What´S Neo Realism Essay

1400 words - 6 pages


Neo-Realism was the most appropriate political theory to explain events during the Cold War.
This paper will explore the rise to prominence of Neo-Realism and its assimilation to the praxis of the Cold War. The main scholar I will be concerned with is Kenneth Waltz (considered father of Neo-Realism). Before I begin my analysis, I would like to note that this paper excludes the breakdown of offensive and defensive Neo-Realism as specific strands, I mainly focus on the theory at large. The period I will be looking at here is explicitly the Cold War.


Neo-realisms main scholars are John Mearsheimer, Hans Morgenthau, and the aforementioned Kenneth Waltz. The latter has developed the theory, which ignores humans as a causal factor and argues that it is the anarchic system of the international arena, and the lack of central authority to safeguard states from each other, which brings them to the main concern: security. That motivates them to pursue more power and distrust one another. It states that a bipolar world with two great powers and smaller alliances is easier to manage. (Waltz, 1988)

The emergence of the theory dates back to the start of the Cold War. (Walt, 1998) The rise of the communist USSR and US, in a battle of ideology and power led scholars back to the drawing boards. A situation like the Cold War, had never been witnessed before, and therefore it gave a new meaning to power politics. Nuclear concerns and the then recent acknowledgement of their devastating consequences, where the main basis to the idea of what would later become the idea of balance of power and nuclear parity. These are the main elements which led to the development of Neo-Realism.


The primary Neo-realism assumption concerns that of an anarchic international system. It asserts that it is impossible for states to cooperate and that therefore they operate upon their free will. (Waltz, 1988) Jack Donnelly also mentions this in a latter work and states that the absence of an international governmental authority brings every state to act for its own benefit. (Donnelly, 2000)
If we were to seek how this notion was applied during the Cold War, we can look back at the relationship between the USSR and US. There were no direct talks between the parties, suspicion on one another was the main concern of the two countries, so much so that they popularised the concept of secret espionage as a means of obtaining information.
Direct dialogue was inconceivable. If we’re to paraphrase Waltz, one country’s comfort results in another country’s state of alert. (Waltz, 1988)

Concerns of security

From the former idea of anarchy comes the feeling of state insecurity. States do no trust each other and are thus always pessimistic about the role of their counterparts. Due to that, their main objective goes onto become the requirement for security in order to be prepared to repel any potential incursion by foreign states.
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