Compare and contrast the Waltzian (“The Anarchic Structure of World Politics”; “The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory”) and Gilpinian (“The Theory of Hegemonic War” and Kang, “Hierarchy and Hegemony in International Politics”) variants of neorealist theory, in terms of their basic assumptions, propositions, and supporting evidence.

IntroductionBeginning with the history of the study of International Relations that emerged between World War I and II, realism emerged as a mainstream approach to international relations due to the imperfection of the idealist approach, especially the discussion of ‘war’. The Idealis scholar approach was considered weak because it underestimated ‘power,’ and too flattered the height of human rationality, even believing that the nation-state had enumerated a large number of common interests in order to overcome the ‘scourge’ of war. Debates on the issue of power, rationality, mutual interests and the war began to emerge in the new generation of realism in the late 1930s, where they emphasized unlimited power and natural-political battles between nations. Realism was adopted as a concept that gave birth to various variants of theory, in International Relations, indeed not free from causality. Historical approaches that are implicitly full of war and cruelty are the dominant factors in exploring the beginnings of the emergence of realism. Realist perspectives come to the fore as a mainstream theory in the science of international relations has passed its originators, in this case, the initiators of the ideas of realism or classical realism figures.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

This realism thinking has been started since the time of Thucydides (The Melian Dialogue 460-406 BC) which is called classic-realism. Classical realism is the theory of international relations which explains the desire to gain greater power derived from human nature itself, the state is continuously used as a tool to fight for its capabilities. Humans are creatures who are never satisfied. When a need is met, he still wants to get it to its full potential. So, even if he is successful in his target, in fact, there are still many targets that are higher waiting. Thucydides saw that war was a rational and reasonable step to achieve security and the survival of the country because the state had no choice but to power politics they had to carry out in anarchic conditions. Thucydides’s basic assumption is based on human nature that is always seeking power and wealth at the instigation of interests, pride and fear.

Gilpin explained that according to Thucydides, peace was created when there was only one dominant power of hegemony in the international system. Gilpin added that the war would occur when the comparison of the strength of the two countries was relatively small, so they were not sure of the strength of the opponent, so they attacked. David C. Kang supported this hegemony system. According to Kang, international relations in East Asia lead to Hierarchy rather than Anarchy. The Westphalian culture in western countries that considers all nations or countries to be equal is very different from the East Asian culture that is guided by respect. One force that becomes hegemony here, the other forces will adjust while respecting the power of the hegemony, so that in East Asia there are fewer wars than western countries.

In 1979, Kenneth N. Waltz tried to formulate Realism in a new and distinctive way. While classical realists see international politics regarding country characteristics and their interactions with one another, Waltz focuses more on the anarchic nature of the international system and the distribution of power of the major countries that make up international structures. The power distribution forms systems known as bipolar, multipolar, and unipolar. According to Waltz, the overall condition of the system influences the behaviour of the state, not just the actors or state factors.

From the explanation above, we can know that there are some differences between Gilpin’s theory and neorealism theory according to Waltz. These differences begin with the basic assumption of this approach where realism refers more to the human/actor while in neorealism is the structural system that composes international relations. Therefore, it will be discussed more deeply about the basic assumptions of realism and neorealism theory, its propositions and their application in international relations.

Basic Assumptions
Gilpin explained about Thucydides’s statement that the basic mechanism of big war or hegemonic war is that humans always pursue wealth and power that are driven by interests, pride and fear. Humans are always selfish in overcoming moral principles. The advancement of knowledge that occurs today will not change human behaviour even though humans actually understand it, precisely with this matter will further increase human desire to gain strength, wealth, and technology so as to increase conflict and even war between social groups. According to him, a war like a disease that will always repeat along with the existing conditions.

Peace will only be created if there is only one dominant hegemon or state. This dominant state existence is what is called a stable system according to Thucydides where there is a rigid and dominant hierarchy of power or hegemon which has nothing to interfere with the vital interests of the dominant countries. If this stable system is disrupted where economic, technological and other changes erode the international hierarchy and undermine the position of the hegemonic country to be a country that is almost as powerful, causing a hegemonic state to be threatened with vital interests so that a diplomatic crisis can trigger a hegemonic war between countries in that system.

Unlike Gilpin, Waltz saw that the international relations system was already in an anarchic state. The primary focus of international relations was no longer on the actor, but on the system in which the actors interacted, where relations between countries were dictated by the anarchic nature of the international system, in other words, there is no higher authority than the state. With no higher authority governing international relations, countries are motivated to encourage survival, this is the cause of state behaviour from within. Thus, Waltz’s main focus in neorealism is the structure of the system and the distribution of power.

By focusing on the nature of the system-level structure, Waltz is against Gilpin where he avoids the need to make assumptions about human nature, morality, strengths and interests to survive. Thus Waltz saw power from a different perspective from classical realists. According to classical Realists, state behaviour aims only to gather the highest strength, while the Neorealist assumes that the interests of the state are security in running the system so that collecting self-help is a means to ensure their survival. To be able to survive this security pressure becomes a trigger for the arms race because every country feels threatened with the strength of other countries and competing to get even greater power to create a balance of power. This arms race causes security dilemma where there will be no war or only limited war because every country does not stop in buying unnecessary weapons and is busy in preparing for war.

