Kenneth Waltz, Adam Smith and the Limits of Science: Hard choices for neoclassical realism

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This article argues that neoclassical realism (NCR), though it presents
one of the most intuitively attractive frameworks for understanding states’ actions,
continues to struggle with a central conceptual tension. Some have argued that
NCR is compatible with a structural realist approach, even that it is a ‘logical
extension’ of it. Yet in seeking to identify law-like patterns of state behaviour
arising from the varied features of states themselves, NCR appears to breach the
outer limits of what Kenneth Waltz, the founding father of structural International
Relations theory, thought tolerable in a theory of international politics. Thus,
NCR arguably faces a fork in the road as to its future agenda and theoretical
identity: should it limit itself essentially to chronicling anomalous occurrences
within a fundamentally Waltzian paradigm, or try to map new rules of state
behaviour on a scale that


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-182
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013