Review of Man, the State and War

In Man, the State and War, Kenneth Waltz examines the question ‘what causes war?’ In his analysis, Waltz assesses 3 approaches or ‘images’ that try to explain the root of war and present their assumptions, criticisms and implications. In the process, Waltz explores work by political philosophers, psychologists and anthropologists to seek explanations for war and suggestions or ‘prescriptions’ for peace. He also poses the question of whether there is a solution for war or whether war is a constant state of man due to his nature. The book seeks to tackle a broad and complex question and does so effectively.

Waltz effectively and clearly arranges his argument, beginning with the first image of human behavior. According to this approach, ‘Wars result from selfishness, from misdirected aggressive impulses, from stupidity’. Firstly, Waltz outlines the views of pessimists and optimists in the approach. For pessimists, peace is at once a goal and a utopian dream, while optimists take seriously the proposition to reform the individual. Secondly, Waltz discusses the internal structure of states. This image claims that the internal structure of the state is crucial in their relations with each other, ‘Removing the defects of states would establish the basis for peace’.

This image argues for democratic peace theory in which democratic states do not fight each other. Finally, in the third image, Waltz looks at the anarchical structure of states and balance of power. He writes that ‘war is bound to occur’with so many sovereign states and no governing body to control them. This leads on to his conclusion about the ‘unattainable’ solution. Although Waltz believes all three images are relevant, he emphasizes that the third view of anarchical state organization weighs the greatest importance on state behavior, war and peace.

According to Waltz, the third image describes the framework of world politics. He adds that without the first and the second images there can be no knowledge of the forces that determine policy so they all hold significance. Ultimately, Waltz writes that the solution to war is one world government but leaves many questions unanswered such as ‘who will rule the world?’ and ‘are states necessary?’

Waltz argues that all three views on the causes of war play a role in explaining why states do what they do. Waltz also acknowledges that the blame for the cause of war may not be solely due to one particular image (neither man, nor the state and its structures), but the interrelationship between two or more of the images. He concludes that the anarchical structure of the international realm in addition to states who are only self-interested prevent the international world from existing in utopian peace.

Although Waltz focuses on three important and significant approaches to the question, he fails to consider other factors that may influence war and the behavior of states. For example, economic and historical factors, transnational organizations, cultures, tribes, alliances, religion and ethnicities. Waltz therefore, oversimplifies the extremely complex and large question regarding the cause of war. One review of Waltz’s work pointed out that his take on the motivations of men was too binary; the contrast of good and evil through optimism and pessimism was provided with lack of consideration for other factors.

Furthermore, Waltz has also been criticized for ‘parochialism’ for his criticism of behavioral scientists for their naiveté. Singer argues that, contrary to Waltz’s belief, we could benefit greatly from studying the disposition of men. For example, we would have greater understanding of foreign policy of a state if we were more knowledgeable of the culture of the people who established it. Much has changed since Man, the State and War was written, the United Nations has grown, the EU was formed, multilateral institutions and policies have gained much greater legitimacy and the global economy has brought states closer together.

Despite this, the arguments provided in the book are still highly relevant and applicable to the modern day international world. States still live in a self-help world where there is no authoritative body to come to their aid, Waltz’s work is relevant to explaining why men and nations fight. Waltz effectively employs analogies throughout his text to convey theories and explanations for abstract concepts. For example, in explaining the significance of the first image in the second image, that the nature of man is relevant to the internal nature of the state, he compares man and the

Waltz argues that all three views on the causes of war play a role in explaining why states do what they do. Waltz also acknowledges that the blame for the cause of war may not be solely due to one particular image (neither man, nor the state and its structures), but the interrelationship between two or more of the images. He concludes that the anarchical structure of the international realm in addition to states who are only self-interested prevent the international world from existing in utopian peace.

Although Waltz focuses on three important and significant approaches to the question, he fails to consider other factors that may influence war and the behavior of states. For example, economic and historical factors, transnational organizations, cultures, tribes, alliances, religion and ethnicities. Waltz therefore, oversimplifies the extremely complex and large question regarding the cause of war. One review of Waltz’s work pointed out that his take on the motivations of men was too binary; the contrast of good and evil through optimism and pessimism was provided with lack of consideration for other factors.

Furthermore, Waltz has also been criticized for ‘parochialism’ for his criticism of behavioral scientists for their naiveté. Singer argues that, contrary to Waltz’s belief, we could benefit greatly from studying the disposition of men. For example, we would have greater understanding of foreign policy of a state if we were more knowledgeable of the culture of the people who established it. Much has changed since Man, the State and War was written, the United Nations has grown, the EU was formed, multilateral institutions and policies have gained much greater legitimacy and the global economy has brought states closer together.

Despite this, the arguments provided in the book are still highly relevant and applicable to the modern day international world. States still live in a self-help world where there is no authoritative body to come to their aid, Waltz’s work is relevant to explaining why men and nations fight. Waltz effectively employs analogies throughout his text to convey theories and explanations for abstract concepts. For example, in explaining the significance of the first image in the second image, that the nature of man is relevant to the internal nature of the state, he compares man and the