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info /2013/07/29/kenneth-waltz-metatheo rist-mind-wo rld-mo nism-in-theo ry-o f-internatio nal-po litics/
Kenneth Waltz, Metatheorist?: Mind-World Monism in ‘Theory of International Politics’
By Brittnee Carter
On May 12, 2013, the f ield of International Relations lost one its greatest minds. I am, of course, ref erring to Kenneth Waltz. As the f ounding f ather of neorealism, Waltz contributed many works, but his most crucial is arguably Theory of International Politics(T IP). T IP is considered by many to be a classic text that af f ords scholars the opportunity to test hypotheses of international political outcomes. However, metatheoretical implications of Waltz’s work have been largely overlooked by scholars and students of the f ield. T hat said, this essay proposes that T IP has more to of f er than instruction in hypothesis testing, as it can also be seen as a guide with valuable lessons f or the creation of theory. Waltz began his career as an economist, but af ter several years in graduate school he realized his true passion was English literature and political philosophy. Af ter switching to a new program, in 1959 Waltz wrote Man, the State, and War(MSW) f rom his doctoral dissertation with the intent of providing, or sorting out, language to f acilitate conversation about the assumptions of cause in international political outcomes. Waltz was concerned by the miscommunication and lack of understanding between scholars and f elt that the root of this problem lay in issues with the f ormation of theory itself . It was this concern that led Waltz to enroll at the London School of Economics in order to study philosophy of science. Af ter experiencing mild disappointment in this program, Waltz devoted the next period of his lif e to self -education in metatheory. T hese metatheoretical concerns permeate every f acet of T IP. Its f irst chapter is meant to convey Waltz’s understanding of theory, highlighting several important characteristics of the theory building process. First, theories must be constructed, not observed. Second, the world which is depicted by the theory and the world f rom which these inf erences are drawn are one in the same and cannot be separated. Lastly, the purpose of theory is not to test hypotheses, but rather to simplif y reality and f acilitate discussion. T hat theories must be created is possibly the most important principle in the creation process according to Waltz. Arriving at a theory by aggregating f acts and observations is what Waltz terms the “inductivist illusion.” T his illusion lies in the “belief that the truth is won and explanation achieved through more and more data and the examination of more and more cases.”  No matter the amount of data gathered and relationships explained, they do not signif y the existence of a singular truth. If theory is created in this manner, then theory itself is reduced to nothing more but a testament to its own supposed certainty. “We can never say with assurance that a state of af f airs arrived at inductively corresponds to something objectively real.” T heories are not meant to be created inductively, but rather a mentally f ormed picture that attempts to explain a particular phenomenon or the relationship between phenomena. T he second point made about theory building, that the theoretical world and the world about which it theorizes are of the same reality, is presented in a much vaguer f ashion. Waltz argues theories represent a “bounded realm of domain or activity,” but that this realm is merely a simplif ication of the reality that it represents. T heory is not a representation of an external reality; theory helps to organize parts of reality and connections among them. Waltz writes scholars who believe in a “reality out there” (one that exists separate f rom our minds) rest on the conviction that knowledge is certainty, but that certainty can never be attained, theref ore the assumption of a theoretical world separate f rom the world it depicts does not hold water. T his rendition of Waltz’s theory complements Patrick T haddeus Jackson’s argument that Waltz is a mind-world monist. Monists argue that reality cannot be, and is not, separate f rom our minds. Jackson’s argument, albeit controversial, astutely identif ies the monist elements of T IP: that theory and
