From Balance of Power to Balancing Behavior: The Long and Winding Road

  • Susan B. Martin


The relation between structural realist theory and the study of foreign policy has long been problematic and controversial. Kenneth Waltz has clearly argued that structural realism is a theory of international outcomes, not a theory of foreign policy, and that indeed it cannot be a theory of foreign policy. At the same time, Waltz clearly thinks that structural realism can help us to understand state behavior, and when exploring the economic and military effects of structural causes in Theory of International Politics, he uses the behavior of particular states as illustrations.1


Foreign Policy State Behavior Systemic Balance International Politics External Threat 
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  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
    Recent work on, and challenges to, balance of power theory includes Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder, “Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity,” International Organization 44, no. 2 (Spring 1990), 137–68; Robert G. Kaufman, “‘To Balance or to Bandwagon?’ Alignment Decisions in 1930s Europe,” Security Studies 1, no. 3 (Spring 1992), 417–47; Robert Jervis and Jack Snyder, eds., Dominoes and Bandwagons (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Eric J. Labs, “Do Weak States Bandwagon?” Security Studies 1, no. 3 (Spring 1992), 383–416; Emerson M. S. Niou, Peter C. Ordeshook and Gregory F. Rose, The Balance of Power: Stability in International Systems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Paul W. Schroeder, “The Nineteenth Century System: Balance of Power or Political Equilibrium?” Review of International Studies 15 (1989), 135–53; Paul W. Schroeder, “Historical Reality versus Neo-Realist Theory,” International Security 19, no. 1 (Summer 1994), 108–48; Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics 1763–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, [1994] 1996); Randall Schweller, “Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In,” International Security 19, no. 1 (Summer 1994), 72–107; John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91, no. 4 (December 1997), 899–912; Stephen M. Walt, “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,” International Security 9, no. 4 (Spring 1985), 3–43; Stephen M. Walt, “Testing Theories of Alliance Formation: The Case of Southeast Asia,” International Organization 42, no. 2 (Spring 1988), 275–316; Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987). The classic analysis of the meaning of balance of power is found in Ernst B. Haas, “The Balance of Power: Prescription, Concept, or Propaganda?” World Politics 5, no. 3 (July 1953), 442–77; see also Inis L. Claude Jr., Power and International Relations (New York: Random House, 1967).Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Jessica Tuchman Mathews, “Redefining Security,” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 2 (Spring 1989): 162–78.Google Scholar

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© Andrew K. Hanami 2003

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  • Susan B. Martin

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