Download Thucydides and Modern Realism

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Pericles wikipedia , lookup

Thrasybulus wikipedia , lookup

Sicilian Expedition wikipedia , lookup

Thucydides wikipedia , lookup

First Peloponnesian War wikipedia , lookup

Mytilenean revolt wikipedia , lookup

International Studies Quarterly (2006) 50, 3–25
Thucydides and Modern Realism
Georgetown University
This paper makes two main arguments about the relationship between
Thucydides, modern realism, and the key conceptual ideas they introduce to situate and explain international politics. First, Thucydides refutes the central claim underlying modern realist scholarship, that the
sources of state behavior can be located not in the character of the
primary political units but in the decentralized system or structure created by their interaction. Second, however, analyses that discuss
Thucydides exclusively with respect to this ‘‘third-image’’ realism do
not take into account the most important emendation made to political
realism in the last half of the twentieth century, Kenneth Waltz’s Theory
of International Politics. Waltz reformulates the theory of how anarchic
political structures affect the behavior of their constituent units and
suggests that the question posed by realismFand to be asked of
ThucydidesFis not whether states behave according to the Athenian
thesis or consistently observe the power-political laws of nature, but
whether they suffer ‘‘costs’’ in terms of political autonomy, security, and
cultural integrity if they do not. Many scholars are therefore incorrect to
assume that demonstrating the importance of non-structural factors in
The Peloponnesian War severs the connection between Thucydides and
structural realism. Thucydides may in fact be a realist, but not for reasons conventionally assumed.
Captivated by the methodological and substantive nature of Thucydides’ initial
contention of a ‘‘truest cause’’ based on ‘‘the facts themselves,’’ modern realists and
their critics have debated the appropriation of Thucydides as the founder of a
continuous line of realist thought, with nothing less at stake than the historical
credibility such a patron scholar entails. As Stephen Walt (2002) writes in a recent
review of realist research, ‘‘the realist tradition has a distinguished lineage, including the works of Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Friedrich Meinecke, Carr, and
Morganthau.’’ Robert Gilpin (1986:306) writes that ‘‘in my judgment, there have
been three great realist writers; it is difficult for me to conceive that anyone would
deny them inclusion in the tradition. They are Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Carr.’’
And according to Robert Keohane (1986), ‘‘even as long ago as the time of
Thucydides, political realism contained three key assumptions . . . [that] have furnished a usable interpretive framework for observers from Thucydides onward.’’
This paper will make two main arguments about the relationship between
Thucydides, modern realism, and the key conceptual ideas they introduce to situate
and explain international politics. First, Thucydides refutes what I argue is the
Author’s note: The author would like to thank Gerald Mara, Daniel Nexon, the editors at ISQ, and three anonymous reviewers for their assistance with earlier drafts. He would also like to thank the participants in the Realism
and Constructivism Workshop sponsored by the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University
in April 2005, and especially Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Ashley Thomas.
r 2006 International Studies Association.
Published by Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK.
Thucydides and Modern Realism
central claim underlying modern realist scholarship, that the sources of state behavior can be located not in the character of the primary political units, but in the
decentralized system or structure created by their interaction. This ‘‘third-image’’
realism argues that the inherently conflictual and competitive character of international politics is attributable exclusively to the level of the international system,
and not to the varying domestic-political characteristics of states. The ‘‘Athenian
thesis,’’ the proxy for this style of thought in The Peloponnesian War, is in this regard
a structural thesis; by abstracting from the properties of states, including, perhaps
most importantly for Thucydides, the process of political–cultural contestation, it
specifically rejects the impact of individuals, cultures, and institutions independent
of the international circumstances in which they are situated. Through the competing logics framed by the Book I debate between Corinth and Athens over the
rise of the Athenian empire, a central theme and the putatively ‘‘truest cause’’ of the
war, Thucydides shows how the perspective of international politics offered by this
style of realism fails to capture a significant dimension of what drives international
politics more generally. In this regard, the contemporary literature that equates
Thucydides with a modern realism understood in these terms neglects an important critique of realism offered by his narrative of the Peloponnesian War.
Second, however, analyses that discuss Thucydides exclusively with respect to this
‘‘third-image’’ realism are inadequate in light of the most important emendation
made to political realism in the last half of the twentieth century, Kenneth Waltz’s
Theory of International Politics (1979). In contrast to the determinate predictions
about state behavior derived from third-image realism, Waltz reformulates the nature of how an anarchic political structure affects the behavior of its constituent
units. Waltz suggests that the question posed by modern realismFand to be asked
of ThucydidesFis not whether states behave according to Athenian thesis or consistently observe the power-political laws of nature, but do they suffer ‘‘costs’’ in
terms of political autonomy, security, and cultural integrity if they do not. Otherwise
persuasive critiques of realist claims to The Peloponnesian War often overlook this
second dimension; Thucydides may in fact be a realist, but for reasons not captured
within the terms of the current debate.
Thucydides and Modern Realism
The uncritical induction of Thucydides into the political realist tradition appears to
be based on a series of misunderstandings about the manner in which Thucydides
portrays the Peloponnesian War, errors that have not gone unnoticed in the discipline. According to David Welch (2003), for example, there is an ‘‘utter lack of
empirical support’’ for key realist arguments in the text and that ‘‘identifying realist
‘misreadings’ of Thucydides has become something of a cottage industry.’’1 Similarly, Laurie Johnson Bagby (1994) recommends that Thucydides can ‘‘guide us in
our studies beyond realismFand especially beyond neorealism.’’
These authors are correct that Thucydides and modern realism are at times
engaged in very different kinds of projects, and a ‘‘Thucydidean’’ reading of any
modern realist work must first address if there is in fact any basis for comparison.
Many scholars equate Thucydides with the Athenian perspective presented most
notoriously at the Conference of the Peloponnesian League at Sparta in Book I and
at Melos in Book V (Waltz 1954:159; Keohane and Nye 1977:42; Morgenthau
1954:38; Waltz 1979:127, 186–187; Doyle 1990; Frankel 1996). In fact, Thucydides
presents a variety of perspectives through a variety of actors, and when he interrupts the narrative with his own voice, for example when commenting on the postPericles political competition that took place in Athens or on the Corcyran stasis, his
Examples of this ‘‘cottage industry’’ include Garst (1989), Ahrensdorf (1997), Lebow (2001), and Thomas
comments, as will be shown, are often indirectly critical of certain realist propositions. The Athenian thesis is the clearest representation of realist thought in The
Peloponnesian War, and in portraying the history of a system of independent citystates interacting in the absence of an overarching political authority, ThucydidesFthrough actors such as the Corcyrans, the Mytelineans, and most consistently
the AtheniansFintroduces elements of what would become known as the realpolitik tradition. Nonetheless, Thucydides presents this foreshadowing of modern
realism as one of many orientations toward international politics.
In addition, Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics, and the school of
realist thought that has developed around it, engages in the hypothesizing of positive, explanatory propositions about international politics. As a social scientific
theory, modern realism seeks to specify the causal conditions under which certain
political outcomes can be expected, and systematically tests these propositions
against empirical evidence. But despite his self-professed desire to describe events
that ‘‘in accordance with human nature will recur in similar or comparable ways’’
(1.22),2 Thucydides’ political history is not primarily interested in drawing regularized, causal connections between phenomena in the manner of a covering law. As
Welch (2003:303) argues, Thucydides ‘‘does not offer us anything that we could
immediately recognize as a theory.’’ Many contemporary authors treat the text of
The Peloponnesian War either as a source of political ideas from which one might
infer a series of falsifiable, positivist hypotheses, or as a case study or pure historical
account against which to test various realist propositions regarding, for example,
conditions under which states balance or bandwagon against power, or the conditions under which transitions in power lead to war (Gilpin 1988:591; Lebow and
Strauss 1991; Copeland 2000).
However, there is a basis for comparison in at least two respects. First, Thucydides portrays himself as practicing a certain methodological realism, or a procedural
focus on facts and observational accuracy.3 Post-World War II realism, crafted in
deliberate counterpoint to the ‘‘utopianism’’ of the interwar period, advanced itself
as the science of international politics, grounded in positive science over normative
idealism. E.H. Carr (1939:10) described this realist turn as the natural evolution of
international relations as a social science; realism ‘‘represented a reaction against
the wish-dreams of the initial stage . . . placing its emphasis on the acceptance of
facts and on the analysis of their causes and consequences.’’ Thucydides similarly
presents his history in contrast to previous works, suggesting that what he foregoes
in style he gains in the accuracy of his account, not coincidentally lending his text
the attendant moral authority or credibility of impartially portraying the ‘‘real’’
Thucydides explicitly portrays himself in contrast not to utopians, but to poets,
who ‘‘embellish with their exaggerations . . . in versions that cannot be checked and
for the most part have forfeited any credibility over time a patriotic fiction’’ (1.21).
In contrast, his account, ‘‘by avoiding patriotic storytelling, will perhaps seem less
enjoyable for listening. Yet if they are judged useful by any who wish to look at the
truth about both past events and those that at some future time, in accordance with
human nature, will recur in similar or comparable ways, will suffice.’’ For example,
immediately before this methodological statement, Thucydides describes how the
Athenians misunderstand key elements of their own history through the uncritical
acceptance of erroneous facts regarding the overthrow of Peisistratos, an event he
describes in greater detail in Book VI. Thucydides’ interest in procedural realism is
All quotations are drawn from Thucydides, translated by Lattimore (1998).
Gregory Crane (1998) identifies four characteristics common to all realisms: a procedural, a paradigmatic, a
scientific, and an ideological. For the purposes of this paper, I focus on the first and second. Gerald Mara also
suggests a distinction within realism between ‘‘accuracy,’’ or factual veracity, and ‘‘precision,’’ or explanatory power,
which closely corresponds to Crane’s procedural and paradigmatic. Conversation with author, March 2005.
