Understanding Man, the State and War

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This article expounds and assesses the key contentions of Man, the State, and War. It notes that the book contains meta-theoretical and theoretical components. Through a close re-examination of the text, the article shows how Waltz arrives at his third-image conclusion, reveals a number of errors of a conceptual or logical nature in the meta-theoretical moves that lead him to this conclusion, and explains how such errors are partly rooted in a deeper issue that the book addresses — how to integrate the three images (or three contending estimates of the major cause of war) into one overarching image of world politics based on the agent/structure dichotomy and the distinction between macro and micro enquiries. The article goes on to outline Waltz’s substantive theory of international politics, found in an embryonic form in Man, the State, and War, speculates on the sources of the book’s success, and assesses its main significance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-388
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • agent
  • causes
  • levels
  • Man
  • the State
  • War
  • structure
  • Kenneth Waltz


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