Mearsheimer- Anarchy and the Struggle for Power

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Political Science
POLI 244
Jason Scott Ferrell

Mearsheimer: Anarchy and the Struggle for Power Bedrock Assumptions  1) the international system is anarchic – it is an ordering principle which says that the system comprises independent states that have no central authority above them o Sovereignty inheres in states because there is no higher ruling body in the international system  2)Great powers inherently possess some offensive military capability, which gives them the wherewithal to hurt and possibly destroy each other  3)States can never be certain about other states’ intentions  4) Survival is the primary goal of great power, states seek to maintain their territorial integrity and the autonomy of their domestic political order  5) Great powers are rational actors – they consider the preferences of other states and how their own behaviour is likely to affect the behaviour of those other states o States pay attention to the long term as well as the immediate consequences of their actions State Behaviour  States in the international system also aim to guarantee their own survival  States cannot depend on other for their own security  Alliances are only temporary marriages of convenience  Pays to be selfish in self-help world  Best way to ensure their survival is to be the most powerful state in the system  States employ a variety of means to shift the balance of power in their favour, even if doing so makes other states suspicious or even hostile  **Great power have aggressive intentions  The pursuit of power stops only when hegemony is achieved o Powers will not feel secure without dominating a system because 1) it is difficult to assess how much relative power one state must have over its rivals before it is secure. 2) determining how much power is enough becomes even more complicated when great powers contemplate how power will be distributed among then ten or twenty year down the road  Best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now  States do not become status quo powers until they completely dominate the system  States ultimately pay attention to defense as well as offense  Security dilemma: the measure a state take to increase its own security usually decrease the security of other states  Herz’s analysis: the best way for a state survive in anarchy is to take advantage of other states and gain power at their expense o Best defense is a good defense  States concerned about relative power behave differently then do states interested in absolute power  States motivated by relative power concerns are likely to forgo large gains in their own power  States that maximize absolute power care only about the size of their own gains  **Power according to this logic is not a means to an end (survival) but an end in itself Calculated Aggression  Great powers cannot always act on their offensive intentions because behaviour is influenced not only by what states want but also by their capacity to realize these desires.  Great power constantly find themselves confronting situations in which they have to make important decision with incomplete information o Threatened states balance against aggressors and ultimately crush them o There is an offense-defense balance that is usually heavily tilted toward the defense  Historical record
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