Main Features of Neorealism and Weaknesses

Published 04 Nov 2016

Strengths and Weaknesses Essay

The amplification of the school of neorealism in the science of international relations occurred at the end of the previous century. The term itself reflects the desire of a number of American theorists of political science to preserve the advantages of the classical tradition and, at the same time, to enrich it, taking into account the new transborder realities and the achievements of other theoretical currents. Kenneth Waltz was the main its developer.

Insisting that in any of its theoretical constructs the researcher of interethnic binding should proceed from the integrity of the world, from the existence of a global system, and not separate realms that are its elements, Waltz makes a certain step towards rapprochement with transnationalism. Defending the main points of political realism (the “natural realm” of transborder binding, the rationality in the actions of the main actors, the national interest as their main motive, the security dilemma, the desire for possession of power), Waltz at the same time criticizes his predecessors for failing to create a theory of interethnic politics as an autonomous discipline.

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According to Waltz, neorealism begins with the following statement. The theory of transborder relations and world politics is not the same thing. Unlike the canonical realism, neorealism is not inclined to interpret world politics as a kind of total resultant external politicians; it is based on the abstraction of the political sphere from other spheres of interethnic binding. Neorealism abstracts the political sphere from other spheres of transborder relations. In this way, it gets more opportunities both for analyzing the current and for forecasting the expected.

Neorealism has its own approach. It studies an interethnic politics as a coherent system functioning in accordance with certain laws. Depending on what causes of conflict researchers consider the main, all studies of transborder binding and, in particular, armed contradiction is compiled into three groups. A person is in the center of the initial one. The representatives of the second group argue that the crucial cause is the style of government in the country. The third group identifies the causes of the systemic property. Waltz believes that, with all their merits, the initial two approaches are reductive and cannot lead to the identification of genuine causes of conflict, and therefore, to help develop ways to prevent or overcome them. Only the third, systemic approach can be fruitful in this respect.

At the same time, in the opinion of Kenneth Waltz, the systemic nature of interethnic relations is conditioned not by the cooperating realm actors, it results not from features inherent in the realms, determined by geographical position, demographic potential, socio-cultural specifics, etc. (although the significance of such features should not be denied), but from the properties of the frame of the transborder system. As a consequence of the interaction of interethnic actors, the frame of the transborder system is not reduced to a simple sum but is an independent phenomenon capable of imposing certain restrictions on realms, or, on the contrary, to provide them with favorable opportunities on the world stage. The main thing is that it is the structural features of the interethnic system that explain the discrepancies between goals and results in the foreign policy activity of realms.

Nevertheless, the realms behave very similarly in similar transborder situations. Waltz comes to the conclusion that there is a correlation between the foreign policy behavior of realms and the so-called systemic tension. Thus, the main explanation of realm behavior in interaction with other realms is transferred to the level of the interethnic frame. The frame itself is defined as a set of coercive conditions and constraints. Therefore, the proper understanding and, accordingly, the forecasting of transborder politics (as well as the planning of the realm’s foreign policy line) depend on the accuracy of determining the totality of these coercions. Waltz limits this set to three elements: the leading principle (the anarchy of interethnic binding), the allotment of the aptitudes of the actors (corresponding to their strength) and the functional differentiation (the differences between subjects regarding internal political views).


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