A Summary of John Mearshimer's Anarchy and the Struggle for Power.

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This essay, which is published as a book chapter, is a fairly clear statement of a foreign policy approach known as "realism." At the heart of this chapter is Mearshimer's contention that great powers are always "searching for opportunities to gain power over their rivals, with hegemony as their final goal." Marshier bases this argument on five assumptions. The first is that the international order is anarchic, with each power owing no allegiance to any central authority. There is, Mearshimer asserts, no "government for governments." Another assumption is that the great powers all have the ability to destroy or harm each other through military power. The third assumption is that each power can never be certain about other states' intentions. "Specifically," he writes, "no state can be sure that another state" will not attack them. A fourth assumption is that the goal of each great power is survival, and the final one is that states are rational actors, aware of their environment and attentive to the consequences of their actions and those of other states. Based on these assumptions, states attempt to pursue their own self-interest, which is, in a word, security and possibly hegemony, at least regional hegemony. This would make them what Mearshimer calls a "status quo power," and would allow them to dictate the realities of global politics. The point of all this is that states operate according to their own self-interest, not to "promote world order for its own sake." Nations seek peace to the extent that it promotes their own security. Within this system, Mearshimer concludes that peace, in the sense that one means an absence of international competition, is unlikely unless there was some global sovereign power. 

juergems eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Anarchy and The Struggle for Power" is a chapter from John Mearsheimer's book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. His overall claim within this chapter is that powerful countries and their leaders exist in a state of uncertainty, as a result, they therefore exist in a state of anarchy. Mearsheimer lays out five assumptions that we can make about international relationships in the beginning of the chapter. They have already been listed in the previous answer, so I will not list them again. However, I will add this important chunk of context: 

None of these assumptions alone mandates that states behave competitively. Taken together, however, they depict a world in which states have considerable reason to think and sometimes behave aggressively.

He uses the term "hegemony" quite a bit. To be a hegemon one has to "have great authority/influence over others." Throughout the course of the chapter, Mearsheimer is essentially claiming that because every country wants to be the hegemon of the world—as a result they operate with "revisionist intentions at their core,"—no one country can ever truly have hegemony. Countries are too unstable to be the hegemon because of their constant struggle for power with other countries, which makes the world order anarchic.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this chapter, Mearsheimer argues that great powers are in a constant struggle for more power.  All great powers are trying to achieve hegemony.

The author says that there are five assumptions that underlie his thinking.

  1. The international order is anarchic.  This is the basic idea of the realists.
  2. Great powers have the capacity to engage in offensive military actions -- they can attack others.
  3. Countries are never able to know for sure what they other countries intend to do. This causes uncertainty.
  4. Survival is the primary goal of great powers.  This includes wanting to keep other countries from being able to interfere in their domestic politics.
  5. States are rational actors.

For these reasons, states are in constant competition.  Because of the state of technology and such, there is no way that any state can actually become a long-term world-wide hegemon.