Thucydides and Modern Realism
also illustrated by the importance of the Corcyran stasis in his narration of the war,
during which one of the most insidious signs of cultural disintegration was the
inversion of language and meaning. Under the conditions of civil war, Corcyra, and
later the cities to which civil war spread, underwent a ‘‘revolution in thinking . . . in
self-justification men inverted the usual verbal evaluations of actions’’ (3.82). Gregory Crane (1998) usefully points out that the inability of words to retain stable
meanings undermines the conditions necessary for historians like Thucydides to
operate, as well as the basis of objective, factual accounts.4 Whether Thucydides’
claim to this procedural or scientific realism, and the moral authority that follows
from the perception of impartiality, is for instrumental or artistic purposes, The
Peloponnesian War has nonetheless, according to Steven Lattimore (1998), been
‘‘long valued for setting an unprecedented standard of objectivity and consequent
Second, Thucydides, Waltz, and other modern realists all advance, at minimum,
a certain logic of political relations; they identify the central issues and dynamics at
stake in international politics, and specifically the character and qualities of political
life between autonomous political–cultural groups interacting in the absence of an
overarching, centralized political sovereign or public agent with a legitimate monopolization on the use of force. The argument that there are, according to Welch
(2003:308), ‘‘no models in Thucydides’’ follows from an overly narrow understanding of what constitutes a useful theoretical model of political behavior. Crane
(1998:56) describes a ‘‘paradigm’’ as a conceptual scheme that ‘‘drags new phenomena into the light [while] pushing other phenomena back into the shadows.’’
Similarly, Waltz (1979:8) suggests that ‘‘a theory indicates that some factors are
more important than others and specifies relations among them.’’6 Thucydides is in
this regard loosely paradigmatic or theoretical; although not formulating strict,
falsifiable hypotheses that can be rigorously tested against competing explanations,
he presents a historical narrative within a conceptual scheme, privileging certain
themes while deliberately reducing others. The Peloponnesian War can therefore be
used as a source of competing ideas about politics. A basis of comparison is not to
test realist hypotheses against empirical evidence, and in this case the ‘‘observation’’
of the events surrounding the war, but to situate facts and events within a broader
perspective, and to delineate the key conceptual issues at stake between modern
structural realism and the historical narrative of the Peloponnesian war as presented by Thucydides.
The Third Image and the Sources of Athenian Imperialism
The central analytical claim of modern realism, with the exception of the distinction
to be drawn later in this paper, is that the sources of state behavior can be located
not in the character of the primary political units, but in the decentralized system
created by their interaction. Modern realism is positional or situational in logic:
independent of the character or properties of political agents, under conditions of
anarchy they are uniformly compelled to act in terms of necessity and the pursuit of
power-political advantage. It is rooted in the concept of the Primat der Aussenpolitik,
or the ‘‘primacy of foreign policy,’’ a term that has come to have two meanings.
Originally, it referred to the idea that the international system affected the devel-
Interestingly, Crane’s translation of 3.82 is that ‘‘words had to change their ordinary meaning,’’ suggesting that
it was language itself, and not just specific words relating to the evaluation of behavior, that became subverted in
Corcyra. The argument about Thucydides presenting himself as a ‘‘scientific realist’’ seems to hold under either
translation, although somewhat better under Crane’s.
Whether Thucydides actually conforms to this standard of factual accuracy is not at issue here, only the
perception and subsequent appropriation of Thucydides as a ‘‘procedural realist.’’
See also Waltz (1988:615–628).
opment of a state’s domestic institutions.7 The second, and the more relevant
meaning to this discussion, refers to the line of argument that states conduct foreign
policy for ‘‘strategic’’ reasons, or as a consequence of the pressures of the international system; international politics is conceived of as apart from, and not an
extension of, domestic politics. Whereas advocates of Primat der Aussenpolitik argue
that state behavior is determined by external considerations of material power,
advocates of what Fareed Zakaria (1992) labels a competing Innenpolitik school
argue that foreign policy can be explained by factors internal to a state, and traditionally, but not limited to, its economic and political organization.8
In post-World War II realism, this distinction has largely been reframed in terms
of the levels of analyses, or ‘‘images,’’ at which state behavior can be explained.
Originally a term used as a taxonomy to classify and organize different arguments
on the sources of war, Kenneth Waltz’s (1954) introduction of three imagesFthe
individual, the state, and the international systemFhas become a framework with
which to explain international politics more broadly.9 This approach has since become almost correlational in logic: a ‘‘third image’’ approachFor one that locates
the source of state behavior in the international systemFargues that an international environment characterized by anarchy encourages states with varying domestic properties to behave in similar ways when external conditions are held
constant, whereas states whose domestic conditions are similar will behave differently when external conditions vary. Alternatively, a ‘‘second-image’’ approachF
one that locates the source of state behavior in the stateFexpects the opposite that:
state behavior corresponds more with variation at the domestic than the international level.
This broad division in contemporary international relations theory is strikingly
anticipated in the debate between Athens and Corinth at the Conference of the
Peloponnesian League at Sparta over the sources of Athenian imperialism (1.67–
1.88). Corinthian and Athenian representatives advance competing propositions
about Athenian behavior specifically, and the determinants of intercity relations
more generally. Athenian Aussenpolitikers argue that Athenian imperial behavior is,
given certain constants in human nature, a function of its relative material power
position, whereas Corinthian Innenpolikers argue that Athens’ empire is a consequence of factors unique to Athens itself, and specifically its vibrant and innovative
political culture and institutions. At stake in this debate is not just the content or
nature of Athenian political culture, but also the causal impact of a second-image
argument relative to the effects of the international system. Because this debate
corresponds so closely to the levels-of-analysis distinction drawn between modern
realism and domestic-political theories, it is a useful place to begin to evaluate these
two competing schools in terms of Thucydides’ approach to politics. The remainder
of this section will identify the central assumptions of modern realism, discuss how
they relate to the view of international politics first articulated by Athens at the
Peloponnesian Congress in Book I, and show how a competing domestic-political
theory centered around political culture and institutions presented by CorinthFand interestingly, presupposed in Pericles’ major speechesFundermines
Athenian, third-image realism.
Aspects of Thucydides’ treatment of Corcyra and Athens, cities whose political communities were undermined
when the competitive, self-aggrandizing character of their foreign policies began to influence domestic political
competition, represent this family of realist theory. See Thucydides at 2.65 and 3.82. Modern parallels to this causal
logic are surveyed in Gourevitch (1978:881–912).
A brief history of these two schools as they relate to contemporary debates can be found in Zakaria (1992).
The term ‘‘image’’ was introduced in Waltz (1954). For a different conceptualization of the levels of analyses at
which state behavior can be understood, see Jervis (1976).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
Realist Assumptions
What constitute the fundamental assumptions of the modern realist paradigm, and
how do they relate to the realist worldview articulated by Athens? While there are a
number of iterations (Keohane 1986; Mearsheimer 2001; Walt 2002), realist theories tend to share three assumptions regarding the nature of international-political
life. First, the international system is characterized by anarchy, in that there is no
centralized, sovereign political authority or public agent that commands a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Anarchy is in this sense an ordering principle, and
not a description of the quality of international life as chaotic or inherently conflictual. Second, states are the primary actors in international politics, and can be
regarded as purposive, unitary actors. Thucydides often relies on this assumption
as a simplifying device, referring, for example, to Athenians, Melians, or Spartans
as coherent, unitary actors in the international system. Although the primary political unit may change over time, according to Robert Gilpin (1986), the ‘‘essence of
social reality is the group.’’ Third, states are rationally self-interested and generally
seek to survive as independent political entities. Political units select strategies that
they believe maximize their interests, and at a minimum seek to survive, generally
defined in terms of their territorial integrity and the autonomy of their domestic
political order and political culture.
Many discussions of Thucydides and modern realism seem to begin by evaluating
the extent to which the History accepts or problemetizes these initial assumptions.
Crane (1998) finds that central realist assumptions can be traced to Thucydides,
which in his particular iteration includes anarchy, the importance of organized
social groups, rationality, the drive to maximize power, and the inherent amorality
of international politics. Alternatively, Johnson (1994) argues that the prominence
of individuals in the narrative and speeches challenges realist assumptions of state
centricity, while Peter Ahrensdorf (1997) contests whether the Hellenic international system is in fact anarchic, given the Greeks could not in principle know if
there is a divinely enforced moral order. The positing of rationality does not correspond with Stephen Forde’s (1995) reading of the behavior of a number of actors
in the History; at some level, states like Melos and Sparta act on the basis of a specific
conception of justice or piety, and do not respond rationally to international conditions. According to Gerald Mara, Thucydides shows how Greek political groups,
and the cultures that underlie them, are not immutably coherent but are fluid: they
can both integrate (a goal pursued, e.g., by Syracuse’s Hermokrates with respect to
Sicily) and disintegrate (e.g., Corcyra).10
By using these premises as a dimension of comparison with Thucydides, these
authors misunderstand the nature of modern, narrowly analytical assumptions.
Many realist assumptions are of the positivist ‘‘as if ’’ variety; they are theoretical
constructs, intended to be analytically useful, not descriptively accurate (Friedman
1953; Waltz 1979).11 The purpose of assumptions regarding anarchy, the primacy
of states, and self-interested rationality is similar to that of assumptions made by
modern economics regarding utility-maximizing individualsFacknowledged to be
factually inaccurate, but intentionally simplifying for the purpose of constructing
theories with some explanatory and predictive power. More significant is the political logic advanced by the terms of the theory, and its ability to situate or give
perspective to important events and developments in the History.
From these assumptions, realism derives certain broad expectations regarding
state behavior. Because states interact in the absence of an overarching, public
authority with a monopoly on the use of legitimate violence to regulate disputes
and enforce decisions, states must rely on their own capabilities to achieve their
Conversation with author, November 2003.
