Rationalist Explanations For War James Fearon Analysis

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In “Rationalist Explanations for War,” James Fearon argues that due to war’s costly nature and states’ risk-averse, or at least risk-neutral, tendencies, there should always exist some possible prewar agreement between two disputing states that both parties would prefer to achieve over committing to war. While seeking to reveal his main claim that war is caused by information problems, commitment problems, and issue indivisibilities, Fearon critiques five traditional Neorealist explanations of war: anarchy, positive expected utility, preventive war, lack of information, and miscalculation of relative power. Although Fearon’s critique of the majority of these theories are earnest and do expose multiple logical shortcomings, his rapid dismissal of the merit behind the theory of anarchy is perplexing and vastly underdeveloped. Particularly, Fearon fails to fully unravel the nuances of …show more content…
He commences his analysis of the anarchy argument with a reference to Kenneth Waltz’s “Man, the State, and War,” and narrows in on the claim that “war occurs because there is no way to prevent it…In the absence of a supreme authority there is then the constant possibility that conflicts will be settled by force,” (Waltz, 188.) Fearon undeniably agrees that anarchy breeds uncertainty in international political dynamics, yet he remains unconvinced that the lack of a central governing force is enough to explain the recurrence of war, especially when one considers the significant associated costs. This may initially seem to be a fully developed argument against anarchy’s ability to account for war; however, in focusing solely on one component of Waltz’s argument, Fearon fails to address a key aspect of Waltz’s preferred theory that does in fact account for the phenomenon of costly war:

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