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Lecture 10

POLSCI 2I03 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Materialism

Political Science
Course Code
Mark Busser

of 6
Sept 29 09/29/2014
J. David Singer:
IP: study from unit level (state took this action because of how they are)
Which level of analysis, shouldn’t try to explain it by which country is like, everybody playing by the same
game (rules apply to a structural level and doesn’t matter, laws are universal)
Metaphor: don’t hate the player hate the game, don’t explain the player, look at the rules of the game itself
Ordering principle: how it all fits together, see that the ordering principle is anarchy, lack of control, lack of
No global policeman, no global laws, no global service, international system is a self-help system, law and
order breaks down, all a state can rely on is its own power, promises broken, partners deceptive, allies
betray you
Kenneth Waltz
Man, the State, and War (1959)
Theory of international politics (1979)
The individual unit acts for itself. From the coaction (all actions combined from each state) of like units
emerges a structure that affects and constrains all of them
Anarchic system leads to self-help
Security Dilemma
Because there exists no central gov’t at the international level, relations between states are a self-help
system where each state must struggle for survival against possible existential threats (trying to not be
completely obliterated)
Their preparations will tend to include accumulating military capabilities and making alliances to participate
in the balance of power (never completely outweighed by rivals), keep trying to balance emerging threats
Because other states see this buildup as threating, this creates a cycle of anxiety and fear- a security
dilemma (keeping one eye open watching your enemies and friends
Dilemma is doing all this makes violence, war more likely, by pursuing military strength, telling rivals to do it
as well, but you have no choice, you have to do it, keep pursuing power, everybody sees this results in
more militarization
Systemic Thinking
Systemic thing encourage analysts to:
Identify the basic unit (ie. The nation-state)
Create a model based on how value maximizing units who are rational actors will behave
Think of a system in terms of its essential dynamics
Abstract away from messy, distracting details to achieve parsimony (captures the big picture and no worry
about the little stuff)
Countries pursue rational self-interest in terms with power
IR isn’t foreign policy, not even trying to explain individual countries do, look at the big picture, the system
Think about the big picture
The billiard ball model is a metaphor capturing the realist point that states should be considered, discrete,
identical units
Rational Actor Model
Assume that all units are rational actors who seek to maximize value in terms of their chose interests (ie.
Power defined in terms of coercive capabilities): its all about power
Relative Gains thinking: an approach to interaction with others that emphasizes zero-sum thinking (because
attitude if my rival gains, essentially puts competing nation behind, your gain is my loss) where comparison
and competition is paramount
Absolute Gains thinking: an approach to interaction with others that emphasizes mutual benefits
Imagine a situation where there are two nation-states:
Narnia and wonderland
There is an opportunity to make a deal that would see both countries
Cost-Benefit Analysis and Relative Gains
Wonderland and Narnia will both benefit from this deal by gaining more catapults than they had before
resulting in an absolute increase for both states
Under the terms of this deal wonderland will get relatively more compared to Narnia
Narnia would lose its existing relative advantage of +6 catapults over Wonderland
Narnia should refuse
Structural realism tends to focus on the material capabilities of states
It emphasizes power defined in terms of brute force strength
Ideas, culture, norms, arguments, opinions, religion, and identities are considered largely epiphenomenal:
of secondary or minimal importance
Once you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow: public opinion, wants or wishes of the
people can be important, but answer is just military strategy of physical force
Distribution of Capabilities: why world is the way it is, why trends are happening a certain way, military and
economic brute force power
Look at defense way is a revealing way to look
China spent: 89.8 billion
Knowing the relative distribution, explain why global politics is the way it is, the way power stands today
Most important thing
Multipolar: many states have similar amounts of power and vie for influence and power (balancing for
Bipolar: two states compete as rivals for influence and supremacy in global affairs
Unipolar: one state emerges as the dominant power in the international system, and achieves hegemony
(controlling events, military, economic power, dominated political landscape, states hegemon, use power
when they feel like it)
Power and economic can be mapped and project the future
Henry Kissinger
National Security Advisor and then also Secretary of State for Richard Nixon
Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957)
Diplomacy (1994)
Practitioner, good example of realist vision, statesman, leaders of civilization who in charge of how states
act, look at pragmatic, clear mind, should acknowledge timeless truths of realism and apply them
Application of realist principles and decision making
The Cold War Rivalry: Bipolarity
Neo-realism dominant theory when the cold war was fluctuating in cold and hot times
The whole time realist argued seen a rapprochement and will just get hot again, stand ready, clear mind
and pursue with a states vision in mind
Neo-realism emerged based on challenges to the classic realist point of view that emerged because of
trends in social science
Rather than focusing on human nature or the nature of states, neo-realism takes a structural approach that
emphasizes the role of anarchy (missing some)