Theoretical Critique : Offensive Realism

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Theoretical Critique: Offensive Realism By Daniel Giurk November 2014 John Mearsheimer’s theory of offensive realism follows similar assumptions to that of other realist theories such as Thomas Hobbes and Niccolò Machiavelli’s realism, or Kenneth Waltz’s structural realism. Mearsheimer’s theory operates on five core assumptions. First, as with other realist theories, Mearsheimer assumes that the international system is anarchic, meaning there is no overarching institution that governs nation states. Second, under offensive realism all great powers possess offensive military capabilities. Third, States can never be sure that other states will not use their offensive military capabilities against them. Fourth, drawing from neorealist thought, states seek to maintain their survival above all other goals. Finally, all states within the system are rational actors (Mearsheimer, 2001). These assumptions hold a substantial amount of merit if the international system is viewed as anarchic. Since anarchy is assumed, all states must fend for themselves by any means necessary. This is where offensive realism borrows from neorealist and classical realist thought, in that states just want enough power to survive. Although states seek to acquire as much power as possible, because it’s hardwired into human nature, according to offensive realism. However, unlike classical realism where the pursuit of ultimate power by states is assumed, ultimate power is viewed as the best strategy for
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