Mearsheimer’s 5 assumptions applications on Business

Jefferies Jiang
2 min readApr 24, 2024

Mearsheimer’s five assumptions, often associated with his theory of offensive realism in international relations, can be adapted to business contexts as follows:

  1. **Anarchy**: In the business world, there is a similar environment of competition and self-interest among companies operating within a market. Just as states in an anarchic international system seek to maximize their security, businesses compete to maximize their market share, profits, and competitive advantage within the constraints of the market.

2. **States as the Main Actors**: In business, companies are the primary actors driving economic activity, innovation, and competition within markets. Like states, businesses pursue their interests through various strategies, alliances, and competitive tactics in pursuit of market dominance and profitability.

3. **States as Unitary Rational Actors**: Similarly, businesses are often treated as unitary rational actors seeking to maximize their objectives, such as profit maximization, shareholder value, or market expansion. Decision-making within businesses is often based on rational calculations of costs, benefits, and risks, guided by the overarching goal of achieving strategic objectives.

4. **Survival: Just as states seek survival and security in an anarchic international system, businesses must navigate competitive pressures and market dynamics to ensure their survival and long-term viability. This may involve adapting to changes in the market environment, innovating to meet evolving customer needs, or forming strategic partnerships to enhance competitiveness.

5. **Security Dilemma: In the business world, there is a parallel concept of the “security dilemma,” where actions taken by one company to enhance its competitive position may inadvertently provoke competitive responses from other firms, leading to a spiral of competition and conflict. Businesses must carefully navigate this dilemma to avoid destabilizing market dynamics and maintain positive relationships with competitors, suppliers, and customers.

By applying Mearsheimer’s assumptions to business contexts, organizations can gain insights into the competitive dynamics, strategic interactions, and decision-making processes that shape their operating environments. Understanding these dynamics can inform strategic planning, risk management, and competitive positioning to enhance business success and resilience in a competitive marketplace.