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Waltz and the world: neorealism as international political theory?

Humphreys, A. R. C. ORCID: (2013) Waltz and the world: neorealism as international political theory? International Politics, 50 (6). pp. 863-879. ISSN 1740-3898

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1057/ip.2013.34


The recent recovery of an empirically and ethically richer realist tradition involves an explicit contrast with neorealism's more scientistic explanatory aspirations. This contrast is, however, incomplete. Although Waltz's theoretical work is shaped by his understanding of the requirements of scientific adequacy, his empirical essays are normatively quite rich: he defends bipolarity, and criticizes US adventurism overseas, because he believes bipolarity to be conducive to effective great power management of the international system, and hence to the avoidance of nuclear war. He is, in this sense, a theorist divided against himself: much of his oeuvre exhibits precisely the kind of pragmatic sensibility that is typically identified as distinguishing realism from neorealism. His legacy for a reoriented realism is therefore more complex than is usually realized. Indeed, the nature of Waltz's own analytical endeavour points towards a kind of international political theory in which explanatory and normative questions are intertwined.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:33789
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan

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