7 Conclusion

To conclude, this dissertation has shown through a closer examination of History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides, 1972), that Thucydides cannot be considered a neorealist: Chapter 1 identified how Thucydides has been used to support and expound neorealist sentiments. Waltz (1959, 1979), Gilpin (1984, 1988) and Keohane (1986) writing on Thucydides have all utilized his ‘truest cause’ explanation for the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War – that ‘what made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear this caused in Sparta’ (Thucydides, 1972, p. 49) - to suggest he shared their primacy of the Third Image.

Chapter 2 then went on to address the criticism that this use of Thucydides received. Two distinctive critical camps were evaluated. The first were those who felt that Thucydides did not share the neorealist primacy of third image in theorizing, instead supplementing the third, with the first and second. Secondly, the chapter also evaluated the arguments of those who felt a more deep-seated reading of Thucydides, especially of his Athenian discourse would reveal that Thucydides would have a different conception of power and hegemony to neorealists. Chapter 3 substantiated the first critical camps’ claim that Thucydides’ is not simply reducible down to the third level of analysis. For example, Sparta’s internal institutions were explicitly blamed for their slow reaction to Athenian growing power exemplifying Thucydides’ use of the Second Image. Furthermore, the First Image could also be seen, with Thucydides again making it clear that post-Periclean leaders were to blame for the fall of Athens (Thucydides, 1972, p. 164).

Chapter 4 then went on to substantiate the second critical camp highlighted in the second chapter. The Athenians, it was shown, were only able to exercise power when it was in accord with well-defined social conventions such as language regulating Greek behaviour. Athens’ demise exemplified this. The chapter showed that when the Athenians exercised domestic and foreign policies outside the frame of conventional language that they had destructive consequences. Thus, for Thucydides, power is contingent on the environment it is exercised in. This again brings Thucydides into tension with neorealism, which advocates a purely military or economic conception of power and hegemony.

7.1 Further research

Thucydides, moreover, if read correctly, can highlight potholes in neorealism and reinvigorate existing debates within broader school of realism itself particularly with regards to the validity of neorealism disregarding the aspect of morality. In the History (1979) as is well known now, Thucydides disagrees with the primacy given to the third image because of the prevalence he gives to the First and Second images, but also because the History caters for ethics (Thucydides as shown in chapter, inter alia, showed the implications of justifying a foreign policy on pure self-interest). Neorealists in striving for a more scientific theory have ignored the moral dimension of the realist approach it previously understood. Thucydides is useful in understanding the limitations in this value-neutral approach to international relations theory. What Thucydides and neorealists agree on that anarchy is a feature that needs to be taken into account. Yet, as has been shown, anarchy does always not account for the state behaviour that realism describes. As Donnelly (1992, p. 88) has suggested, an anarchic structure inhabited by angels would not constitute the world of international politics as realism describes it. Neorealism eschews human nature; yet the non-angelic character of human nature is precariously counted among its assumptions (Forde, 1995, p. 145). It was this this problem that led all earlier realists to ground their arguments in human nature as well as structural considerations. Thus Thucydides, rather than supporting the neorealism, can point to how neorealism has a flawed outlook of the international system.