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Reflections on nuclear optimism: Waltz, Burke and proliferation

  • MATTHEW WOODS
Abstract

Proliferation optimism is the controversial theoretical and worrisome practical product of neorealism. This article reviews and ultimately rejects proliferation optimism by showing how it actually reproduces what it seeks to eliminate: pessimism. This article interprets proliferation optimism through the lens of Burkean conservatism and contends—adopting the formative reasoning of neorealism and optimism—that as the ideal nuclear society which optimism envisions resembles the ideal conservative society Burke describes in his Reflections, that optimism reproduces a core belief of conservatism: flawed human nature. The article contends that, contrary to the first principles of neorealism, an unheralded view of human nature operates within optimism to yield its reservations about widespread proliferation which, in turn, reveal optimism's essential pessimism. Illustrating how optimism is pessimism may diminish its theoretical and practical allure.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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