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Alexander Wendt and Anarchy - Essay Example

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Alexander Wendt and Anarchy

The anarchic structure of the international system that he arrives at is logically done, even though he argues that there is no logic in anarchy. Throughout, he reiterates that an anarchic state should not be logical. According to him self-help and power are institutions and they are not essential features of anarchy. He argues: "there is no logic of anarchy apart from the practice that create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another." Thus, Wendt says 'anarchy is what states make of it'. Many critics have agreed with his point of view while some disagreed for right reasons. He mainly touches Neorealism, but returns to traditional realism, very often.
He also claims that a theory that is far removed from realism is not a working model and he gains significance here. "Realism lays claims to a relevance across systems, and because it relies on a conception of human nature, rather than a historically specific structure of world politics, it can make good on this claim," says Murray (1997, p. 202). Wendt does not ignore realism completely; but instead of working within its framework, he looks beyond it for establishing his theories.
There are critics who are not very comfortable with Wendt's dictum and call it a myth and Cynthia Weber is one of them. She thinks that this myth "gets us out of the (neo)realist anarchy myth in which international anarchy determines that states will compete to ensure their survival relying on self-help logics. Wendt gets us here by emphasising practice in international politics - specifically how the practice of socially constructed states make international anarchy into what it is, whatever that may be" Weber (2005, p. 74). Hence, his emphasis is on what states do and the states could be called either as authors or tails of anarchy is not unquestioningly accepted. There are criticisms that he completely ignores the situation where the states themselves could be decision makers.

This statement about anarchy made by Wendt depends on his perception of territorial jurisdiction of the states which makes anarchy a self-evident concept. He says that the identities play a very crucial role in understanding how the states behave if they come under total anarchy. Spruyt (1994, p.264), while agreeing with the statement of Wendt, goes further to state that 'what anarchy means is partially determined by the nature of the units'. But to Wendt, states are people too because 'states are intentional corporate actors whose identities and interests are an important part determined by domestic politics rather than the international system (p.246). Because every state has its own 'self' and it is realistically 'self-interested'. "Understanding how international insitutions shape state identity is crucial, constructivists argue, because social identities inform the interests that motivate state action," Reus-Smit (1999, p.22).

Wendt says that the arguments that apply to corporate agencies, also apply to all the states as all of them have their own ontological statuses. State does not have an entity without its people and naturally this makes the ruling few very important. The government of a state is 'the aggregate of concrete individuals who instantiate a state at a given moment' (p. 216). As they are the people with the controlling power, decisions taken by them become the decisions of the state at a given time. ...Show more


It was not reason that besieged Troy; it was not reason that sent forth the Saracen from the desert to conquer the world; that inspired the crusades; that instituted the monastic orders; it was not reason that produced the Jesuits; above all, it was not reason that created the French Revolution…
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Alexander Wendt and Anarchy essay example
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