May 12, 2013

The Institute mourns the passing of our friend and colleague, Kenneth N. Waltz. Waltz was the leading academic theorist of the causes of war and one of the half-dozen most influential international relations theorists since World War II.  He developed “structural realism,” a more systematic and rigorous version of the theory of international politics associated with Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Hobbes in earlier eras, and with E. H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Henry Kissinger in recent times.  His most famous books, Man, the State, and War (1959) and Theory of International Politics (1979) were required reading for generations of political scientists, and the latter dominated debate among theorists in the late 20th century.  He also wrote on how differences in American and British political institutions affected foreign affairs in Democratic Politics and Foreign Policy (1967).  He opposed the Vietnam War and the second war against Iraq as unnecessary for U.S. security and in recent years he was best known outside academic circles for the controversial idea that nuclear proliferation might stabilize conflict situations because it would force states that would otherwise risk war to refrain out of fear of annihilation.

Ken began and ended his career at Columbia, where he finished his Ph.D. and served as an assistant professor after being recalled to Army service in the Korean War, and has been a senior research scholar at Columbia’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies since retiring from the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley.  He also taught at Swarthmore and Brandeis and served as president of the American Political Science Association.

– Richard K. Betts, Director

Stephen Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, has also posted a tribute to Dr. Waltz’s work on Foreign Policy’s website. Click here to read it