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Anarchy in international relations theory: the neorealist-neoliberal debate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

Robert Powell
Affiliation:
Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
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Abstract

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Review essays
Copyright
Copyright © The IO Foundation 1994

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References

1. Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979)Google Scholar.

2. For a summary of Waltz's goals, see p. 323 of Waltz, Kenneth, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 322–45Google Scholar.

3. Waltz, Kenneth, Man, the State and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959)Google Scholar.

4. Ibid., p. 16.

5. Ibid., pp. 80–164.

6. Ibid., pp. 172–86 and 201–5.

7. Ibid., p. 12.

8. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 73Google Scholar.

9. Waltz, , “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” p. 329Google Scholar.

10. Ibid., pp. 79–101.

11. Waltz, Kenneth, “A Response to My Critics,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, p. 330Google Scholar.

12. Ibid.

13. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, pp. 105 and 111Google Scholar.

14. The quotation is from p. 37 of Waltz, Kenneth, “Realist Thought and Neorealist Theory,” Journal of International Affairs 44 (Spring/Summer 1990), pp. 2137Google Scholar.

15. Jervis, Robert, “Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation,” World Politics 40 (04 1988), pp. 324–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For similar warnings, see Nye, Joseph, “Neorealism and Neoliberalism,” World Politics 50 (01 1988), p. 238Google Scholar.

16. The distinction between preferences over outcomes and over actions is useful, but it should not be pushed too hard. An outcome in one game may be seen as a policy choice in a larger game.

17. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 91Google Scholar.

18. The quotation is drawn from ibid.

19. Jervis, , “Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation,” pp. 324–29Google Scholar.

20. Ibid., p. 325.

21. Keohane, Robert, “Theory of World Politics,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 175–76Google Scholar. One factor contributing to this conflation may be that both Jervis and Keohane focus primarily on the prisoners' dilemma. There is no strategic interdependence in a one-shot prisoners' dilemma: a player always does strictly better by playing D rather than C regardless of what the other player does. In cases in which a player's optimal action is independent of what others do, a theory of preferences over outcomes also serves as a theory of preferences over actions. The distinction between the two types of preferences is meaningful only if the game entails a situation of strategic interdependence in which a player's optimal strategy depends on what it believes others will do.

22. Jervis, , “Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation,” p. 327Google Scholar.

23. Kydd, Andrew, “The Security Dilemma, Game Theory, and World War I,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 2509 1993Google Scholar. For Jervis's insightful discussion of the spiral model, see his Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977)Google Scholar.

24. For an excellent review of some of the limitations of this approach, see Kreps, David, Game Theory and Economic Modelling (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25. See, for instance, the models of nuclear brinkmanship in Powell, Robert, Nuclear Deterrence Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990CrossRefGoogle Scholar).

26. See Frieden, Jeffry, “Invested Interests,” International Organization 45 (Autumn 1991), pp. 425–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gourevitch, Peter, Politics in Hard Times (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Katzenstein, Peter, ed., Between Power and Plenty (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978)Google Scholar; Lake, David, Power, Protection, and Free Trade (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; Milner, Helen, Resisting Protectionism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; and Rogowski, Ronald, Commerce and Coalitions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989)Google Scholar.

27. For example, Adler uses the concept of epistemic communities to explain American preferences about arms control agreements. See Adler, Emanual, “The Emergence of Cooperation,” International Organization 46 (Winter 1992), pp. 101–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For attempts to explain a state's preferences over military doctrines and the importance of civil–military relations in determining those preferences, see Posen, Barry, The Origins of Military Doctrine (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; Snyder, Jack, The Ideology of the Offensive (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; and Van Evera, Stephen, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War,” International Security 9 (Summer 1984), pp. 58107CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28. See p. 360 of Wendt, Alexander, “The Agent–Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 335–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29. The quotation is from p. 426 of Dessler, David, “What's at Stake in the Agent-Structure Debate,” International Organization 43 (Summer 1989), pp. 441–70, emphasis originalCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30. Ibid., p. 461.

31. See Cox, Robert, “Social Forces, States, and World Orders,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 204–54Google Scholar; Dessler, “What's at Stake in the Agent–Structure Debate?“; John Ruggie, “Continuity and Transformation in World Polity,” in Keohane, Neorealism and Its Critics; Ruggie, John Gerard, “Territoriality and Beyond,” International Organization 47 (Winter 1993), pp. 139–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wendt, “The Agent–Structure Problem in International Relations Theory“; and Wendt, Alexander, “Anarchy is What States Make of It,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 391425CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32. Cox, , “Social Forces, States, and World Orders,” p. 208Google Scholar.

