Sometimes a Theory Talk needs no introduction. This special issue of Theory Talkswith Kenneth Waltz, who has been hailed recently as the ‘King of Thought’, is such an occasion. He describes his own work as an attempt to understand the impact of the invention of nuclear weapons on international politics, but his influence reaches far beyond that specific issue. A historical analogy is in line.Systemic thinking in economy started with the physiocrats, who conceived of a structure of economics independent of actors and constituting their behavior. Before that, no systematic theory of the economy existed, and the economy could not be seen as a ‘field’. Much in the same way and based on economic thinking, Kenneth Waltz developed a structural theory of international politics. Kenneth Waltz is the godfather of modern theory of international politics.
In this Talk, Kenneth Waltz discusses, amongst others, the economic origins of his thinking about international politics, what good theory is, the impact of nuclear weapons in the contemporary world, and if the United States is behaving in accordance with what realist theory would predict.
And does the same go for theorizing, or does that require a different set of skills?
States should accommodate to their position in the international system, which is determined in big part by the shifts in relative capabilities between states. Has the United States, in your view, adapted well to the position it is currently in? And if not, what system does it seem to respond to?