Mearsheimer (2001), in contrast, defends realist assumptions as descriptively accurate.
interests and objectives, however defined. Without the presence of a public authority, private force is the ultimate arbiter of disputes; according to Waltz
(1954:238), ‘‘force is a means of achieving the external ends of states because their
exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling the conflicts of interest that
inevitably arise among similar units in a condition of anarchy.’’ Although states are
not engaged in constant warfare, the possibility that force might be used against
their interests compels them to compete for security, and to be concerned for their
power position relative to other states. Normative or cultural interests are subordinate to security, because the continued autonomy of the political entity is thought
to be a precondition for these other political objectives. And because states value
their relative position, political cooperation is difficult to achieve independent of an
underlying distribution of power and interests.
These power-political imperatives are incumbent upon states under anarchy;
states must provide for their own interests, and thus are of necessity compelled to
act on the basis of advantage and expedience. But as games like the Prisoner’s
Dilemma and the Stag Hunt have demonstrated, the pursuit of individually rational
choices can result in collectively suboptimal outcomes. Political units, whether individuals in the state of nature or states under conditions of anarchy, must behave
as if other actors are potentially predatory or irrational; as Waltz (1954:169) wrote,
‘‘if harmony is to exist in anarchy, not only must I be perfectly rational but I must be
able to assume that everyone else is too . . . to attempt to act on a rational calculation
without allowing [for irrational acts] may lead to my own undoing.’’ The key concept advanced by third-image realism is thus that insecurity and competition are
generated not by properties of the units, but in the situation they collectively face.
Concern for relative position, security, and power is a rational response to anarchy;
independent of their unique domestic characteristics, states are under uniformly
intense systemic pressure to act on the basis of interest and necessity, to engage in
security competition, and to attempt to redress imbalances, or anticipate potential
imbalances, in their relative power position.
As has already been observed, realism’s central analytical claim about the insecurity and fear generated by a system of autonomous, competing political units
under anarchy finds apparent expression in Thucydides’ statement on the ‘‘truest
cause’’ of the Peloponnesian War: the growth of Athenian power necessarily engendered fear and insecurity in Sparta, compelling Sparta to initiate a war. Although Thucydides only occasionally speaks directly in his own name, his account
of the ‘‘truest cause’’ at 1.28 is strikingly structural. Following the Conference of
Peloponnesian allies in Book I, he extends this explanation by stating that ‘‘the
Lacedaemonians voted that the treaty had been broken and that they must go to
war not so much because they were persuaded by the arguments of their allies
because they feared further increase in the power of the Athenians, seeing the
greater part of Hellas already under their control’’ (1.88).
Athenian statements of strength at the Peloponnesian Congress, intended to
dissuade Sparta, also illustrate the inadvertent nature of causal effects located at the
third image: by highlighting the disparity of power between Athens and Sparta, the
Athenian remarks only contributed to Spartan fear and insecurity, ultimately rendering Athens less secure and making conflict more likely.12
It could be argued that Sparta’s fear was subjective, and did not necessarily follow from the structural
condition of rising Athenian power. The key question, to be framed in the following discussion of realism, is whether
states with varying domestic attributes (or varying in those factors that bear on perception) would have responded to
identical structural conditions identically. At the very least, Athens contributed to this perception with the remarks of
its representatives at the Spartan conference.
Thucydides and Modern Realism
The Athenian Thesis
The modern realist view is most approximated in Thucydides’ text by what Clifford
Orwin (1994) has labeled the ‘‘Athenian thesis,’’ a paradigm that closely corresponds to third-image realism. Although specifically addressing questions of justice
and the sources of its empire, Athens presents a more general theory of state
behavior centered around anarchy and relative material power position in three
places: the Peloponnesian Congress in Book I, the Melian Dialogue in Book V, and
the Athenian speech to the Camarinaeans in Book VI.
The Athenian representatives at Sparta give a positional account of their empire;
Athens’ imperial behavior was compelled by the insecurities and necessities generated by international anarchy, and not characteristics unique to Athens as a political entity. Initially compelled to succeed Sparta in leading the Hellenes against
the Persian threat, Athens’ transition from the war-time leadership of the Delian
league to coercive empire was ‘‘compelled from the first by the situation itself to
expand the empire to its present state, especially out of fear, then prestige, then
self-interest’’ (1.75, italics mine). Once the tribute system of the empire had become
vital to Athenian power, its imperial position created a unique set of interests and
fears. With regard to Sparta, Athens was acutely sensitive to its relative position:
Sparta was ‘‘by then not our friends as you once were but a source of suspicion and
contention, and allies who left us would have gone over to you’’ (I.75). With regard
to the allies, Athenian behavior was strongly motivated by the fear of the resentment its alliance system may have generated, a theme later emphasized at Melos in
Book V. As Pericles would claim in Book II, the empire may have been unjust to
take up, but it was now dangerous to put down.
Their decision to retain the empire, as well as their coercive management of it, is
also consistent with what they characterize as a political law of human nature.
According to Athens, it has ‘‘done nothing remarkable, or contrary to ordinary
human behavior, if we not only accepted an empire when it was offered but also did
not let it go . . . not as the originators of such conduct, moreover, as the rule has
always existed that the weaker is held down by the stronger’’ (1.76). In this view,
political actors do not forego opportunities to aggrandize power or to gain through
the exercise of force, and are only limited in the scope of their intentions by countervailing power. This view, although rooted in a specific understanding of human
nature, is entirely consistent with modern realism, which suggests that because
states exist in an environment where unilateral force could be used to arbitrate
disputes, states are interested in maximizing power relative to other states.
The Athenian thesis also contains an important claim about justice. Athens contends that morality is subordinate to considerations of necessity and power, and that
justice is contingent on a balance of power between states. JusticeFwhich Athens
appears to loosely define as the absence of arbitrary coercion in managing political
relationsFis only possible among actors between whom there is an equal distribution of power; because considerations of relative political power are primary,
states do not forego opportunities to expand in order to reciprocate moderation or
restraint. This logic is repeated by a number of actors in the History, including the
Corcyrans in Book I and the Mytelineans in Book III.
Interestingly, the Athenian representatives at Sparta claim to have behaved more
justly than the distribution of power would enable, and that ‘‘all are entitled to
praise whenever they follow human nature and end up behaving more justly than
their actual power dictates’’ (I.76). Although seemingly contradictory in their selective acceptance and denial of moral agency, this statement in fact affirms the logic
of political relations outlined by the Athenian thesis. First, because states under
anarchy are primarily interested in advantage and expedience, claims about justice
are arbitrarily employed; it is thus expected that Athens contends to be compelled
when acting unjustly, and contends to be exercising agency when acting justly. I do
not understand this section of the sentence, due mostly to the verbal phrase ‘‘contend to have been compelled,’’ which I’m not sure I comprehend; in addition,
when this is juxtaposed to ‘‘exercising agency,’’ it has no parallel structure. Second,
the act of giving justice without the expectation of reciprocity actually reinforces
power asymmetries. The act of gift-giving without the expectation of reciprocity is
often used to reinforce existing disparities in power (Crane 1998:chapter 5). This is
evidenced by Athenian behavior at Mytilene and Melos; as Athens is pressured by
the war, allied revolt, and the overextension of its power, it is less willing to act
moderately toward its allies by deferring to the adjudication of disputes in terms of
some legal framework, as was evidently the case in Book I.
The logic of the Athenian thesis, and specifically with regard to the sources of
Athenian empire, is most prominently extended in two other speeches. At Melos,
Athens delivers its most notorious claim about politics, that ‘‘justice is what is decided when equal forces are opposed, while possibilities are what superiors impose
and the weak acquiesce to’’ (5.89). Athens also reinforces the positional nature of its
thesis; because of an ‘‘innate compulsion to rule when empowered,’’ Athens contends that ‘‘we know that you and anyone else who attained power like ours would
act accordingly’’ (5.105). This is the correlational logic of the third-image realism:
variation in external conditionsFwhich Athens seems to be defining in terms of
relative material power positionFoutweighs variation in internal conditionsF
political culture or institutionsFin determining state behavior.
A final place where Thucydides represents the Athenian empire as a response to
the anarchic condition of international politics is in Euphemus’ speech to the Camarinaeans (6.82-87). Early in its invasion of Sicily, Athens attempts to persuade
Camarina to align itself with the empire, but anticipates that Camarina may be wary
of a city whose source of power is the subjugation of former allies. Euphemus
portrays the empire as a defensive measure to avoid being ruled by outside powers,
first Persia and then Sparta. The empire is maintained out of fear, because ruling is
the only way to escape being ruled by others. Athens thus links its security position
to the steady expansion of its empire. This zero-sum logic is consistent with modern
realism’s focus on relative gains; the logic of the system is such that securityFor not
being ruledFrequires expansion, and this pressure is incumbent on all states,
regardless of domestic political–cultural characteristics.
An important distinction between modern and Athenian realism might turn on
their respective views toward human nature. The Athenian thesis is driven by a
specific view of human nature, that individuals are innately compelled to dominate
when not opposed by countervailing power. According to Athens at Melos, the
Athenians were not ‘‘the ones who made this law or the first to apply it after it was
laid down,’’ but ‘‘applied it as one in existence when we took it up and one that we
will leave behind to endure for all time’’ (5.105).13 At certain places in the narrative
Thucydides seems to endorse this view, or at least the logic of there being ‘‘laws’’ of
human nature; in both the Archeology (1.89–1.118) and during the Corcyran stasis
(3.69), he remarks that these events will recur as long as human nature is unchanging. Although he may disagree with the Athenian thesis over the actual content of that nature, for Thucydides human nature is a ‘‘causal’’ condition in the
presence of which we can expect certain recurrent outcomes. In contrast, a goal of
contemporary realism is, as discussed above, to more explicitly reformulate expla-
In Lattimore’s translation, that this law of human nature was ‘‘laid down’’ may imply that Athens regards it as
a human construct, and thus a potentially reformable aspect of human nature. Others interpret the Athenian
statement at 5.105 as a broader, and even hubristic, claim about cosmic order, that both people and the Gods are
compelled by the law that the weaker are ruled by the stronger. For the purposes of comparison, my more narrow,
‘‘positional’’ interpretation of the Athenian thesis suggests that this law holds as long as certain conditions (or the
realist assumptions specified above) hold: the existence of autonomous political units that vary in terms of power
and capabilities.
