Book Analysis: The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

Topics: International relations, John Mearsheimer, Hegemony Pages: 2 (507 words) Published: December 15, 2013
In the book ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’, Mearsheimer presents a theory on ‘offensive realism’, which is an alternative to the ‘defensive realism’ developed by Kenneth Waltz and the ‘classical realism’ of Hans Morgenthau. Offensive Realism conceptualizes the relationship of power position and national interests of great powers.

Mearsheimer states that there are five assumptions reasonably represent an important aspect of the international system. Firstly, the international system is characterized by anarchy or ‘self-help’. The system comprises independent states that have no central authority above them, which is ‘no government over governments.’ Secondly, great powers inherently possess some offensive military capabilities, which gives them the wherewithal to hurt and possibility destroy each other. The third assumption is that states can never be certain about other states’ intensions. Furthermore, intensions can change quickly. So uncertainty about intensions is unavoidable. The fourth assumption states that survival is the primary goal of great powers. States can and do pursue other goals, but security is their most important objective. Lastly, Mearsheimer states that great powers are rational actors. They are aware of their external environment and they think strategically about how to survive in it. From these assumptions, three general patterns of behavior result: fear, self-help, and power maximization (Mearsheimer p.31-33).

According to these five assumptions, Mearsheimer addresses that the world where we live tends to be dangerous and terrible. I endorse his idea. In my opinion, it’s inevitable that hegemonism exists, and states may have trend to achieve hegemonism. This is not decided by humanity but the structure of international system, especially its identity of anarchy. In the world of realism, every country is familiar with the aforementioned logic. Their only path available is to chase hegemonism and compete in safety, in...
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