POLI 211 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Kenneth Waltz, Raymond Aron, Homo Economicus

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Realist thought and neorealist theory by Kenneth N. Waltz:
How economic theory became possible:
The first step forward was to invent the concept of an economy as distinct from the society and
the polity in which it is embedded, since it is artificial to think of an economy separate from its
society and polity.
Theory is artificed. A theory is an intellectual construction by which we select facts and
interpret them. The challenge is to bring theory to bear on facts in ways that permit
explanation and prediction. That can only be accomplished by distinguishing between theory
and fact. Only if this distinction is made can theory be used to examine and interpret facts.
Theory becomes possible only if various objects and processes, movements and events, acts
and interactions, are viewed as forming a domain that can be studied in its own right.
Another step was to create something new, that would difference Economy from anything else,
so the Physiocrats did so, by developing the concepts of durable notions of distribution and
circulation.
Intl politics: Beyond the theoretical pale:
Raymond Aron said that intl politics in contrast to economics suffers from the following
difficulties: Innumerable factors affect the intl system and no distinction can be made between
those that are internal and those that are external to it; States, the principal intl actors, cannot
be endowed with a single aim; No distinction can be drawn between dependent and
independent variables; no accounting identities- such as investment equals savings- can be
devised; No mechanism exists for the restoration of a disrupted equilibrium; There is no
possibility of prediction and manipulation with identified means leading to specific goals.
Neorealist believed that theory obviously cannot explain the accidental or account for
unexpected events. Theories deal in regularities and repetitions and are possible only if these
can be identified. A theory is a depiction of the organization of a domain and of the connections
among its parts. A theory indicates that some factors are more important than others and
specifies relations among them. In reality, everything is related to everything else, and one
domain cannot be separated from others. Theory isolates one realm from all others in order to
deal with it intellectually. To isolate a realm is a precondition to developing a theory that will
explain what goes on with it.
If economic, political, and social variables enter into the international system, as surely they do,
if states have not one but many goals, as surely they have, if separating dependent from
independt variables and distinguishing effects from causes is an uncertain undertaking, as
surely it is- then one can never hope to fashion a theory.
Complexity, however, does not work against theory. Rather, theory is a means of dealing with
opleit. We aot guess eah pesos oties, thus we can assume all men as simple-
minded, and in order to male any assumptions about them, the world must be drastically
simplified.
Pure theory, in eco as in any fields, is abstract: it deals with forms olny, in complete abstraction from
content. On the individual side, econ theory takes men with any wants whatever, any resources
whatever, and any system of technology whatever, and develops principles of econ behavior. The
validity of its laws does not depend on the actual conditions or data, with respect to any of these
three elementary phases of economic action. In politics not everything can be.counted or measured,
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but some things can be. That may be helpful in the application of theories but has nothing to do
with their construction.
3 mains points of Aos aguet:
1. The single world complexity
a. Waltz criticizes saying that, complexity, however, does not work against theory. In fact, he
points that deal with this was the economists success.
i. Given the concept of a market they have been able to develop further concepts and draw
connections among them.
Beause ealists did ot sole the fist pole, the ouldt satisfatoil deal ith the et
two.
2. Economics, politics and social variables makes states to have not but many goals
a. Waltz points that the economic answer for the multiplicity of goals was the
eatio of eooi a.
3. The asee of aoutig idetities o the lak of easues ad ediu of ehage i
which goals can be valued and instruments comparatively priced.
a. Waltz points that Adam Smith fundamental works to economy depends on any number, as
there are none.
b. Laws do not depend on counting.
c. In politics not everything can be counted or measured, but some things can be. That may be
helpful in the application of theories but has nothing to do with their construction.
Aron identifies science with the ability to predict and control. Walts argues that evolution theories
dot pedit athig ad astoo dot otol athig, ut, still, they are to be considered
theories for their ability to specify causes and to state the theories and laws by which the
predictions are made. This being, according to Waltz, the really scope of science.
Science provide conditions to predictability and control, but not predictability and control itself.
Waltz argues that, by depicting an international political system as a whole, with structural and unit
levels at once distinct and connected, neorealism establishes the autonomy of international
politics and thus makes theory about it possible.
2 aspects defining the international structure:
1. The ordering principle of the system, in case, the anarchy.
2. The distribution of capability among unities.
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