Thucydides and Modern Realism
nations of the competitive nature of international politics in terms of the effects of
the system itself, and not the inherently dominating character of the individual
agents that constitute that system.
How can we square the importance of human nature to Athenian realism with
the centrality of structure to modern realism? This distinction can have important
consequences for realist theory. For example, Steven Forde (1995:151) argues that
if the Athenian, nature-oriented paradigm is correct, then international politics is
inexorably competitive, whereas an emphasis on the causal effects of structure at
least introduces the possibility that interstate competition can be ameliorated or
The answer is that both views are in effect ‘‘positional.’’ First, both anarchy and
nature are constants, or at least portrayed as invariant. It can be conceded that the
Athenian thesis is a unit-level claim, but because nature is treated as constant, to a
significant extent the concept doing the explanatory work in the Athenian thesis is
structural variation in relative power position. Given the laws of political human
nature posited by Athens, cities with varying political cultures will act similarly when
under similar conditions of relative power. Second, the Athenian thesis, like structural realism, is relational in logic: Athenian claims to an ‘‘innate compulsion to rule’’
when empowered are framed in terms of relative power. Whether because of nature as Athens portrays it or the system, both the Athenian and modern iterations of
realism expect that states will act similarly when similarly situated, and differently
when differently situated, independent of varying properties at the domestic level.
Athenian and realist expectations regarding state behavior effectively hold under
the same conditions: independent political units with varying capabilities seeking
survival in the absence of an overarching political authority.
Corinth, Pericles, and Political Culture
In terms of explaining Athenian behavior, both Corinth at the Peloponnesian
Congress and Pericles in his Book II speeches subscribe to a similar perspective on
international politics: Athenian imperial behavior is attributable not to the anarchic
nature of the international system, but to characteristics internal to Athens. Although diverse and varied in their judgments of Athens, these arguments all share a
common second-image logic about the impact of political culture and institutions
on international behavior. Thucydides shows through both the Peloponnesian
Congress debate and the figure of Pericles that the international history of the war
is as much about political relations within states as between them.
In contrast with the Athenian’s positional explanation of empire, the Corinthian
speech locates the sources of Athenian behavior directly in the character of the city.
In this view, the empire is a consequence of institutions and a political culture
unique to Athens. Athenian institutions encourage a political culture of innovation,
boldness, and risk taking; according to the Corinthians, the Athenians are ‘‘innovators and quick to carry out their plans . . . they are bold beyond their strength and
risk-takers beyond their judgment’’ (1.70).
The Corinthian speech, while clearly motivated by instrumental and rhetorical
objectives, also highlights the causal role of political culture and domestic character
by juxtaposing Athenian and Spartan cultural attributes. Whereas Athenian institutions encourage a culture that is innovative, bold, and ‘‘quick to carry out whatever action it resolves,’’ Sparta is ‘‘[quick] to preserve the status quo, to make no
further resolutions, and in [their] actions not even complete what needs to be done’’
(1.70). The Athenian and Spartan dispositions toward ‘‘intercity’’ politics are fundamentally divergent; partly because of such intracity factors as the Helots, Athens,
according to Corinth, is ‘‘always ready to act while [the Spartans] are delayers, and
they are always abroad while you are the most home-bound of all. For they believe
that by being away they are gaining; you, that by making any move you will damage
even your present assets’’ (1.70).14 Although the ensuing exchange between Archidamos, who broadly accepts the substance of the Corinth speech but reverses its
implications, and Sthenelaides shows that Greek city-state political culture is not
uniform but contested, the actual outcome of this contestation is not relevant to the
logic of second-image arguments.
Interestingly, Pericles’ funeral oration also subscribes to this second-image logic,
attributing Athenian power to properties of its political and social order, and specifically its democratic political institutions and culture. Although Pericles’ vision of
Athens is prescriptive as well as descriptiveFthere is an implicit normative dimension to his positive statements about the political character of AthensFhe portrays
Athens as exhibiting a unique and distinctive political–cultural paradigm. According to Pericles, Athens’ is governed by a set of democratic institutions that, in
addition to according each private citizen a formal equality under the law, fosters a
unique concern for merit and distinction in public service. Athenian institutions
promote a political culture that values daring, fame, and innovation, as a consequence of which Athens has achieved the greatest reputation and prestige. Athens
has become an ‘‘education for Hellas,’’ where all the virtues uncompromisingly
convergeFan Athenian is ‘‘self-sufficient in the most varied forms of conduct, and
with the most attractive qualities.’’ The particular importance of reputation as a
political–cultural virtue is reflected in speeches both before and after the plague,
and again may be more prescriptive in what it selects to emphasize than descriptive:
Athens has ‘‘acquired certainly the greatest power known up to this time, of which it
will be forever remembered by posterity, even if in the present we give way somewhere . . . we as Hellenes ruled over the most Hellenes, sustained the greatest wars
against them both in combination and separately, and lived in a city that was in all
ways the best provided for and greatest’’ (2.63).
Pericles also highlights the uniquely democratic and participatory nature of
Athenian deliberative institutions as a source of political power, and a condition for
Athens’ empire and material supremacy. By providing an egalitarian environment
in which every citizen has an opportunity to participate in public life, Athenian
democracy produced, according to Daniel Garst (2000), a ‘‘unity of will among its
citizens that is far stronger than that resulting from blind obedience to the state.’’
Pericles juxtaposes the voluntary, consensual bravery and courage of Athenians to
that of Spartans, the latter owing ‘‘more to law than to character’’ (2.39). Certain
places in the History also present an interesting link between democratic institutions
and naval power. In Book VIII, for example, Thucydides’ account of the defeat of
the oligarchic coup against the democratic regime in Athens largely ascribes its
failure to the resistance of the armed forces, and most notably the navy based in
Samos (8.72). Garst also cites Aristotle, who believed that sustained naval power was
incompatible with oligarchy. Evidently rowing a trireme is a very democratic activity.
Pericles advances a certain ethos or vision in his characterization of Athens,
specifying that what should be praised are innovation, daring, merit, and the reputation and prestige these acts accrue. These attributes have produced exhibitions
of power that ‘‘will be admired by this and future generations,’’ and the ‘‘factual
truth’’ of Athens power ‘‘we acquired because of these characteristics’’ (2.41).15
Corinth largely agrees with Pericles’ characterization of Athenian political culture,
but represents this ethos as an almost pathological, and second image, source of
It is interesting to note that while Corinth portrays Athenian political culture as pathological and alien (i.e.,
closer to Persian than Hellenic culture), it still encourages Sparta to imitate it. This is broadly consistent with the
structural realist mechanisms to be discussed in part three of this essay, in which states, because of the competitive
pressures under anarchy, seek to emulate successful behavior.
Pericles’ focus on the ‘‘facts’’ of Athenian power at 2.41 clearly emulates Thucydides’ methodological realism
at 1.21; Athenian exhibitions of power are like the war itself, which, as narrated in Thucydides’ text, will ‘‘require no
Homer to sing our praises nor any other whose verse will charm for the moment and whose claims the factual truth
will destroy’’ (2.41).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
conflict. In his eulogy of Pericles at 2.65, Thucydides suggests that this political–
cultural ethic of fame and merit may ultimately be destabilizing and self-defeating
for the political community itself; the political competition that ensued following
Pericles’ death over the de facto position of ‘‘first man’’ was in part responsible for
Athens’ defeat in the war. More broadly, Thucydides offers both an endorsement
and a critique of Pericles’ vision for Athens. On one level, the Periclean ethos and its
focus on great motion and energy fulfills Thucydides’ criteria of the ‘‘greatest disturbance’’ as to why the Peloponnesian War was ‘‘notable beyond all previous wars’’
(1.1). As the war produces a certain secular disintegration in cultural and civilizational standards, however, Thucydides shows that the alternative to great motion
is the great suffering shown throughout the narrative, and most conspicuously by
the indiscriminate and irrational violence and destruction of Hellenic education at
Mykalessos by barbarians at the discretion of Athens, a Greek city.
Competing Images and Thucydides
The Corinthian and Athenian speeches at the Spartan Congress frame competing
causal propositions about the sources of Athenian power specifically, but also the
sources of international behavior more generally. They also organize a number of
arguments in the book, from Athenian speeches to Pericles to Thucydides speaking
in his own name, according to where they locate the primary element impacting the
behavior of state. The secondary literature appears to be split on Thucydides’
position in relation to this simple, second versus third image typology. Garst
(2000:68), for example, argues that ‘‘Thucydides departs from neorealist thinking
on the Primat der Aussenpolitik . . . Thucydides’ history shows that political institutions are equally, if not more, important in determining states’ behavior.’’ Alternatively, Forde (1995:151) argues that ‘‘one of the goals of the History is to test this
realist Athenian thesis against the facts he has in view. The evidence he presents
corroborates the thesis in its essential outlines.’’
