Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


Continuity and Change: Structural Realism and International Stability in the Information Age Open Access

This thesis examines one aspect of the information revolution's impact on international relations by studying the securitization of cyberspace through the structural realist set of optics. The first of the two main questions addressed in this study asks whether or not structural realism, and state-centric theories in general, retain explanatory power in the information age. The purpose of this question is to establish whether structural realism can still be used to explain and anticipate international political phenomena, or if the changes caused by the advent of cyberspace are of the extent that state-centric theories such as structural realism no longer retain sufficient explanatory value. Based on the criteria outlined in a debate between Kenneth Waltz and John Ruggie, I conclude that at the current stage of the information revolution, because the changes to the international system caused by cyberspace do not transform the defining principles of the international system, structural realism does not need to be overhauled as a tool for studying international phenomena. Upon establishing the continued relevance of structural realism, I ask in the second question, what the merits and limits of structural realism are in explaining the effects of cyberspace on the international security environment. Here, I assess the potential impact of cyberspace on international stability according to two concepts often used by structural realists--namely, the security dilemma, and system polarity. My analysis indicates that although the security dilemma portrays cyberspace as a potential source of competition and instability, the structural realists' reliance on the number of great powers to anticipate the system's stability dangerously overlooks the possible threats that are created from cyberspace enabling non-state actors, and deteriorating the control states have over their respective security postures. As a result, I conclude in my final assessment that expectations of stability based on the polarity of the system can lead to a false sense of security for states, and that as the information revolution progresses, international political theory will need to reflect the greater roles played by non-state actors in shaping the international security environment.

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