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Kenneth N. Waltz on Balance of Power - Dictionary of Arguments

Brocker I 634
Balance of Power/WaltzVsTradition/Waltz: the central assumption of a Balance-of-Power theory is that states are unitary actors whose minimum goal is their own survival and whose maximum goal is universal dominance. To this end, states have two means of power: increasing internal power (arming, strengthening the economy) or increasing external power (forming alliances or conquering). Since increasing external power requires a system of at least three states, the traditional theory is based on at least three actors.
WaltzVs: this assumption is wrong (1). Two or more states coexist in a self-help system without superordinate central power, which can rush to the aid of a weak state or deter a state from using the means of power it could use to pursue its interests. In such a system, the expected result is a balance of power. According to Waltz, the primary goal of states is to maintain their position in the international system (2). Therefore, they will prefer balancing the powers over bandwagoning to stronger states.
Waltz's thesis: this applies not only to the relationship between great powers, but to any constellation of two states in competition.
WaltzVsTradition/WaltzVsMorgenthau: older authors (including Hans J. Morgenthau) had adopted a will of state actors to create systems of balance, Waltz considers this superfluous. (3) Waltz: not the motives of the actors, but the system structure ensures that balance occurs. (4)


1. Kenneth N. Waltz, „Theory of International Relations“, in: Fred Greenstein/Nelson W. Polsby (Hg.) International Politics: Handbook of Political Science, Reading, Mas. 1975, p. 36
2. Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Reading, Mas. 1979, p. 126.
3. Hans J. Morgenthau, Macht und Frieden. Grundlegung einer Theorie der internationalen Politik, Gütersloh 1963, p. 219-220.
3. Waltz 1979, p. 128.


Carlo Masala, „Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics” in: Manfred Brocker (Hg.) Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M. 2018


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

PolWaltz I
Kenneth N. Waltz
Man,the State and War New York 1959

Brocker I
Manfred Brocker
Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert Frankfurt/M. 2018


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