Thucydides the Neorealist?
Thucydides has long been viewed as an early exemplar of realist thinking in International Relations Theory. More recently, neorealist authors have claimed that Thucydides’ History offers insights into the importance of the anarchy in shaping interstate relations, and should be recognised as a neorealist. This neorealist appropriation has met substantial criticism and many revisionist scholars have urged a re-examining of Thucydides. This dissertation serves to answer the question of whether Thucydides can be accurately considered a neorealist. The dissertation will build on the recent critique that neorealists have met in claiming Thucydides as one of their own, showing that the prominence Thucydides’ gives to both the first and second levels of analysis, and also his differing conception of power and hegemony would bring him into tension with neorealist scholarship. This will be substantiated by conducting a critical analysis of Thucydides’ primary text History of the Peloponnesian War, focusing on a total of six key dialogues. This methodology stems from a serious defect from neorealists in their inability to account for the speeches and debates that recur in Thucydides History. These speeches are important for two reasons. First they appear at critical junctures of Thucydides’ History and secondly, they also show the changing nature of Athenian imperialism, useful for understanding Thucydides’ conception of power and hegemony. The dissertation will conclude that Thucydides cannot be considered a neorealist and that rather, the ancient historian can be used to highlight neorealism’s inefficiencies