Realismo ofensivo

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Article |
John J. Mearsheimer: an offensive realist between geopolitics and power |
Peter Tofta |
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aDepartment of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Østerfarimagsgade 5, DK 1019 Copenhagen K, Denmark. E-mail: pt@ifs.ku.dk |
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Abstract |
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With a number of controversial publications behind him and not least his book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John J.Mearsheimer has firmly established himself as one of the leading contributors to the realist tradition in the study of international relations since Kenneth Waltz'sTheory of International Politics. Mearsheimer's main innovation is his theory of 'offensive realism' that seeks to re-formulate Kenneth Waltz's structural realist theory to explain from a structural point of departure the sheer amount ofinternational aggression, which may be hard to reconcile with Waltz's more defensive realism. In this article, I focus on whether Mearsheimer succeeds in this endeavour. I argue that, despite certain weaknesses, Mearsheimer's theoretical and empirical work represents an important addition to Waltz's theory. Mearsheimer's work is remarkably clear and consistent and provides compelling answers to why,tragically, aggressive state strategies are a rational answer to life in the international system. Furthermore, Mearsheimer makes important additions to structural alliance theory and offers new important insights into the role of power and geography in world politics.Journal of International Relations and Development (2005) 8, 381408. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jird.1800065 |
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Keywords |
|great power politics; international security; John J. Mearsheimer; offensive realism; realism; security studies |
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IntroductionDangerous security competition will inevitably re-emerge in post-Cold War Europe and Asia.1 International institutions cannot produce peace. Germany and Japan are likely to pursue nuclear deterrents. America is likely to end its continental commitments in Europeand Asia. The United States (US) should curb China's rise. All great powers act as aggressive power-maximizers despite embracing liberal democracy. America was wrong to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. These statements roughly sum up the conclusions suggested by John Mearsheimer in his numerous articles and books covering a range of subjects on international relations. The provocative nature ofMearsheimer's work has spurred several major debates both within the sub-discipline of international relations (IR) and beyond academia.2 As a consequence of this remarkable ability to inspire important debates, Mearsheimer stands out as one on the most controversial and influential contributors to the contemporary realist tradition. In his earlier writings, Mearsheimer was primarily concerned withstrategic studies and produced a number of articles and books on military strategy (Mearsheimer 1983, 1984, 1988, 1989). However, the underpinnings of his most debated arguments are his particular version of structural realism, dubbed 'offensive realism', which is fully developed in the book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (Mearsheimer 2001c)  although his theoretical argument is present inearlier works as well (e.g. Mearsheimer 1988: 225, 1995a, 1995b,1998, 2001b).In this article, I deal with Mearsheimer's theoretical work with the purpose of appraising his specific contribution to the structural realist strand within the broad realist tradition in the study of international relations.3 This is an important task for two main reasons. First, the accumulation of knowledge is probably themost celebrated scientific ideal and Mearsheimer explicitly builds on and seeks to improve the insights of Kenneth Waltz's structural realism (neorealism) with its focus on the effects of the international anarchic structure. Consequently, it is highly important to evaluate whether Mearsheimer succeeds in this endeavour. Second, Mearsheimer has used his work as a platform for launching strong...
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