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Structural realism – John J. Mearsheimer

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  1. Introduction
  2. About John J. Mearsheimer
  3. Mearsheimer's book about International relations theories
  4. China as a powerful State in international politics
  5. Structural realism
  6. Conclusion

The text we have is an extract from the Mearsheimer's book about International relations theories. In this extract, he presents the structural realism: he states the structural realist theory about international politics and conflicts. Hence, he also explains there are differences among the structural realists themselves: offensive realists do not have the same conception of the State's behavior as the defensive realists have. Structural realists think that States compete for power and that they are forced by international structures to pursue power (they do not really set store to human nature as the classical realists did). The power is first characterized by a military force; it also comprises latent power such as State's wealth, size of population?

Structural realists base their analysis on five assumptions: states are the main actors in an anarchic system (no centralized authority); they all possess some offensive military capacity; there are a lot of uncertainties about State's incentives; their major goal is to survive; they are rational actors. In my opinion, we may critique certain aspects of the structural assumptions. Firstly, it seems to be a bit simplistic to consider States as unitary elements which are the main actors in international politics. Indeed, such conception simplifies the state's organization which is in reality much more complicated: there are in fact many actors behind each decision. Structural realists do not take into account the role lobbies play in order to influence policy makers (even if this role is not always institutionalized). Moreover, certain States are really decentralized and local actors also have an influence power over the State even if I think that structural realists are right to consider States as the main actors.

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