In an effort to ensure security in an anarchy environment, Waltz sees the bipolar system as the main focus for peace, the assumption of Waltz that peace/security will only be achieved when their competition becomes sharp, by maintaining the system as they maintain themselves. Thus, the bipolar system is more stable and guarantees more security than the Unipolar and Multipolar systems because the competition is only internal to the two countries, there are no additional major powers that can be used to form alliances. Multipolar systems make a large country be a small force because compared to a combination of countries, and will only create uncertainty in the alliance because it cannot distinguish between friends and opponents.

Robert Gilpin has put forward three propositions embedded in the explanation of his views. The first is that hegemonic warfare influences by the changes in political, strategic and economic affairs are different from other war categories. The second is that the relationship between each country can be understood as a system; State behaviour is determined in large part by their strategic interaction. The third is that the hegemonic war threatens and changes the structure of the international system; whether the participants in the conflict initially realized it, what was at stake was the hierarchy of power and relations between countries in the system. In this case, Gilpin argues that the most important role in limiting hegemonic expansion is the strength of natural barriers and the loss of the power of gradients, economics and technological limits for optimal size, and domestic institutions, while the balance of power is at the level below.

The balance of power stated by Waltz explains that a stable system is a bipolar system. In the bipolar system, it appears that this system only sees the political interests of the state as an actor in international relations. This system does not think about how the welfare of citizens must also be fulfilled, how the social conditions that will occur in the future when decisions or foreign policy issued in the end is a battle for world peace. This bipolar system is very vulnerable because if the two great powers carry out a power struggle, then there will no longer be a single authority (unipolar) which will eventually lead to a single world dictatorship.

Supporting evidence
According to Gilpin and Kang, the hegemonic theory emphasizes how the system in a regime can work with the help of hegemonic states in it to maintain the stability of the world system. The act of domination of a country is needed to maintain the continuity of an open and stable economic system. To create hegemonic stability, demand a world order that is united in one Unitarian, namely in the concept of unipolar which indicates the existence of a single superpower, which serves as an international system stabilizer. A hegemonic country or dominant ruler must have the capability to implement a regulatory system, a strong desire to become a hegemon, and a commitment to a system that is considered to provide mutual benefits. While this capability is determined by the level of economic stability, dominance in the technology or economy, and political power backed up by military forces. The dominant state maintains the system of hegemony that he created and then utilizes the regime to obtain maximum profit for himself.

Based on Gilpin and Kang’s hegemony theory, the conditions described in this approach are proven if represented by the United States as a hegemonic country in the structure of the international economic and security regime. Until now realists have struggled to explain the absence of a balancing force against the United States or Chinese hegemony in East Asia that implements a “respect system” that emphasizes formal inequalities between countries and a clear hierarchy, and it is marked by centuries of stability among the participants. In this region, there were only two wars between China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan, namely the Chinese Invasion of Vietnam (1407-1428) and the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598). The smaller countries in the region imitate Chinese practices and accept Chinese centrality as a normative social order that also contains commitments that do not do so to exploit one another. Cultural, diplomatic and economic relations between countries in the region are broad and intensive and Korean, Vietnamese and even Japanese elites consciously apply these institutional practices. This proves that this inequality or hierarchy can actually explain the achievement of a stable international relations system with one hegemonic state in it. In contrast to the principle in the west that embraces Westphalia, which means equal status between countries, there are more conflicts. This evidence explains that the hegemony system is more successful in creating stability than the anarchy system.

The difference between Gilpin’s theory and neorealism theory according to Waltz can be seen from the basic assumptions that created this theory in which Gilpin focused more on the anarchic nature of humans while Waltz looked more at systems that built international relations. Human nature creates conflict that will continue to be repeated, while an anarchic international relations system encourages the state to do self-help in order to survive by building strength through the balance of power so that it is not attacked or war occurs. Based on its proposition, Gilpin sees the level of the role of balance of power under natural strength while Waltz with its bipolar balance of power theory does not see the social impact of war on its citizens. Evidence of Gilpin and Kang’s realism theory justification was in hegemony in East Asia where Chinese hegemony was able to create hierarchies that lowered the possibility of war through a system of respect.

Waltz, Kenneth N, Theory of Internasional Politics, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Philippines, 1979
Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, “American Primacy in Perspective,” Foreign Affairs, 81, No.4 (July/August 2002), p. 3
J. Ann Tickner, “A Critique of Hans Morgenthau’s Principles of Political Realism,” in Art/Jervis, eds., pp. 39-40
Robert Gilpin, “The Theory of Hegemonic War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 591-613.

Thucydides, “The Melian Dialogue,” in Robert Art and Robert Jervis, eds., International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, pp. 21-26.

Alexander Wendt, “Anarchy Is What States Make of It”, in Art/Jervis, eds., pp. 73-80.

Kenneth Waltz, “The Anarchic Structure of World Politics,” in Art/Jervis, eds., pp. 47-65.

David Kang, “Hierarchy and Hegemony in International Politics,” in Art/Jervis, eds., pp. 131-134.

Kenneth Waltz, “The Anarchic Structure of World Politics,” in Art/Jervis, eds., pp. 47-65.


I'm James!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out