Here I would like to make two points about this debate and the evidence regarding the sources and conduct of Athenian imperialism, the one ‘‘empirical’’ case
discussed in this section. First, Corinthian Innenpolitik clearly prevails over Athenian
Aussenpolitik. Thucydides does present us with clear examples of self-regarding,
power-political behavior, in radical departure from the values of the ‘‘ancient simplicity’’ that previously defined, or were thought to have defined, Hellenic civilization.16 With regard to the Athenian empire, however, Athens’ third-image view
can at best explain its response to a given distribution of power, while second-image
arguments about political institutions and culture are necessary to explain why this
particular distribution of power came about, and specifically why Athens developed
and then consolidated its empire. The logic of the Corinthian view, supported by
Athens’ very own ‘‘first man,’’ suggests that the ‘‘position’’ in which Athens found
itself was in fact a consequence of characteristics unique to the organization of its
polity. If a paradigm privileges some factors over others, third-image realism fails to
capture significant elements of the dynamics motivating the Athenian empire.
Second, this debate is only the first stage in understanding the relationship between Thucydides and modern realism. Waltz’s variation shares what I have been
calling ‘‘third-image’’ realism’s emphasis on the insecurity and competition generated by the structure of international anarchy, but suggests a different way of
specifying the effects of the system on state behavior. Whereas third-image realism
cannot account for an important domestic-political element to Athenian imperialism, the nature of Waltz’s structural logic allows him to concede the significance of
domestic level and ideational causal effects. Many secondary authors make the
In Crane’s intepretation, Thucydides used this phrase to capture the radical nature of the Athenian thesis, and
the extent to which it subverted traditional Greek culture. See Crane (1998).
mistake of assuming that demonstrating the importance of non-structural factors in
The Peloponnesian War severs the connection between Thucydides and structural
realism. The assumption that the proliferating variables highlighted by recent
scholarship on ThucydidesFwhether morality, justice, legitimacy, piety, rhetoric,
individual character, national character, ideology, regime type, etc.Fundermines a
structural realist reading of The Peloponnesian War relies on a fundamentally misspecified version of realism.17 However, although a weaker casual theory in terms
of modern social science standards, Waltz’s iteration of structural (or ‘‘neo-’’) realism better situates the facts as presented by Thucydides.
Structural Realism, Properly Formulated
Waltz’s reformulation of a structural theory of international politics begins with his
sparse definition of political structure. Waltz argues that political structure consists
of three elements: an ordering principle, a specification of the functions performed
by the actors, and a distribution of capabilities or power across those actors. According to Waltz, the ordering principle of international politics is anarchic, the
primary political unitsFstatesFare undifferentiated in terms of the functions they
perform (i.e., they must independently provide for their own security), and states
vary in terms of the capabilities they can bring to bear to perform these functions.
Waltz further assumes that states are unitary, purposive actors who, at minimum,
seek their own preservation.
In Waltz’s view, international-political theory is analogous to microeconomic
theory. The international systemFlike a marketFis created by the actions of its
units, and the theory is built from the assumed motivations of these units and the
systemic constraints that arise from their interaction. Microeconomic theory posits
the existence of firms, assumes for them the motivation of maximizing profits, and
explains their behavior based on environmental factors. Propositions about variation in behavior correspond with variation in characteristics of the system or of the
unit’s position in that system, and not with variation in the units themselves. Similarly, and like third-image realism, Waltz believes that structural constraints explain
why certain behavior recurs despite variation in the people and states that constitute the international system.18
Unlike the third-image realism discussed above, however, Waltz does not derive
determinate predictions about how states will respond to these structural pressures.
In his causal story, structure does not determine state behavior, but by introducing
certain costs and incentives predisposes or constrains states in certain directions.
According to Waltz (2002), structures ‘‘shape and shove; they do not determine the
actions of states . . . international political theory deals with the pressures of structure on states and not with how states will respond to those pressures. The latter is a
task for theories of how national governments respond to pressures on them.’’19
International structure impacts state behavior by providing incentives to act consistent with power-political imperatives, or suffer ‘‘costs’’ in terms of their territorial
integrity and domestic political or cultural order accordingly. The logic of Waltz’s
theory is that when agents are ordered by force and competition and not by
For a survey of alternative variables highlighted by recent scholarship, see Welch (2003).
On the relationship between microeconomics and structural theory, see Waltz (1979:118) and Keohane
For Waltz this difference turns on a distinction drawn between ‘‘theories of international politics’’ and ‘‘theories of foreign policy,’’ the former being a theory that explains international outcomes (i.e., the recurrence of a
balance of power or the difficulty in solving global collective action problems) and not a theory that explains
particular foreign policy decisions. For the purposes of this paper, Waltz’s structural realism can explain
‘‘costs’’Fnot the specific decisions of states, but the international consequences of those decisions. For the debate on
what constitutes a true ‘‘theory of foreign policy,’’ see Elman (1996), Waltz (1996), Fearon (1998), and Zakaria
Thucydides and Modern Realism
authority and law, certain behavior is privileged or rewarded, but not necessarily
What are the constraints and incentives presented to states by the international
structure?20 As a set of autonomous political units, what are the features of the
Greek international political system, and in what directions do they ‘‘compel’’
states? By positing that at minimum all states seek survival, Waltz contends that a
system of decentralized competition creates powerful incentives for all states to
behave in the self-regarding, power-political manner captured by the Athenian
thesis. In the context of the Greek self-help world, these include an acknowledgment of the primacy of material power, the pursuit of expedience and immediate
advantage over the norms that defined, or were thought to define, the Greek moral
and civilizational order, including reciprocity, piety, and ritualized friendship, a
tendency to balance against power and compete for security, that is, regard security
as a relative, zero-sum game, to cooperate only with equals or when interests converge, and to pursue unilateral advantage over unequals. Most broadly, these systemic ‘‘compulsions’’ are captured by the idea, articulated by Athenian speakers
throughout the History, that states either rule or are ruled (e.g., at 6.18 and 6.82),
and that considerations of justice are only possible between equals (e.g., at 5.89).
In a subtle but crucial distinction, Waltz’s international-political theory requires
no assumption of rationality. The mechanism that drives international politics in
Waltz’s model is not ‘‘rational’’ responses to international anarchy but a process of
selection and socialization that takes place in all competitive systems: states that do
not emulate successful behavior or act on the basis of necessity and power-political
expediency are ‘‘selected out’’ of the system. An international political system thus
places significant pressure on states to act consistent with the structural imperatives
of Athenian realpolitik, but it is not anomalous if they act ‘‘irrationally.’’ Waltz does
not expect that all states will act like Athens (as does, as we have seen, third-image
realism), only that states will suffer costs in terms of political–cultural autonomy if
they do not.
The logic of this situational or structural argument allows Waltz to concede domestic-level causal effects; it is thus not enough to demonstrate that Thucydides has
a position on what motivates state behavior, or that states deviate from the structural incentives specified. Cities can act consistent with conceptions of morality and
justice and can prosecute wars in a manner consistent with unit-level, political–
cultural attributes, but the logic of an international system is such that they will be
‘‘selected out’’ for acting inconsistent with power-political imperatives of necessity
and expedience.21 Whereas the significance of political culture in Thucydides’
narrative does contest the Athenian-style, third-image realism formulated above,
Waltz’s realism is entirely consistent with a theory specifying the impact of political
In order to be a predictive theory of ‘‘costs,’’ and to avoid tautological causal reasoning, a structural theory
must specify ex ante what behavior will be rewarded or punished. This is precisely what is at stake between offensive
and defensive realism, the dominant contemporary debate within structural realism. These two schools share core
realist assumptions about the primacy of self-interested states under anarchy, but whereas offensive realism contends that the international system pressures states to maximize their power relative to others, defensive realism
contends that the system compels states only to seek security, to which expanding power might be one end. Some
argue that Waltz endorses or implies the security-maximizing view; see, for example, Schweller (1996). However,
Waltz (1979:118) himself has been ambiguous on this debate, claiming in Theory of International Politics that a
structural theory requires only that states are ‘‘unitary actors who, at minimum, seek their own preservation and, at
a maximum, drive for universal domination.’’
The Athenian thesisFwith its emphasis on the zero-sum nature of politics, on ruling or being ruled, and being
compelled by necessity to expand the empireFis probably closer to the offensive realist construction of maximizing
relative power. Athenian speakers consistently advance the idea that even states with defensive intent are compelled
to behave aggressively, an argument that closely parallels John Mearsheimer’s. On the offensive and defensive realist
debate, see Zakaria (1992), Mearsheimer (2001), Walt (2002), and Schweller (1994).
Again, this illustrates the mistake made by many of the authors cited above in assuming that demonstrating
the importance of non-structural causes severs connection between Thucydides and structural realism.
culture. Athens expects that, based on a specific understanding of human nature,
cities with varying political cultures will act similarly when subject to the same
external compulsions; Waltz, based on a specific understanding of how systems
influence the behavior of their units, expects only that they will suffer ‘‘costs’’ terms
of political and cultural autonomy if they deviate from the situational expectations
of Athenian realpolitik. According to Waltz (2002), history ‘‘abounds in examples
of states that failed to mind their own security interests through internal efforts or
external arrangement, and as one would expect, suffered invasion, loss of autonomy, and dismemberment. States are free to disregard the imperatives of power,
but they must expect to a pay a price for doing so.’’
There are analytical advantages and disadvantages to this spare conceptual
model, especially as applied to Thucydides. On one level, Waltz’s structural realism
makes very weak causal claims; it is ‘‘underdetermined’’ to the extent that its causal
conditions are consistent with the wide variety of political outcomes (in this case,
state behavior) witnessed by Thucydides in the politics of the Peloponnesian War. As
a consequence, however, it is highly transposable; it applies to any political system in
which autonomous units seek survival.22 The expectation that states suffer from
deviating from realpolitik behavior should obtain whenever these specified conditions of political structure are present. A structural theory formulated in this way
accounts for the enduring relevance of realism, and enables it to apply usefully to a
number of political systems despite significant variation in the units that comprise
that system, from Greek city-states to Italian principalities to the modern, postWestphalia international system.
