Book Review on 'Man, the State, and War: Theoretical Analysis' by Kenneth Neal Waltz

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In this book, the author Kenneth Neal Waltz who is a realist academic has established a system using three 'images of analysis' in explaining the root and the cause of conflicts in international relationship criteria. Waltz has believed in realism and using realism approach and theory in explaining and describing the international system as he talks about the power distribution and the roots of the conflict are in human nature. It is a philosophical problem in explaining why humanity can’t get rid of wars since the beginning of history.

As well as that, the three images that Waltz suggested in explain the roots of conflict is interesting as it has proposed. The first image is individuals who in classical realism term, hardly be considered as the leading player. Waltz argues that wars are mostly caused by the nature of particular political leaders or statesmen like Napoleon or Hitler or just by the human nature that humanity is bound to conflict and the animal part of ourselves are thirsty of power and resources, and we desire to fight over it. The second image Waltz mentioned states, which are the leading player that being considered in the classical realism theory. The theories of war the Waltz used in proving his second image are that wars are caused by domestic makeup of states, like the example Waltz refers to is Lenin's theory of imperialism which pointed out that to continuing open up new markets to perpetuate their economy back home, capitalist states have to start warfare. In current time, likewise that it is believed that nondemocratic conditions are more likely to start combat due to their internal compositions. The final image Waltz pointed out is the international system, and he thought that this is the most basic image in international relations, especially in explaining warfare. The third image is describing the framework of world politics and the first and second images, determining the forces that create the policies of a state. The third image posits that the cause of war is found at the systemic level; namely, that the anarchic structure of the international system is the root cause of conflicts. Which in this context, anarchy is as one in which there is a lack of a sovereign body to govern between nation-states. As there is nobody above nation-states that is capable of establishing rules or laws for all the states, deciding how these apply in specific cases, and compelling the states to honor the court's ruling. Which lead to that if an issue is important enough to a country, it can be achieved only by using power to impose on other states and eventually leak to lack of trust and limited cooperation between nations, and war is inevitable as long as there is a power struggle between states.

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As we have been introduced about Waltz's theory and the 'image' of the world, it is reasonable for us to try these theories and images on real-life examples to test its standability and finding out its weakness. First, let's look at the first image, which as Waltz believes that the root of war is in human nature and will never leave us which lead to whenever there are humans, there will be conflicts and violence. However, in other schools of thoughts like optimists' view, human nature is malleable and improvable – and therefore see education as the cure for war. For them, if we change human nature through education, we will eliminate conflict. As well as that, another school of thoughts that believed the invention of the nuclear weapon had ended wars, at least between atomic states. Why? Because as nuclear weapons are so powerful and our current technology still lacks ways in completely counter atomic weapons, it has created a dangerous but secured balance between states as they both understand that it will a no winner sum after nuclear warfare and thus. However, their nature is to struggle with power and having conflicts. Still, the presence of atomic weapons has caught each sides' nerve and stopped them from launching another war. For the second image, the optimists also tried to counter Waltz's point but suggesting that wars are insufficient as in our history if we look back, lots of technology developed have been lost in past warfare and after hundreds of years to be re-discovered, like when Rome Empire fails. Europe went into the dark ages. For the third image, as Waltz considers only the states as the leading player in international relations, and due to the lack of overseeing, the world becomes anarchy. However, this whole point is not so valid in our era, as the rise of terrorism that non-state organizations rise to challenge and attack states, realism in these cases lacks theory in coupling with these non-state players. As well as that, there are international organizations forming up in the world act as the role of overseeing states behavior like the UN, for example. Although the UN itself has limited power in limiting some countries as well as its flaws, still in most of the term, the UN did act as an overseeing power in monitoring states behaviors and at least tried to prevent warfare enlarged or being started and thus counter the view that Waltz holds over international relation theory.

Overall, speaking this book written by Waltz have clearly stated the ideal world in realism theory and have explained in realism view, why there are conflicts and why states behaved in these patterns. As a realism believer, I agreed with a lot with Waltz's theory and believed that majority of these theories still worked well in the current world, however, like in the reflection part I stated, due to the written time is a long time ago. The world has changed so dramatically since then, there are blanks, gaps and flaws with the realism theory and need to be fixed and filled up with other schools of thoughts and views.

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Book Review on ‘Man, the State, and War: Theoretical Analysis’ by Kenneth Neal Waltz. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from
“Book Review on ‘Man, the State, and War: Theoretical Analysis’ by Kenneth Neal Waltz.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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