Anarchy is Partly What States Make of It

  • Arash Heydarian Pashakhanlou

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The anarchy assumption is based on the premise that there is no overarching central authority to govern states interaction and has long been a core assumption of the discipline of international relations. This dissertation subjects the differing views of two of the most prominent contributors to this discourse, Kenneth Waltz and Alexander Wendt, to a careful and comprehensive scrutiny. This in depth-analysis reveals that Waltz is correct in depicting the anarchic international stage as a self-help system and not as an other-help system like Wendt. In turn, this dissertation concurs with Wendt that the character of the anarchic system cannot solely be explained through the distribution of capabilities as in Waltz's neorealism. It must be supplemented with other variables such as the intersubjective understanding of the actors for instance. This survey however rejects both Waltz‟s unfoundedly pessimistic and Wendt's unjustifiably optimistic estimations regarding the prospect for cooperation under anarchy. An illustration of how the strengths of Waltz's and Wendt's approach can be combined and serve as a basis for the development of a more sophisticated, nuanced and realistic understanding of the anarchic international system brings this study to a closure
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorKamila Stullerova (Supervisor)


  • anarchy problematique
  • Alexander Wendt
  • Kenneth Waltz

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