Structural Realism, Melos, and Athens
Thucydides’ narrative provides evidence that states do suffer costs in terms of
security, political cultural autonomy, and at times actual survival. The theme of
cities emulating successful behavior or failing runs throughout the work, possibly
the most explicit being the attempt by Corinth to persuade Sparta to emulate the
Athenian culture of innovation and boldness at the Spartan Congress in Book I and
Hermokrates’ imploring of Syracuse to emulate Athens in Books VI and VII.
Similarly, cities are punished if they act contrary to the logic of their position under
anarchy, whether conceived in terms of power-political laws of nature or the pressures created by structural imperatives. Two cases illustrate these arguments: Melos’
interaction with Athens, arguably the climax of political realism in The Peloponnesian
War, and the Athenian failure to successfully prosecute the war.
Melian Idealism
The Melian dialogue contains the classic, oft-quoted statement of the Athenian
thesis, that ‘‘justice is what is decided when equal forces are opposed, while possibilities are what superiors impose and the weak acquiesce to’’ (5.89), often cited by
scholars as the earliest statements of the realist tradition. Athens uses the dialogue
to reiterate a number of themes that characterize both their ‘‘procedural’’ and
‘‘paradigmatic’’ realism(s). Their interest in subjugating Melos is grounded in the
strategic belief that the subject cities now pose a greater danger to Athens than does
Sparta, and they reiterate that their ‘‘compulsion to rule’’ is a consequence not of
cultural or institutional attributes unique to Athens, but to their relative material
power position. Given a law of nature that Athens did not create or ‘‘lay down,’’
Athens ‘‘knows that [Melos] and anyone else who attained power like ours would act
accordingly’’ (5.105). Procedurally, Athens frames the debate in terms of the factual
reality of the situation and the logic of a self-help system; Melos should not ‘‘weigh
The costs and benefits of this analytical trade-off are discussed in Powell (1994).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
. . . anything else besides planning your city’s survival on the basis of the present
circumstances as you see them’’ (5.87).
In fact, Melos responds in a way that challenges the Athenian thesis, and is
anomalous from the perspective of a third-image realism that expects states under
anarchy to act on the basis of rational self-interest and relative material power.
Athens regards the Melian rejection of their offer ‘‘irrational, ‘‘ an act of ‘‘touching
naivete’’ based on an illusion or imagination that ignores the reality of what is, or
should be, immediately apparent.
Melian decision-making is based on three factors that Thucydides presents
throughout the narrative as fundamentally anti-realist. First, Melos’ decision is
partly based on chance or hope; despite an imbalance of power, Melos argues that
‘‘warfare sometimes admits of more impartial fortunes than accords with the numerical superiority of two sides’’ (5.102). Second, Melos contends that there is a
moral order, apparently enforced through divine intervention, that rewards and
punishes just and unjust behavior. The Melians ‘‘have faith that we will not go
without our share of fortune from the Gods, as righteous men who stand in opposition to unjust ones.’’
Finally, the Melian rejection is based on the expectation of support from an ally,
Sparta: ‘‘the Lacedaemonians and their allies will redress our deficiency in power,
compelled, if for no other reason, to help us on account of honor, on account of our
kinship’’ (5.104). Alliances are typically considered to be one of the two traditional
mechanisms of balancing, self-help behavior, and Melos seemingly relies on Sparta
to redress an imbalance of power.23 However, Melos regards Sparta as ‘‘compelled’’
not by the realities of material power and situational necessities, but, as Lacadaemonian colonists, by the reciprocal obligations of honor and kinship. This view
of alliances is contrary to the more typically realist view, presented, for example, by
Corcyra and Myteline in Books I and III, that political cooperation is contingent on
an underlying balance of power and convergence of interest (1.35, 3.11; see also
6.18, 7.57, 7.77). Ultimately, the Athenian offer is rejected on the grounds that
Melos ‘‘will not in a matter of minutes do away with the freedom of a city whose
habitation has lasted 700 years, but by trusting in the favor of the Gods, which has
preserved it up till now’’ (5.112). Athens derides the decision as ‘‘fully irrational,’’
and ‘‘wishful thinking’’ that ‘‘when human means of saving themselves are still
available . . . [men] turn to intangible ones, to prophecy, oracles, and whatever else
of this sort combines with hope to bring ruin’’ (5.103). They also dismiss the Melian
hope for Spartan assistance; extending the positional logic of realism, Athens argues that Sparta will not assist on the basis of kinship alone, in the absence of some
immediate material interest.
The Melian dialogue is widely regarded as the climax of the Athenian realpolitik
that extends through the debate at Sparta in Book I, the speeches by Pericles, and
the Mytilene debate, and provides the most dramatic illustration of many of its (and
by extension, modern realism’s) key themes: the subordination of moral considerations to interest and expedience, the primacy of the existential survival of a
political entity, the absence of coercion only in relations among equals, and the
convergence of interests being the only stable source of cooperation. The actions of
Melos itself, however, made on the basis of chance, honor, diffuse reciprocity, and
speculation about the role of the Gods in human affairs, are not only contrary to the
behavioral expectations derived by modern realism from the third image and by
Athens from its putative laws of human nature, but also represent a discrete and
competing political world view. Crane (1998) in fact argues that Athens crushed
Melos not only because of the vital imperial interests threatened by continued
Melian neutrality, but also because their continued existence represented a
The other being internal mobilization; see Waltz (1979) and Morganthau (1954).
fundamental threat to the Athenian (and again, by extension, modern realism’s)
political world view.
The Melian dialogue, however, illustrates structural realist logic not because of
Melian behavior as it relates to the Athenian thesisFit in fact contests its expectationsFbut because Melos pays a cost in terms of its survival for ignoring the logic
of a system that rewards self-interested, power-oriented behavior, and discourages
behavior driven by the factors listed above. The stakes of the dialogue for Melos
were high; Thucydides dramatically concludes Book V with the elimination of
Melos as an independent political entity; Athens ‘‘killed all the grown men they
captured, enslaved the children and women, and settled the place themselves’’
(5.116). As a consequence of relying on chance, reciprocal obligations, and a quasipolitical power other than that mobilized by its own initiative, Melos engages in
what from the perspective of third-image realism is clearly ‘‘irrational’’ behavior. As
Forde (1995:145) argues, ‘‘violations of realist rationality are as salient in [Thucydides] as is realism itself. The Melians’ failure to surrender to the overwhelmingly
superior power of Athens is only the clearest such case.’’ But rationality is not what
interests structural realism; as we have seen above, a structural theory of international politics would not contest that 700 years of political–cultural continuity can
impact a state’s decision-making process. Structural realism is only interested in the
outcomes of those decisions, and its explanatory expectationFthat states that ignore the imperatives of a self-help system will be punishedFis vindicated by the
events at Melos.
The argument can be made that Melian behavior confirms politics as an exercise
in power and self-interestFthat is, confirms the Athenian thesisFfor two reasons.
First, Thucydides notes that the Melian oligarchs did not allow the Athenian representatives to speak before the public at large, a clearly self-interested act; Athens’
first statement in the dialogue is the observation that the debate is not open to the
public ‘‘in order to avoid a continuous presentation by which the people would be
taken in after hearing us say things that appealed to them’’ (5.85).24
Second, Melos frames its moral arguments to the Athenians around the instrumental value of justice, and not behaving justly for its own sake. By arguing that
they ‘‘will not go without their share of fortune from the Gods’’ (5.104), Melos
regards the Gods as effectively serving as a source of supra-state moral and religious order, equivalent to an overarching political authority or public agent that
regulates political relations between cities by punishing or rewarding just and unjust behavior. Melos’ interest in moral behavior is not for its moral worth, but justice
used instrumentally as a form of self-help (Ahrensdorf 1997:244).25
The first argument does not address any of the premises of structural realism;
whether the decisions of domestic actors are instrumental or rational from the
perspective of their private interests is not relevant to the international consequences or outcomes of those decisions. The second argument is particularly interesting, because it directly challenges the premise of anarchy; as Ahrensdorf
(1997:244) asks, ‘‘insofar as realists contend that justice has no power in the real,
anarchic world of international politics . . . how can the realists know that this
assumption is true?’’ The Athenian response in 5.105 is that Melos’ belief in its own
divine favor is contingent on a specific understanding of divinity; according to
Athens, because it was not the first to ‘‘lay down’’ the law that humans are under an
‘‘innate compulsion to rule wherever empowered,’’ it is morally exonerated for
acting in terms of necessity and interest. Moreover, it is evident throughout
This argumentFthat realism applies to the decision-making agents within states and not states themselves as
unitary actorsFis advanced by Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman (1995) in their response to Paul
Schroeder’s critique of structural realism.
This corresponds to the distinction between actions based on a logic of consequences and actions based on a
logic of appropriateness, see Risse (2002).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
Thucydides’ narrative that while people’s subjective religious beliefs matter in
terms of motivating or impacting political behavior, the Gods themselves do not
play an active role in human affairs.
Athens and Realpolitik
This understanding of structural realism also provides better insight into the role of
Athens in the Peloponnesian War than unreconstructed third-image realism.
Thucydides presents Athens as perhaps the primary practitioner of realpolitik, a
view certainly shared by many of the secondary authors discussed here, yet they
were defeated. Why did AthensFregarded by Corinth as the model of a successful
political culture, one it implores Sparta to emulateFnot succeed, as structural
realism might expect?
An initial answer might be that both places in the narrative in which Thucydides
comments directly on the causes of Athenian defeat involve how Athens deviates
from the realpolitik ideal. First, in his eulogy of Pericles at 2.65, Thucydides
projects how the domestic political competition to succeed Pericles as ‘‘first man’’
undermined Athens’ capacity to act as a coherent strategic actor. According to
For as long as [Pericles] presided over the city in peacetime he led it with moderation and preserved it in safety and it became greatest in his hands, and when
war broke out it is clear that he foresaw the power it had at this time . . . He said
that by keeping quiet, looking after the fleet, not extending the empire, and not
endangering the city they would prevail; yet they managed all the affairs in the
opposite way, and in accordance with personal ambition and personal gain they
pursued other policies that seemed unrelated to the war, to the detriment of both
themselves and the allies (2.65).
