The Importance Of Anarchy In International Relations

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In International Relations, various theoretical perspectives are employed to provide a clear framework for the analysis of complex international relationships. One key concept that scholars have strived to fully analyze is “anarchy” and its significance within the International System. Anarchy, as defined by many IR scholars, is the lack of an overarching authority that helps govern the international system. (Class Notes, January 29). Its importance and power to dictate actions between states is often debated and various theories have been used to describe its significance. A realist theory would suggest that states are the only relevant actors in international politics. Realists believe that since there is no central authority to govern these…show more content…
Unlike structural realism, constructivist social theory argues that “States act differently toward enemies than they do toward friends because enemies are threatening and friends are not. Anarchy and the distribution of power are insufficient to tell us which is which”(Wendt, 79). Based on Wendt’s philosophy, whether the international system is conflictual or peaceful is not due to anarchy and power but due the shared relations and social practices between states. By interacting with other states, Wendt argues that identities will form based on diplomatic gestures, which means states can be able to achieve peaceful relations. Simply put, anarchy does not control conflictual relationships between states. Since,"anarchy is what states make of it,” all states do not need to stress over their relative power and can focus on achieving long term peace.(Wendt, 79-80). While realist classical perspectives point to solely human nature and the anarchical system as the reason for conflict, Wendt provides an example showing that the self identities of states can lead to peace or conflict. He points to defining situations in context history that help determine a state 's interest. He states, “This seems to be happening today in the United States and the former Soviet Union. Without the cold war’s mutual attributions of threat and hostility to define their identities, these states seem unsure of what their ‘interests’…show more content…
It argues that the lack of an authority higher than nation-states, causes states to act only in competitive and selfish ways, and that material power determines relations between states. John Mearsheimer supports this by saying, “States are potentially dangerous to each other. Although some states have more military might than others and are therefore more dangerous”(Mearsheimer, 70). Instead of keeping identities and interests in mind when determining relations between states, realists assert that anarchy will cause states to act solely in their best interest. Kenneth Waltz attempted to explain a structural realist perspective about anarchic structure. He argues that due to the absence of a international governing body, states should actively pursue conflict in order to ensure their own survival. He goes on to use economic concepts to describe his viewpoint of the anarchical structure of international politics. He says, “The market arises out of the activities of separate units--persons and firms--whose aims and efforts are directed not toward creating order but rather fulfilling their own internally defined interests by whatever means they can muster”(Waltz, 52). This supports the realist argument that states operate based on self interest and, contrasting with Wendt, do not consider their identities within the international system.
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