How Do Levels of Analysis Help Us

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How do the ‘levels of analysis’ formula help us understand the causes of war?

War exists for a number of reasons. States wanting to acquire land, countries that require resources from another country and using force in order to get it, and religious, or holy wars. The causes of war are vast but the roots generally come from individual decisions by leaders, internal state intervention, or international conflicts. Whatever the reason, it is safe to assume that war is a constant; a variable that we as a race have became accustomed too. It is no wonder then that many people have tried to define and re-define war over and over, inventing theories and formulas that we might gain a better understanding of the implications and motives behind going to war. At the end of World War 1, the world became engrossed in how we could prevent such a catastrophe such as World War 1 from ever happening again. The League of Nations was set up as a result of the treaty of Versailles in 1919, in order to combat the outbreak of war and further cement the world in peaceful ideals.

International relations helps better explain the relationships between states (for example, why the UK and the USA have such a close coalition) and explains why there is international interdependence, as in why member states of the UN have to accept decisions that don’t necessarily facilitate their own needs. International relations explain the governmental systems of dominance and dependence that can help, and hinder countries in their decision-making (e.g. Capitalism, Imperialism and communism). International relations explains more than just the actions of individual and collective states, it also explains the actions of governmental and non-governmental groups, such as terrorist organizations, guerilla militia groups and Green Peace. The I.R theory exists solely to help us understand the world and guide policy decisions. Different theories of I.R. can help provide different perspectives of world events. It is these theories of I.R that can be broken down into two categories, either rationalist, or reflectivist theories. Rationalist theories are centralized around the idea that reality is a given, it is because it is. Realism and liberalism are part of rationalist theories. Where as reflectivist theories believe that reality is constructed and therefore reproduced.

The political scientist Kenneth Waltz, who classified theories of international relations in his 1959 novel, “Man, the State, and War”(3) coined the level of analysis theory. In his book, Waltz highlighted his idea that international relations can be broken down into three main levels of understanding. In the first level, Waltz explains that the individual, primarily focusing on a more psychological reason behind going to war, and the individual actions that leaders make, is driving international politics. Examples of this can be seen in controversial leaders, extremist views, religion, and greed and general ideologies. The second level explains that the states and the domestic goings on inside a country, or state drive international politics. The third level focuses on the worldwide idea of perpetual anarchy within states, and the systematic factors that are exerted on state behavior. Waltz’s main contribution to political science was in his creation of Neorealism, otherwise known as structural realism. It posits that the actions of states can usually be explained by the amount of pressure that is exerted on them by other competitive states, which in turn, limits and puts a constraint on their choices. Neorealism therefore aims to better explain recognizable and common patterns in the behavior of states. Waltz says that the world operates in a constant state of worldwide anarchy. He identifies the perpetual anarchy of the international environment, from the rules of the domestic. Within the domestic realm, all states (or actors) might plead to, and be influenced by, a central governing authority –...
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