The ensuing political competition prevented Athens from consistently adhering to
the strategy of attrition forged by Pericles in Books I and II, and held together
under the plague and other stresses only by the force of his prestige. Consistent
with Thucydides’ explanation, Michael Doyle (1997:74) argues that factionalism
undermined Athens ability to ‘‘calculate their security with close attention to the
threats posed and to the resources available to meet those threats,’’ as did Pericles.26
A second place where domestic-political competition and leadership are cited as
causes of the Athenian failure occurs at 6.15, during the debate between Nicias and
Alcibiades over the Sicilian expedition. Thucydides portrays Alicibiades as the most
capable of the post-Perciles Athenian leaders, and the most effective in pursuing the
Athenian ‘‘national’’ interest; ‘‘as a public person [he] managed the war with the
utmost skill’’ (6.15).27 In many ways he also personally embodied the Athenian ideal
of boldness, action, and ability outlined by Pericles in the Funeral Oration, although
in doing so raised concerns about his private life and the ‘‘magnitude of his license’’
(6.15).28 As Alcibiades argued in the Sicily debate, ‘‘when I with these aspirations
am personally assailed for them, consider whether my public management can be
matched by anyone’’ (6.16).
For an evaluation of Pericles’ military strategy, see Kagan (1995).
The most prominent example prior to 6.15 is probably 5.43, where, according to Alcibiades, he ‘‘brought
together the strongest powers in the Peloponnesos with little risk or cost to [Athens] and made the Lacedaemonians
contest everything in a single day at Mantinea; and as a consequence, even though they prevailed in the battle, their
confidence is still not restored to this very day’’ (6.16).
See the Funeral Oration, 2.35–2.46. Thucydides’ treatment of Alcibiades is complex, as many scholars have
recognized (e.g., Lattimore 1998). Although he embodied this Periclean ideal and distinguished himself from other
leaders competing for power by his superior ability, he has also been called the ‘‘anti-Pericles’’ for subordinating
public, city interests to personal interests. See his speech on patriotism at Sparta, which concludes with him imploring Sparta to contest Athens in Sicily (6.89–6.92). On Alcibiades as the ‘‘anti-Pericles,’’ see Crane (1998).
Although both Nicias and Alcibiades were assigned to lead the expedition, Alcibiades was eventually recalled. Why did Athens deliberately act contrary to its own
self-interest, and particularly in the management of an issue absolutely vital to their
security and prosecution of the war? Thucydides’ answer appears to be that he was
feared as a potential tyrant, an extension of the domestic political competition cited
in 2.65. Of Alcibiades, Thucydides writes:
It was this which destroyed the Athenian city. The masses, frightened by the
magnitude of his license in conducting his personal life and of his aims in absolutely everything he did, developed hostility towards him as an aspiring tyrant
. . . by entrusting the city to others they ruined it in short order.
Athens could have conquered Sicily and presumably won the war had they retained
their most capable general, Alcibiades, who despite his private behavior was apparently best able to pursue Athenian affairs of state.
A second dimension was the religious panic that accompanied the mutilation of
the Hermes on the eve of the Sicilian expedition (6.27). Alcibiades was arrested,
condemned to death, and ultimately forced to flee, in connection with both the
crimes against the Hermes and an accusation that he hosted celebrations of the
‘‘Mysteries’’ in his private home. In part this was driven by the fear of Alcibiades as
a tyrant; it was believed that ‘‘both the Mysteries and the mutilation of the hermes
were connected with the overthrow of the democracy, and that none of this had
been done without [Alcibiades’] complicity, adducing as evidence the undemocratic
licentiousness of his conduct in general’’ (6.28).29 The events surrounding the
investigation and trial were used as a pretext for domestic-political competition:
‘‘taking up the charges were those who especially resented Alcibiades for standing
in the way of their assured ascendancy over the people’’ (6.27).
There was also an independent religious element to these events: the mutilations
were construed as ‘‘an omen for the voyage’’ (6.27), producing mass religious panic
through the city and the fear that the expedition was, as Nicias would later say,
‘‘resented by the Gods’’ (7.77). Although Athens contends to behave consistent with
moral laws they did not ‘‘lay down,’’ there is some evidence to suggest that Athens
felt some underlying guilt or moral culpability for the empire and the necessities
required to sustain it, and thus interpreted the mutilation of the Hermes as a signal
of divine punishment (e.g., see 2.17, 2.54, 2.62, 3.37). Athens did not consider
removing Alcibiades until after the religious crimes, and his alleged association with
the Mysteries reinforced public angst about his leadership. According to
Ahrensdorf (1997:257), Athens’ response to the incident ‘‘reveals the power of
both their pious fears and their pious hopes, fears and hopes that overwhelm their
capacity to pursue their self-interest effectively.’’30
As a consequence of domestic politics and Alcibiades’ presumed impiety, Athens
recalled him and entrusted the pivotal military expedition to the more pious but
less capable Nicias. Upon arriving in Sicily, Nicias squandered Athens’ initial strategic advantage by not immediately attacking, before Syracuse could organize a
military response and while it was still intimidated by the magnitude of Athenian
military power (7.42).31 Nicias also ceded the initiative to the arriving Spartan
general, Gylippos, a mistake he himself later acknowledges. Later in Book VII, and
after losing several military engagements, Nicias and the Athenian army witness an
These fears were exacerbated by a previous episode of Athenian history, in which celebrations of the Mysteries
were associated with oligarchic conspiracy, see 6.53–6.59.
As Nicias says after the defeat, ‘‘if we were resented by the Gods for our expedition we have already been
chastised sufficiently’’ (7.77).
‘‘Although Nicias was terrifying when he first arrived, when he did not immediately attack Syracuse but spent
the winter at Katana he was despised, and Gylippos took the initiative away from him by arriving from the
Peloponnesos’’ (7.42). On Nicias’ strategic failures, also see Kagan (1981).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
eclipse of the moon, which he construed as another bad omen. Hoping to appease
the Gods and in deference to Athenian soothsayers, Nicias delayed the withdrawal
from Sicily ‘‘thrice 9 days,’’ allowing Syracuse to encircle and decisively destroy the
entire Athenian army (7.50).32 Under Nicias, the Athenian army is reduced to
relying on hope and the favor of the Gods, precisely those means of statecraft for
which they chastised the Melian oligarchs.33 In combination, these two qualities of
leadershipFindecisiveness and what Thucydides calls Nicias’ ‘‘over-credulous’’ pietyFare more associated with the cultures of political communities like Sparta and
Melos than Athens.
The Sicily campaign represented a total strategic collapse for the city of Athens.
Vital Athenian interests were at stake in the military outcome in Sicily, both because
of the degree of military power committed by Athens, and because, consistent with
what they believed to be the necessities and compulsions of the international system, they linked their security to the unabated expansion of the empire (2.64, 3.40,
5.85–113, 6.18. 6.82–87).34 Acknowledging the high costs paid by Athens for deviating from third-image pressures, the defeat was, according to Thucydides, ‘‘the
greatest reversal for any Hellenic army’’ (7.75). Domestic politics and an attempt to
‘‘appease the Gods’’ interfered with Athens’ ability, or willingness, to pursue its own
narrow material interests at stake in Sicily, and this explains why they were unable
to sustain a foreign policy line consistent with the realpolitik paradigm outlined
throughout the History. However, this is entirely compatible with structural realism
as formulated by Waltz: the argument is not that domestic and ideational causal
factors do not impact decisions and behavior, only that they do not negate the
structural incentives states face, and that states often pay a price for acting contrary
to them.
Other scholars have used the Athenian case to examine the ethical and practical
implications of political realism.35 Ahrensdorf (1997), for example, uses the dismissal of Alcibiades to demonstrate that political communities cannot meet the
‘‘psychological requirements’’ of political realism in practice and often backlash, in
the Athenian case by becoming overly pious. Forde (1995) advances a similar critique of realism, that the case of Athens (and, although not mentioned, presumably
Corcyra) demonstrates that the self-aggrandizing and self-interested behavior encouraged by realism abroad is not sustainable within a political community at
home.36 Alcibiades also presents a variation of this argument, observing that those
who ‘‘stand out’’ for their accomplishments in public affairsFthat is, effectively
engage in realpolitikFinevitably engender resentment among their peers,
Thucydides eulogizes Nicias as conducting ‘‘a life entirely directed towards virtue’’ (7.86), a comment which
many authors have interpreted as a critique of Nicias’ leadership, see Lattimore (1998:406).
According to Leo Strauss (1978:209), ‘‘Alcibiades’ . . . presumed impiety made it necessary for the Athenian
demos to entrust the expedition to a man of Melian beliefs whom they could perfectly trust because he surpassed
every one of them in piety.’’
As Nikias stated to Athenian hoplites before what would be the decisive battle, ‘‘if the outcome for you is
anything other than victory tour enemies here are going to sail immediately against what remains back there . . . So
while you would immediately fall into the hands of the Syracusans . . . those [in Athens] would fall into the hands of
the Lacedaemonians.’’ ‘‘This single contest’’ is for ‘‘a double cause’’ (7.63). Thucydides directly connects an Athenian
victory in Sicily with the security of its empire, observing that ‘‘if [Syracuse] could defeat the Athenians and their
allies both on land and at sea, their feat would appear glorious in the eyes of the Hellenes; immediately, the other
Hellenes would be either set free or delivered from fear (for the remaining power of the Athenians would be
incapable of bearing up under the war that would subsequently be brought against them)’’ (7.56).
