being in the state of "anarchy." His reference, it should be noted, does not refer here as a condition of chaos and confusion, but rather describes a more benign characteristic of being without a unified leadership. This paper will briefly introduce Kenneth Waltz to establish his credibility and worldview, and then expound and reflect on the three theoretical categories presented in "Man, the State, and War." [1: Waltz, K, (2001), Man, the State, and War: a theoretical analysis, 3rd ed, Columbia University Press, New York. Hereafter referenced parenthetically as (Waltz, page #).]

Kenneth Neal Waltz was born in 1924 in Ann Arbor Michigan, and thus spent his childhood and young adulthood in an America culture that experienced the great depression and two world wars. After serving in the military, he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1954. Dr. Waltz is considered one of the most prominent contemporary scholars of international relations. He has taught at prestigious universities, such as Columbia and Berkley, and is the founder of international relations theory, neorealism, which favors the role of international structures as a constraint for state strategies and motivations in international affairs. This theory was formulated 25 years after "Man, the State, and War" was completed; however, the developing theory is noticeable within its pages.

The First Image: Man

"Man, the State, and War," was Waltz' first published contribution to the political science field, in which he emphasizes the role and relationship of three primary sectors in international politics. The first, and most fundamental, is the individual, "Man." Drawing on the philosophies of Augustine and Spinoza, he explains that man is a creature motivated by reason and passion. If by reason, according to Jewish philosopher Spinoza, man's actions will "spontaneously lead to harmony in cooperative endeavors to perpetuate life." However, this is not always the situation in world. Recognizing this, Waltz contends that "men are lead not by the precepts of pure reason, but by their passions" and men that are "led by passions, are drawn into conflict (Waltz, 24)." These bad acts can be accounted for in Christian theology by the concept of original sin. This is the belief that God made man to be a rational being whose passions are subordinate to and ordered by reason. However, due to man's separation from God, his passions are disordered and have an inherited tendency toward selfishness desires, which Waltz simply labels 'bad.' He asserts that "anyone can 'prove' that man is bad, simply by pointing to evidence of his viciousness and stupidity (Waltz, 27)." These individual motivations, like leaven in bead dough, impact domestic policies which can lead to war. He states, "Wars result from selfishness, from misdirected aggressive impulses, from stupidity." He continues, "If these are the primary causes, the elimination of war must come through uplifting and enlightening men (Waltz.16)."

The Second Image: The State

Waltz recognizes that human interaction is too complex to casually put the blame of the presence or absence of war solely on the individual. In the second image, Waltz explores causes of international conflict that arise from the internal workings of nation-states. Waltz suggests, "The internal organization of states is the key to understanding war and peace. Removing the defects of states would establish the basis for peace (Waltz, 81)." Waltz believes that recognition of internal defects, found in domestic governments, can explain, and perhaps correct, external acts that are harmful to international relationships.

Waltz proceeds to analyze state political institutions, including such things as methods of production and distribution, or the characteristics of its people, as determinants of a state's ability to be cooperative or uncooperative with other states. Through this analysis he asserts that there are "good" and "bad" states. Waltz' studies attributes which could comprise a good state. Looking at leaders, he saw that the idealism of individuals could influence the state. He includes in this inventory, Marx' critique of political economy and the means of production; next he valued Kant's 'Principles of Right," which asserts that the good can be known and is has the just place over what is knowable as 'bad." Thirdly, he scans Woodrow Wilson's strengths in national self-determination and understanding of democracy. In this case, he suggests that since democratic governments have established a mutual respect that results in peace, the world would benefit from having more democratic governments. Due to an emphasis on individuality and a principle of the common good, Democratic governments are seen as offering a more sustainable means of facilitation the moral principles of individuals into national and international systems.

Similar to the situation found among individuals, the vices of bad states can lead a nation to war however, the virtues found in good states does not necessarily have the influence to bring peace in the world. Good or bad, the actions of states are judged in context of the international political environment. Therefore, like the first image, Waltz argued that the second-image is as insufficient as the first (Waltz, 169), underlining the fact that international relations are never dependent on individuals.

The Third Image: International Structures

The third image is at the International level Waltz defines international politics as being an international anarchy that has decentralized influence. Waltz characterizes 'Anarchy' as "a lack of 'automatic harmony'" where "states are free to use force to attain their goals; the fact that each state may use force is a factor which influences the policies of each state" (Waltz, 160). His theory includes in-depth look at pros and cons of anarchy and contrasts them with the suggestion of a one world government. He undeniable favors the first over the last.

Laying the foundation for the anarchical worldview, Waltz reviews alternative international relations theories of Spinoza and German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Echoing the discussion on the first image, Man, Walt reiterates the view of Spinoza that the root of human conflict lies in the imperfections of man. Subsequently, the solution to war according to a Spinozian philosophy depends on "the reform of man" (Waltz, 162). The viewpoint of Kant is compatible with that of Spinoza. He maintained that human beings follow their passions over their use of reason, and are therefore have a tendency to enter conflict. An early English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, pictured humanity in an even grimmer light. He believed that human vices, such as pride and envy, were so much a part of human nature that man would always be in a state of conflict and instability. For Spinoza, human conflict is inevitable because man's imperfections are inherent; however, he also believed individuals could improve. Kant held that lasting international peace was possible under international law. He submitted that if states would learn from history, and volunteer to participate in an international system of law, their interests would be served.

To expand on this concept, Waltz looks to the wisdom of 18th century French philosopher, Jacques Rousseau, who articulated an early model of international politics as anarchical. Rousseau, agreeing with French political thinker Montesquieu, challenges the assumptions of Spinoza, Kant, and Hobbes. He alleged that man in and of himself was good and only developed vice from living in societal groups. Society influenced man's bad behavior, not the other way around. If humans are naturally good, as Rousseau thought, then how would the formation of societies cause him to change? Waltz explains that in Rousseau's identifies conflict potential as the product of any imperative to cooperate. Conflict arises in groups because the relationships between men present a variety of situations in which different men, rather than cooperating, will choose to do things differently and thus cause conflict. Choosing to do things differently than another is not necessarily a vice but may cause conflict nonetheless. The point is illustrated through the story of a stag-hunt: Realizing their need to cooperate, a group of men team up to hunt a stag for food. The story does not end well as one of the hunters sees a hare, decides to pursue it for his own needs, and thus allows the stag to escape. The incentive to put one's own needs above the needs of the group is powerful, especially since it is often the easier route. Waltz explains, "In cooperative action, even where all…

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