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Structural and Motivational Realism

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Silvia Cattaneo

on 20 October 2014

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Transcript of Structural and Motivational Realism

The Realist Family

One first distinction
Structural Realism vs Motivational Realism
Summary: common elements in the Realist family
Power, balancing and threats
States do not balance against power, but against
Kenneth Waltz: Theory of International Politics
The key operational assumption in Waltz's theory is that States fight for their own

"Survival" is understood in a benign connotation: defend what one state has, not take what others have.
Offensive Structural Realism
Same context, different conclusions: anarchy and power maximization

An alliance is "“a promise of mutual military assistance between two or more sovereign states” (Arnold Wolfers)
Defensive Structural Realism
Cooperation and restraint are possible under certain conditions.
Structural Realism (or Neorealism)
“Among states, the state of nature is a state of war”
Gain power to obtain security
Power is the key to ensure survival
Power distribution and stability
Is stability more likely in a bipolar or multipolar system?
Do not trust others
Power maximization at any occasion is the standard rule for states
Balancing can fail
Potential allies may be too distant geographically
They may be too slow to respond
They may choose to buckpass instead of balancing
And buckpassing happens more frequently anyway...

Threats are a function of:
Geographic proximity
Aggressive ideology
(Perception of) aggressive intentions
Offensive capabilities
When do states bandwagon?
Five elements:
1. It is a promise, an explicit mutual declaration of future intent;
2. Involves military collaboration;
3. Directed towards, against, particular states (vs collective security systems);
4. Involves only states;
5. The form of the alliance remains open: can be offensive, defensive, neutrality pact, deal not to use force, non-aggression agreements).

The security dilemma
Increasing one's security decreases that of others
Forms of cooperation
Arms control
Unilateral restraint
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Motivational Realism
Looks at states' motives to explain the competitive nature of the international system
Competition is fueled by the actions of "greedy states", which pursue their inherent desire to expand, even if they are already secure
Looks at the structure of the international system to explain states' behavior. States are "security seekers", whose principal goal is to maintain security
Neorealism "à la Kenneth Waltz"
Offensive Structural Realism
Defensive structural Realism
A system is a set of units and their interactions. It is defined by three elements:
Ordering principle (centralized and hierarchical vs decentralized and anarchic);
Functional specialization of units;
Distribution of capabilities
In international systems, the ordering principle and functional specialization of units never change. It is variations in the distribution of capabilities that determine differences across systems (e.g. multipolar vs bipolar)
War is inherent, but not permanent
How do we get from a "benign" notion of survival to a natural state of war"?
States will then pursue unilateral competitive policies to protect their safety and interests
Because the international system is anarchic, states are put in a condition of "self-help": lacking a higher authority guaranteeing their protection, they must ensure it on their own
There are few incentives to cooperation: adversaries could cheat on an agreement; their future motives and intentions can change. The possibility to be the target of force leads states to constantly prepare to defend themselves
Power is a combination of territory, population, economic and military resources
How do you gain power?
Which form of balancing is possible in multipolar systems? And bipolar ones?
In bipolar systems:
Capability calculations are easier;
Shifting alliances have no effect on balance;
Nuclear weapons and the fear of annihiliation lead to caution
Is the search for greater power unlimited?
If you have to guess, assume the worst
This includes pursuing hegemonic policies
Triggers escalation dynamics
Gives out perceptions of greediness
Confidence-building measures
Severity of the security dilemma
Defense/Offense balance
When the offense has the advantage, "it is easier to destroy the other's army and take its territory than it is to defend one's own."
If the offence has the advantage
War is profitable (low cost, high benefit)
Incentives for high levels of arms (for quick and decisive action)
Early recruitment of allies
Adjustment of perceptions towards others' actions
Distinction between offence and defense
Alliance behavior
Historically, balancing has occurred more often than bandwagoning
Balancing leaves more freedom of action than subordination
Intentions and motives can change over time > benevolent hegemons can become threats
A historical inconsistency?
There are no available allies with which to balance
What is the role of ideology in all this?
1. Emphasis on the anarchic nature of the international system;
2. Power is a key feature of states' relations, especially intended in military terms;
3. States are essentially unitary actors;
4. States are rational actors, which act strategically;
5. Opposing states are “black-boxed”;
6. States are the key actors of the international system. Others are marginal or entirely irrelevant;
7. The international system is typically viewed as characterized by competition and war.

Particularly weak states tend to side with the winner, especially if they border great powers
Ally with the stronger to "share the spoils"
"When the defense has the advantage, it is easier to protect and to hold than it is to move forward, destroy and take."
The "cult of the offensive" in WWI
Bismarck's "easy wars"
1. States sought semi-permanent allies, not to be caught off-guard
2. High defense expenditure and quick reactions to others' increases in armaments
3. Belief next European war would not be costly
4. Strong pressures to pre-empt
5. Awareness that all thought similarly
If O and D can be distinguished, the security dilemma does not operate. Why?
The distinction of O and D carries benefits:
Status quo states can identify each other
They will have enough warning when others plan aggression
It provides a good basis for selective arms control/reduction
Full transcript