As mentioned earlier, these are examples of realist, ‘‘second-image reversed’’ arguments, in which the pressures of international political competition shape the quality of domestic politics. See Gourevitch (1978) and Zakaria
In contrast with Forde, Ahrensdorf argues that Athens lost the war because it was too pious, not because they
were too impious. From the perspective of structural realism, both arguments rely on the same second-image logic,
and involve factors that cause Athens to deviate from the narrow pursuit of its strategic interests.
although the renown they gain through their reputation for success publicly
benefits everyone in a community.37
But the logic of these arguments is subsumed by, and even confirms, structural
realism as formulated by Waltz. Whether Athens lost the war because it became a
moderate Corcyra (consumed by self-interested domestic politics) or a moderate
Melos (relying on moral and religious hopes), it suffered immense costs for deviating from rational, self-interested behavior. While arguably discrediting of a
more deterministic third-image realism, Athens’ experience in the war in fact
indicates Waltz’s structural realism.
Waltz’s structural realism reconceives how systems exert effects on the political units
of which they are comprised. A properly specified structural reading of Thucydides
yields a different picture of the Peloponnesian War, highlighting not that states
conform to the Athenian thesis, as many scholars assume, but that states suffer costs
to the extent they deviate from the situational expectations of Athenian realpolitik.
This article illustrated this argument with two examples, but could be expanded to
include others, including cases of political actors successfully conforming to the
competitive pressures of anarchy despite traditionalist cultures, such as Sparta and
Syracuse in Books VI and VII.
What is the value added of what some might regard as a minor theoretical
exercise, and others an attempt to use a canonical text to validate or legitimize a
particular modern theoretical perspective? Although much of The Peloponnesian War
substantiates this narrow version of structural realism, there are also ways in which
a more complex reading of Thucydides both critiques and builds on Waltz’s realism. A highly nuanced work like The Peloponnesian War is well suited to examining
the interaction of factors located at different levels of analyses and across the materialist/ideational divide, such as human nature, political culture, identity, and
rhetoric. Recognizing the importance of these other influences, however, does not
negate or alter the structural constraints and incentives elucidated by Waltzian
This suggests ways of combining different theoretical traditions; for example,
acknowledging both the autonomous influence of anarchic structures and norms
and identity captures an important intersection between the constructivist and realist research programs (Barkin 2003; Jackson 2004). Scholars need not battle over
whose theoretical camp Thucydides belongs in; in the substantive events he
presents and the political ideas he advances, Thucydides demonstrates that a
structural approach need not exclude attention to variation in unit-level attributes.
As Stacie Goddard and Daniel Nexon (2005) argue, cultural or alternative domestic
phenomena ‘‘might be integrated into structural realism without sacrificing Waltz’s
insights into the implications of anarchical orders for those situated within them.’’
Waltz himself anticipates this idea, and argues to the contrary that theories are
not just collections of assorted variables, but conceptual frameworks that relate
phenomena in coherent and logical ways.38 This argument is similar to what other
scholars, working in the philosophy of science tradition of Imre Lakatos, refer to as
a regressive ‘‘problemshifts,’’ in which variables are added on an ad hoc basis to
According to Alcibiades, ‘‘let all submit to the arrogance of the successful . . . I observe that such men, indeed
all men who stand out with any brilliance, are resented during their lifetimes, especially by their peers’’ (6.16). This
parallels Pericles’ claim about the Athens’ success being resented in the wider Greek world at 2.64: ‘‘To be hated and
disliked in season has been the situation for all alike . . . For hatred does not last long, but the brilliance of the
moment and glory in the future remain in eternal memory.’’
For Waltz’s view on the construction of theories, see Waltz (1979:chapter 1), and Waltz (1988:615–617).
Thucydides and Modern Realism
account for empirical anomalies generated by the original terms of a theory (Elman
and Elman 2003; Elman and Vasquez 2003).
Of the many things that concerned Thucydides about political life, however, we
might say with some confidence that regressive problemshifts were probably not
among them. In the context of a well-crafted story, propositions often portrayed as
mutually exclusive become eminently compatible. Thucydides shows us the value of
a richer approach that artfully incorporates a diverse range of influences into a
compelling account, possibly a more important methodological lesson for realism
and the wider discipline than his contested claim to have focused on ‘‘the facts
AHRENSDORF, PETER. (1997) Thucydides’ Realistic Critique of Realism. Polity 30:231–265.
BAGBY, LAURIE JOHNSON. (1994) The Use and Abuse of Thucydides in International Relations. International Organization 48:131–153.
BARKIN, J. SAMUEL. (2003) Realist Constructivism. International Studies Review 5:325–342.
CARR, EDWARD HALLETT. (1939) The Twenty Years’ Crisis. New York: Harper & Row.
COPELAND, DALE. (2000) The Origins of Major War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
CRANE, GREGORY. (1998) Thucydides and the Ancient Simplicity. Berkeley: University of California Press.
DOYLE, MICHAEL. (1990) Thucydidean Realism. Review of International Studies 16:223–238.
DOYLE, MICHAEL. (1997) Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism. New York: Norton.
ELMAN, COLIN. (1996) Horses for Courses: Why Not Neo-Realist Theories of Foreign Policy? Security
Studies 6:7–51.
ELMAN, COLIN, AND MIRIAM FENDIUS ELMAN. (1995) History vs. Neo-Realism: A Second Look. International Security 20:182–196.
ELMAN, COLIN, AND MIRIAM FENDIUS ELMAN, EDS. (2003) Progress in International Relations Theory: Appraising the Field. Cambridge: MIT Press.
ELMAN, COLIN, AND JOHN A. VASQUEZ, EDS. (2003) Realism and the Balance of Power: A New Debate. Upper
Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
FEARON, JAMES. (1998) Domestic Politics, Foreign Policy, and Theories of International Relations.
Annual Review of Political Science 1:289–313.
FRANKEL, BENJAMIN, ED. (1996) Roots of Realism. London: Frank Cass.
FRIEDMAN, MILTON. (1953) Essays in Positive Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
FORDE, STEVEN. (1995) International Relations and the Science of Politics: Thucydides, Machiavelli,
and Neorealism. International Studies Quarterly 39:141–160.
GARST, DANIEL. (1989) Thucydides and Neorealism. International Studies Quarterly 33:3–27.
GARST, DANIEL (2000) Thucydides and the Domestic Sources of International Politics. In Thucydides’
Theory of International Relations, edited by Lowell Gustafson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
GILPIN, ROBERT. (1986) The Richness of the Tradition of Political Realism. In Neorealism and its Critics,
edited by Robert Keohane. New York: Columbia University Press.
GODDARD, STACIE E., AND DANIEL H. NEXON. (2005) Paradigm Lost: Reassessing Theory of International
Politics. European Journal of International Relations 11:9–61.
GOUREVITCH, PETER. (1978) The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic
Politics. International Organization 32:881–912.
JACKSON, PATRICK THADDEUS. (2004) Bridging the Gap: Towards a Realist-Constructivist Dialogue.
International Studies Review 6:337–352.
JERVIS, ROBERT. (1976) Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
KAGAN, DONALD. (1981) The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
KAGAN, DONALD. (1995) The Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. New York: Doubleday.
KEOHANE, ROBERT. (1986) Realism, Neorealism, and the Study of World Politics. In Neorealism and Its
Critics, edited by Robert Keohane. New York: Columbia University Press.
KEOHANE, ROBERT, AND JOSEPH NYE. (1977) Power and Interdependence. Boston: Little, Brown.
LEBOW, RICHARD NED. (2001) Thucydides the Constructivist. American Political Science Review 95:
LEBOW, RICHARD NED, AND BARRY STRAUSS, EDS. (1991) Hegemonic Rivalries: From Thucydides to the Nuclear Age. Boulder: Westview Press.
MEARSHEIMER, JOHN. (2001) Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: Knopf.
MORGENTHAU, HANS. (1954) Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York: Knopf.
ORWIN, CLIFFORD. (1994) The Humanity of Thucydides. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
POWELL, ROBERT. (1994) Anarchy in International Relations Theory: The Neorealist–Neoliberal Debate. International Organization 48:313–340.
RISSE, THOMAS. (2002) Constructivism and International Institutions: Toward Conversations Across
Paradigms. In Political Science: The State of the Discipline, edited by Ira Katznelson and Helen
Milner. New York: W.W. Norton.
SCHWELLER, RANDY. (1994) Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In. International Security 19:72–107.
SCHWELLER, RANDALL. (1996) Neorealism’s Status-Quo Bias: What Security Dilemma? Security Studies
STRAUSS, LEO. (1978) The City and Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
THOMAS, ASHLEY. (2005) The Peloponnesian War: A Constructivist Account of International Politics.
Paper presented at the Realism-Constructivism Workshop at Georgetown University, April
THUCYDIDES. (1998) The Peloponnesian War, translated by Steven Lattimore. Indianapolis: Hackett
WALT, STEVEN. (2002) The Enduring Relevance of the Realist Tradition. In Political Science: The State of
the Discipline III, edited by Ira Katznelson and Helen Milner. New York: W.W. Norton.
WALTZ, KENNETH. (1954) Man, the State and War. New York: Columbia University Press.
WALTZ, KENNETH. (1979) Theory of International Politics. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
WALTZ, KENNETH. (1988) The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory. Journal of Interdisciplinary History
WALTZ, KENNETH. (1996) International Politics Is Not Foreign Policy. Security Studies 6:54–57.
WALTZ, KENNETH. (2002) Structural Realism after the Cold War. In American Unrivaled: The Future of the
Balance of Power, edited by G. John Ikenberry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
WELCH, DAVID. (2003) Why International Relations Theorists Should Stop Reading Thucydides. Review of International Studies 29:301–320.
ZAKARIA, FAREED. (1992) Realism and Domestic Politics: A Review Essay. International Security 17:
ZAKARIA, FAREED. (1998) From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.