A Poststructuralist Critique of Neorealist Conceptualizations of the State and Anarchy
As the title suggests I have chosen to focus on one particular brand of realism, neorealism, as offered by Kenneth Waltz. The reason for my focusing on neorealism is that I feel realism, perhaps the dominant theory of international politics, represents a body of thought as rich and diverse as its criticisms. It is my opinion however, that neorealism has occupied a place within the foreign policy programmes of the world’s governments, and exercised its influence over their decisions. For example, threats perceived within the modern world such as terrorism, authoritarianism, rogue states and-so-forth all come from the anarchy problematic, the construction of a hostile ‘Other’… in this case traditionally the global South. Though neorealism may have suffered a hiatus in the post-Cold War era, I think, particularly post 9/11 that it has experienced somewhat of a comeback.
Whilst neorealism is not without its merits, indeed, it is both important and fundamental within policy circles, I believe that in the globalised world in which we live, it leaves us in a position where we are unable to explain or understand much of the world’s conflict. In-fact, perhaps somewhat pessimistically for the neorealist, the world reveals itself as a ‘dangerous and insecure place, where violence is regrettable but endemic’. Thus, it encourages us to resign ourselves to the present, and therefore reproduces the existing international structures, rather than challenging them, consequently contributing to both their continued legitimacy and primacy.
In the first part of this essay, I will introduce the key themes of neorealism, demonstrating that for Waltz, the state is the main actor and that it is constrained in its actions by systemic pressures, which act upon it. Such pressures are most notably: anarchy, and the behaviour of other states. Consequently, Waltz has asserted...