After reading this week’s assignments concerning realism, I believe that neo-structuralist realism offers the greatest explanatory power in modern international relations. The drive for and sustainment of power (by the state in an anarchic international system) is the key variable in considering realism and how the realist approaches international theory. Seeking and acquiring power is inconsequential of the values and beliefs of the individuals or actors that make up the state. Neorealism also makes this assumption but then adds on to the classical paradigm by adding that while power is the key variable, “it exists less as an end of itself than as a necessary and inevitable component of a political relationship” (Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff, Jr 2001, 80). Neorealism tweaks the colder, harsher view of power held by classical realists by stating that accumulating and sustaining power is in response to the behaviors and actions of other states in the system. States make decisions based on what is going to enable them to survive, and this can and will be be influenced by domestic politics and alliances at the international level.
A supporting example of neorealism theory is the nuclear arms race during the Cold war and development of MAD or mutually assured destruction doctrine.Mutually assured destruction is the assumption that each state has enough nuclear weaponry to completely destroy the enemy, and the enemy can retaliate in same or greater force. MAD then evolves into mutually assured deterrence which states that security is achieved by the stalemate created by MAD. If both sides will be obliterated, neither side is eager to pull the trigger. As one state (the US) created its nuclear weapons stockpile and capabilities, the other state (Soviet Union) upped its own accordingly to supersede or at the very least match the destruction possible. Reacting to the actions and behaviors of another state to secure power is the essence of structural neorealism.
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