Free Essay on Unveiling the Roots of Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of Waltz and Hobbes on the Origins of War

Published: 2023-12-19
Free Essay on Unveiling the Roots of Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of Waltz and Hobbes on the Origins of War
Essay type:  Analytical essays
Categories:  Politics War
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1573 words
14 min read

International conflicts take different shapes and approaches, which is emphasized by both Kenneth Waltz and Thomas Hobbes in their review of the origins and nature of wars. The two look into the concept of war and how it affects different countries at different times. Waltz goes into depth to try and describe the idea of power and how it plays out in man’s desire to be in control. From Waltz’s neorealism view, power is not an innate evil desire by people. Instead, it is part of what humans desire to achieve in their day-to-day lives. Hobbes explains how the nature of equality between men leads to diffidence, which in turn bears war. Since men’s equality gives them a chance at similar results, they may end up not enjoying something at the same time. This leads to conflict between the two, and the struggle is a catalyst for war.

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Waltz in The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory takes one through the imagination of power and how it catalyzes war. States consolidate power to themselves, and the presence or lack of such power could be the trigger for attacks by others from outside. Therefore, the structural balance of international politics is hinged on power in some instances. The ultimate desire of nations is security, which they believe could be achieved through the possession of power. “The struggle for power arises simply because men want things, not because of the evil in their desires” (Waltz, p. 102). For instance, the United States may not want the power to attack Afghanistan and other enemy territories, instead just because power is good to possess.

Thomas Hobbes, in The State of Nature and the State of War, runs the reader through a deep explanation of how the path of equality leads to diffidence and eventually to war. Diffidence is that point where one of the parties lacks assertiveness and self-confidence. As such, the other party makes a move that triggers discomfort in the bid to take control, thus bringing rise to war. In any civil society, the action is a situation of diffidence from person to person, as no one is really in control. Accordingly, this kind of war does not serve as an injustice. Instead, it comes across as the competition between human interests that are catalysts for the growth of a state. Hobbes argues that these differences are not visibly apparent to everyone. Instead, they are naturally integrated into society’s way of life. The notions of justice and injustice, or rights and wrongs are absent in such a community of man against man in the war for supremacy (Hobbes, pg. 83).

The two authors present interesting similarities and twists about war. Whereas, in some cases, the action is between powers and plays out visibly to the public; in other instances, it is a profound case of invisible diffidence between the people. One thing is apparent between Hobbes and Waltz; every individual or a state acting as a single entity is selfish when it comes to consolidation of power. The situation that plays out is that everyone wants power and desires to pull strings to favor them. Whereas Waltz explains how states consolidate power and then manifest it in conflicts, Hobbes focuses on how people build strength and use it to pull ahead in man-against-man wars. The intersecting point of their arguments is the desire for power as a case of human desire.

Neorealism is a view of power and structure relations as the central concept in international relations. Waltz revisits the ties between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In this case, countries have accumulated power and start jabbing each other through proxies to win the power contest. At the international level, the structural use of energy is a contest of the competing interests of nations in global politics (Waltz, pg. 105). On his part, Hobbes aligns his argument with the passion that leads men to peace. Whereas the world powers play the Cold War, it resonates with the silent battles of individuals wanting to take control in different life situations. Therefore, there is a close relationship between the two.

Often, at the heart of a conflict is usually the power of competition between two entities. On the one hand, Waltz’s views are that international conflict emanates from that push to be in control of things on the global stage. On the other hand, Hobbes trickles this competition for control to individuals. Therefore, both works agree that power and control bring a game, regardless of the level at which such power plays out. When the battle intensifies, it becomes a war. The war could be manifested in terms of cold war or hot war, depending on the situation.

The winner of the war becomes the winner of the competition between powers. It is another illustration by Hobbes and Waltz of how realism and neorealism ideas intersect. Waltz (pg. 107) argues that the presence of crises is evidence of conflicting ambitions. Therefore, a country should be worried if there are no crises in its pursuit of interests and industries more than it should be worried when the problems exist. At the end of such situations, there is always one idea that becomes more acceptable than the other, and a country gets others to support them.

Nevertheless, there are apparent differences in how the realists and neorealists post their views of power and war. Unlike in international politics and conflict, people rarely have alignment and flexibility. Realists will almost always take things their way, while neorealists will realign according to the balance of power in the world. The individual take on conflict is informed by the desire to be the best, and the national interpretation of war and violence is in the interest of being on the ‘right side’ of the division.

The world is mostly bipolar, whereas people’s interests are usually multipolar. There are many centers of power when individual conflicts are considered, whereas countries are usually circles around two differing ideologies. For instance, communism and capitalism have been the long-standing differences between countries across the world. On the one hand, some countries like the USA and UK are capitalists, which promotes democratic space. On the other hand, China and the Soviet Union are communists, which they pursue as a way of promoting their national sovereignty. Waltz (pg. 107) argues that an overreaction by a power in a bipolar world is dangerous and could trigger great conflict. In the illustration, Waltz uses the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union as a reference to how tensions between global powers can be dangerous.

Whereas the differences and conflicts between states stem from the pursuit of interests and ambitions, the differences between individual people are more diverse. Hobbes (pg. 82) describes some of the fronts within which human-against-human wars are fought. It does not have to involve any physicality, weapons, or gladiators. However, jealousy, independence, and business interests are common dividing factors in the conflicts between men. Human wars are pegged on the laws of nature. Waltz’s work indicates that war between states is waged based on the direction of the land. That position is contrary to the conflicts between people, which are established on the laws of nature.

The origins of wars, regardless of their nature, have similarities and differences, as illustrated by Thomas Hobbes and Kenneth Waltz. The unifying factors are the general interests of either the individual or the state. Among the differences, it is majorly where the conflict stems from, depending on the parties. Among states, it is about the differing principles of governance and position in international politics. Individuals are in the chase for equality. The United States has always had a significant conflict of individuals on the premises of equality. The existing differences between major and minor demographic groupings in the country have been escalated by equality calls. Human versus human wars have been ordinary, as every individual tries to make gains against the other. They have only ended in significant conflicts.

Waltz and Hobbes have well painted the picture of the origins of war, and how such sources are entirely beyond human control. As a student of international conflict, one would gain immensely from the two works. They help one realize and understand the causal effects of war and conflict. A student of international competition seeks to develop solutions that would greatly aid in lowering the levels of conflict. In this quest for answers to global conflicts, one needs to understand the causes and their impact. Accordingly, the works by Waltz and Hobbes dig deep into the reasons, and one gets a clear understanding.


In summary, the two works are a clear manifestation of the world people live in today. Whereas Jeff Bezos of Amazon is worth billions of dollars, there is someone who cannot afford daily meals and a roof over their head. Similarly, the United States, with all its military and economic power, is a voice of fear to smaller nations that have no such control. The balance of power, therefore, remains a reality to some and an illusion to others. The origins of war shall almost always follow the trails of conflicting interests and the pursuit of equality worldwide. Since they are not likely to be achieved soon, the world will keep experiencing the said wars and conflicts.

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