Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waltz and Fozouni: Is Anarchy Needed to Understand International Relations

Waltz: Anarchic Structure of World Politics
Fozouni: Confutation of Political Realism

SECTION I: Summary

Waltz’s main point is that international relations can only be understood through a systems theory and that system’s theory must separate the international relations domain from any domestic domain (p.49). He defines a system as having two parts: a structure and interacting units (p.49). He has three characteristics of a system: the ordering principle (p.52), the character of the units (p.55) and the distribution of capabilities (p.57). The ordering principle is how the arrangement of the parts within the system (p.52) For Waltz’s theory, this means that all parts of the system (states) stand in relation to each other equally because there is no requirement of one state to obey another (p.52). The character of the units is described by Waltz as states (p.55 and 56) and he also demonstrates how they are all like units (p.55). Waltz does acknowledge that each state has a different capability, but says that regardless, they are like units because they each are alike in being “autonomous political units.” (p.56). The last principle of Waltz’s system can be looked as the distribution of capabilities. Waltz says that capabilities of the units is a relative discussion, whereby a comparison is made between the power of one unit and the character of the other units in the system (p.58). By describing these characteristics of a system, Waltz states that the system is anarchic (p.59). According to Waltz, the anarchic system avoids change by preventing intentions of various actors from being effective, and therefore, a change in the anarchic system would require a system change (p.63). Additionally, the anarchic system has the benefit of having a low organizational cost as there is no organization to maintain (p.65). Lastly, states in an anarchic system, cannot rely on anyone for help, and so they protect themselves (p.64). Therefore, the system is unlikely to change because to change the system requires a full and great structural change (p.63 and 64).

In the Fozouni article, the main point is that realism is a failed theory because there are failures in the logical structure of the theory (p.484) and failures in the empirical analysis that the theory is based on (p. 4486). The failure of the theory’s logical structure can be place on the failure of the premises of the theory to be true (482). The premise that all states will expand when they have the capability to expand (p. 483) does not have enough empirical evidence to support it (p. 484). Therefore, if a premise of the theory is untrue, the theory cannot be logically sound (p. 485).

Additionally, the theory of realism fails an empirical examination (p. 486). There is simply not enough empirical evidence to support realism (p.486). This is because, in supporting realism, theorists tend to use only positive evidence, and ignore the evidence that is not supportive of realism (p.487). Instead, theorists try to create ad hoc additional variables or explanations to keep realism alive (p. 488). The problem with ad hoc explanations is that they don’t take the theory and explain the situation, they take the theory and add something to it, which in essence means the theory is incomplete (p.492). Additionally, realism fails because it focuses solely on power as the only determinate in the theory, and ignores everything else (p. 498 and p.507). This creates the problem of verifying that power is the basis of all decisions because of what we know today after the Cold War, that ideology also plays a role (p. 498).

SECTION II: Analysis

Waltz’s theory suffers from a type of logical fallacy. Waltz uses the structure of his theory as his system. He uses the ordering characteristics, units and capability of units as a description of his structure (p. 52, 55,57) and claims that this exists only in an anarchy, so therefore anarchy must be the system that is used in the analysis (p. 59). This is a type of logical fallacy where the input and output are the same. Additionally, Waltz fails to recognize how a system can change, outside of changing the system (p. 63). His theory does not account for any variables that might change the system. However, he does tackle the issue of non-state actors by stating that if they are powerful enough, they become enough like states to qualify as states in terms of his theory, or else they fail to act in any meaningful way (p. 52). This theory also suffers from oversimplification. This is a clear issue when Waltz declares all states to be functionally similar units – or the same units (p. 56). This glosses over the fact that all states are not functionally similar because they cannot all behave autonomously – Israel cannot behave on its own without consideration of the US and Palestinian governments. Waltz’s theory also neglects various variables such as ideology and economics. Instead, he compounds economics, politics and military into one idea – the capability of the unit – because states use their political and economic structures to grow their military and their military to grow their economic and political structure (p. 56). Once again, this demonstrates the dramatic oversimplification present in the theory.

The Fozouni article seems remarkably well thought out. It covers the logical fallacies that are present in realism both in deductive (p.484) and inductive reasoning (p. 502). Also, the Fozouni article considers the human nature concept in Morgenthau’s realism, and claims he should’ve discarded it as it is not a foundation to the theory (p.484). However, why not simply dispose of the idea with a one line comment – that it is irrelevant to the theory and that realism can be explained without the use of this premise - rather than analyze a piece of information that is not vital to the theory? One thing the Fozouni article does well is provide circumstance in which supporters of realism might have been able to rescue the situation (p. 493), and provides various analysis of what variables Morgenthau should have considered to have a complete and viable theory. However, this article criticizes realism on the basis of all the information we have available today, which includes information that shows how important ideology is in international relations. What might have been interesting is to limit the critique to the materials and examples available at the time Morgenthau created his theory and see if the same problems still exist.

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