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Distinction between the realism school, between classical realism and neo-realism/ structural
realism. Founding scholar of neo-realism is Kenneth Waltz. The difference is that it further
attempts to make IR more scientific, what happens here is in trying to make IR more scientific it
tries to make discipline values free. Classical realism is not a moral school, it in fact says a lot
about virtues and morals. Classical economics and physics= in classical realism. Neo-realism,
Waltz‟s attempt is to make the theory of IR politics, highly ambitious and highly successful.
Making the theory of IR politics, does not try to reproduce reality. Whereas the early form of
realism said they were describing world as it is, Waltz said he is not because theory is not real
life. To understand power is to explain the relations of IR. All the people who came before him
did not understand the structure of IR. We have to look at the systematic operations of IR, the
system is composed of 3 different structures.
3 determinant of structures:
1. The ordering principle of the system- i.e. whether the system is anarchic or hierarchic.
People in Europe might say there is hierarchy in Europe (EU), Waltz doesn‟t care
because the rest of the world isn‟t that way. The world is an anarchic, because there is no
government in IR law to curb violence and keep laws in place.
2. The differentiation of the units within the system- what are the main actors? What are
their functions? Today in IR, we talk about states, individuals, regional operations, non-
government operations. To analyze it there is only one important actor, that is the state.
There are other actors but do they have the same effect as the state, no. all states have the
same functions, they behave the same way at UN. They are supposed to provide for their
citizens, in other ways they each have the same weight. They are sovereign, you either
have sovereignty or you don‟t, it is an invisible thing. In IR, Somalia has the same rights
and responsibilities at UN as USA, etc.
3. The distribution of capabilities across the system- i.e. the balance of power. The first two
are there but not really matter, the last one is important. Important distinction between
classical and neo-realism, it is the definition of power in neo-realism. In classical realism
power is described as socially, ie. The ability of an actor to do what they cannot do. That
sociological definition of power is problematic because if we cannot measure the ability
of another actor to make other actor do what they don‟t want to do. How will the UN
know this, how will the USA know what Vietnam can or not do. Waltz said we need a
strategic definition. We can measure countries‟ GDP, and that is objective. Same with
guns, we can try to measure/ estimate, at least guns exist and we can say that certain
countries have nuclear weapons and some do not, and that is a major differentiation
between power. Waltz forms the major tenants of neo-realism as opposed to classical
realism. Neo-realism criticism: what it claimed to do, did not always do well.
Graham Allison‟s “essence of decision” and the 1962 cuban missile crisis.
Analysis of the Cuban missile crisis through three conceptual models according to 3
different levels of analysis:
The rational actor model, which assumes that states pursue foreign policy based on the
ideals of the national interest; real world event (especially ones as potentially disastrous)
are not as simple as Waltz describes, and if one knows from history that John could not
make his own army obey his orders maybe because he could not understand the hard
realities of army life. Kennedy believed that most of the Missiles were already on the
island or coming, however in hindsight all of them were already there and ready to go.
The organizational process model, where decisions are made based on the organizational
structure of the decision- making process;
And, the governmental politics model, which argues that decisions are the product of
bargaining between intergovernmental offices.
The reality shows that it was not so stable as Waltz‟s descri