what is to be the f ate of hypothesis testing? It seems throughout T IP. And ultimately. of ten leading to experiments laced with variables that are “conf used. many such as Ole Waeverand Nicholas Onuf . Theory of International Politics(Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Kenneth Waltz. University of Calif ornia Berkeley. T he predictions that come as a result of testing International Relations theory are indeterminate because the conditions under which they are tested are not f ixed. including Randall Schwellerand William Wohlf orth. and f luctuating. Part two of chapter one begins by stating the necessary requirements f or hypothesis testing and chapter six appears to provide directions on how the balance of power theory can be tested. Waltz. it is through the testing of neorealism that the f ield has been able to identif y the theory’s strengths and weaknesses. in examining T IP f rom a dif f erent perspective. but is incredibly dif f icult to test in f ields like international politics.berkeley. Theory. Many scholars.” Even theories that are “logical.have been drawn in by the allure of empiricism and the possibilities f or validation that neorealism of f ers.edu/people3/Waltz/waltz-con1. “Kenneth Waltz Interview: Conversations with History.” To those in search of a generalizable truth. According to Jackson’s analysis of Waltz. 4. Brittnee also holds an MA in Russian. positivist representations of Waltz are not without merit. However. coherent. his concern f or what theory is and how it should be created can of f er prudence and caution to those looking to create and test theory. T his representation will likely give rise to doubt in the minds of many of the f ield’s scholars and students because it stands in vivid contrast to traditional representations of Waltz as an empiricist and Popperian. and it is usef ul f or ordering experience and f acilitating discourse. T heory may raise expectations. and Waltz admits in T IP that hypothesis testing can be usef ul in this respect.html. Waltz presents clear instructions on how to test neorealist theory. “it makes little sense to f ormulate and test hypotheses because the idea of an externally existing world against which to test them is nonsensical. In f act. Kenneth Waltz. the argument f or Waltz as a metatheorist who was greatly inf luenced by his studies in philosophy of science is strengthened by what is written in T IP: theory is a simplif ication of reality constructed within our minds. they are varying and uncertain. pieces and parts of reality are inf inite and there is no way to know them all or how they will f it together. international ethics and international security. 7. However.reality are one in the same and that theory is merely a means to order or arrange the parts that make up reality.” T hose who believe the pieces can be added up to create a model with independent and dependent variables have no more than their own f aith. — Brittnee Carter is a PhD student in the department of Political Science at the University of Kansas. Her research interests include international relations theory. . T his is especially true of T IP since the primary unit of analysis is the ever transf orming international system. T hat said.” 2003:http://globetrotter. 1979). “rigorous testing of vague theory is an exercise in the use of methods rather than a usef ul ef f ort to test theory… Trying to check them [hypotheses] experimentally is to place more weight on the theory than it can bear. If no distinction between theory and reality exists. Waltz believes good theory to be too parsimonious to be tested. vague. “T he Virtue of Adversity. While I cannot and do not claim to know what Waltz’s true intentions were when he wrote T IP. East European and Central Asian studies from the University of Washington where she studied post-Soviet politics and security. I submit this essay as an alternative lens through which to view neorealism.” International Relations23 (September 2009): 501-502. a lens that of f ers a metatheoretical perspective to the f ield of International Relations on the work of the great Kenneth Waltz.have extracted metatheoretical implications that indicate Waltz’s preoccupation with theory building as well as several caveats f or those attempting to test theory. Waltz cautions. and plausible” are subject to limitations with hypothesis testing.
2011). Theory. Are Democracies Pacif ic?” World Politics 44 (January 1994): 72-107. 4. 16.” Nicholas Onuf . Theory. 4-5. T his is taken f rom several statements made by Waltz in an interview with Ole Waever. Patrick T haddeus Jackson. “Structure? What Structure?” International Relations23(June 2009): 183-199. Waever. Jackson. Tags: ir theo ry. Mind-Wo rld Mo nism. Waltz. Theory. Waltz. Theory. 5. Theory.” International Relations23 (June 2009): 209. Meta-Theo ry. “Waltz’s T heory of T heory. Theory. Waltz. “T he Russian-Soviet Empire: A Test of Neorealism. 124-125. T he interview appears in: Ole Waever. Waltz. neo realism. Theory15. 4. 6-8. 38. Waltz . “Waltz’s T heory of T heory. “Domestic Structure and Preventative War. 38. Waltz. Theory.” Review of International Studies27 (December 2001): 213-235. 8. Waltz.Waltz. 16. Theory. The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and its Implications for the Study of World Politics(New York: Routledge. philo so phy o f science . 8-9. Waltz. Kenneth Waltz. Theory. Randall Schweller. Waltz. William Wohlf orth. Inductivist Illusion is originally termed by Levi-Strauss.
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