An economic model for international politics: The question of the applicability of microeconomic theory to Kenneth Waltz' theory of international politics

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Bruce Bagley - Committee Chair


This study investigates the influences of the main assumptions of microeconomic theory on Kenneth Waltz' theory of international politics, termed neo- or structural realism, and questions their applicability to his theory. In his work, Waltz questioned whether the prevailing theories in the discipline were capable of explaining the relationship between nations, causes of war and conditions of peace, or predicting the reoccurrence of major changes in international politics.The deficiencies characterizing these theories stem from two sources: the reductionist approach, attribution of change to the attributes of the states as actors, and the systemic approach's vagueness. To overcome such failings Waltz turned to microeconomic theory for its structural approach and applied it to his international political theory.This study hypothesizes that five basic microeconomic theory assumptions: the firm and its role and behavior in the market system, the basic market structure, the concept of equilibrium, interdependence, and rationality and profit-maximization/wealth have effect on the five assumptions which Kenneth Waltz used to formulate his theory. It points to their relationship and at the same time demonstrates the assumptions' shortcomings in constructing his theory.This study finds that the perfect competitive balance of power in the duobly/bipolar system--which Waltz claims his theory predicts--is difficult to conceive as one has to be abandoned for the other to be retained.It further examines the concentration of power and wealth to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of each in relation to the two theories.The application of the microeconomic assumptions to the basic premises of Waltz' theory led to major problems which put their usage in question. The difficulties encountered were profound enough to usher in the demise of the Waltz' theory of international politics.


Sociology, Theory and Methods; Economics, Theory; Political Science, International Law and Relations

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text