33. Ibid., p. 208.

34. Rogowski, Commerce and Coalitions.

35. Rogowski readily acknowledges that he is making assumptions about the domestic political process and does not have a theory of the state. He also emphasizes that although changes in the terms of trade may make some domestic groups more powerful, they still may lose in the domestic political struggle (ibid., pp. 4–5). The power of Rogowski's analysis, of course, lies in its ability to identify the groups that will benefit from greater trade and the domestic cleavages that greater trade will tend to create. Appealing to the Stolper–Samuelson theorem, Rogowski argues that greater trade favors the domestic group that controls the relatively abundant factor. So, for example, land was abundant and capital and labor were scarce in the United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century, while labor was abundant and capital and land were relatively scarce in Germany. Accordingly, agriculture in the United States and labor in Germany should have supported greater openness, while capital and labor in the United States and capital and land in Germany should have united in support of protectionism (pp. 3–20).

36. Clearly this approach does nothing to address the important concerns raised in the sociological approach to the agent–structure problem.

37. For suggestive discussions of the interaction between states and structure in different substantive contexts, see Downing, Brian, The Military Revolution and Political Change (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993)Google Scholar; Katzenstein, Between Power and Plenty; and Tilly, Charles, Capital and Coercion (New York: Blackwell, 1990)Google Scholar.

38. Waltz, , “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” p. 327Google Scholar.

39. Nye, , “Neorealism and Neoliberalism,” p. 243Google Scholar.

40. Nye, Joseph and Keohane, Robert, “Power and Interdependence Revisited,” International Organization 41 (Autumn 1987), pp. 725–53, and especially p. 746Google Scholar, from which the quotation is drawn.

41. Ibid.

42. Waltz, , “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” p. 329Google Scholar.

43. Ibid.

44. Buzan, Jones, and Little make a similar point in Buzan, Barry, Jones, Charles, and Little, Richard, The Logic of Anarchy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 5456Google Scholar.

45. For a recent effort to do this, see ibid.

46. Grieco, Joseph, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” in Baldwin, , Neorealism and Neoliberalism, pp. 116–42 and pp. 118–19 in particularGoogle Scholar.

47. Keohane, “Theory of World Politics.“

48. Ibid., p. 194.

49. Keohane, Robert, After Hegemony (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984)Google Scholar.

50. Ibid., p. 9.

51. Ibid., p. 9.

52. Ibid., p. 67.

53. Ibid., p. 68.

54. Jervis, Robert, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30 (01 1978), pp. 167214 and p. 170 in particularCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

55. Fudenberg, Drew and Maskin, Eric, “The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information,” Econometrica 54 (10 1986), pp. 533–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

56. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 218Google Scholar.

57. See Keohane, Robert, “Institutionalist Theory and the Realist Challenge After the Cold War,” in Baldwin, , Neorealism and Neoliberalism, pp. 269301, and particularly p. 292Google Scholar; and Keohane, After Hegemony.

58. See the following works of Grieco, Joseph: “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation“; “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” Journal of Plitics 50 (Summer 1988), pp. 600624CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Cooperation Among Nations (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990)Google Scholar.

59. Grieco, , “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” p. 129Google Scholar. Gowa made the same criticism of Axelrod's use of the repeated prisoners' dilemma [Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984Google Scholar)] when he used this game to model international politics. See Gowa, Joanne, “Anarchy, Egoism, and Third Images,” International Oganization 40 (1986), pp. 167–86 and particularly pp. 172–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

60. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 67Google Scholar.

61. See Nye, “Neorealism and Neoliberalism,” and the references cited therein for an introduction to earlier rounds of this debate.

62. These contributions are: Axelrod, Robert and Keohane, Robert, “Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy,” World Politics 38 (10 1988), pp. 226–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Grieco, “Anarch and the Limits of Cooperation“; Krasner, Stephen, “Global Communications and National Power,” World Politics 43 (04 1991), pp. 336–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lipson, Charles, “International Cooperation in Economic and Security Affairs,” World Politics 37 (10 1984), pp. 123CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mastanduno, Michael, “Do Relative Gains Matter?International Security 16 (Summer 1991), pp. 73113CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Milner, Helen, “The Assumption of Anarchy in International Relations Theory,” Review of International Studies 17 (01 1991), pp. 6785CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Powell, Robert, “Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory,” American Political Science Review 85 (12 1991), pp. 1303–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Snidal, Duncan, “Relative Gains and the Pattern of International Cooperation,” American Political Science Review 85 (09 1991), pp. 701–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Stein, Arthur, “Coordination and Collaboration,” International Organization 36 (Spring 1982), pp. 294324CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

63. For an example of the former, see Keohane, “Theory of World Politics“; for one of the latter, see Ashley, Richard, “The Poverty of Neorealism,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 255300Google Scholar; and Cox, “Social Forces, States, and World Orders.“

64. Grieco, , “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” pp. 118–19Google Scholar.

65. Snidal, “Relative Gains and the Pattern of Cooperation.“ For Grieco's critique of SnidaFs analysis and Snidal's response, see Grieco, Joseph, Powell, Robert, and Snidal, Duncan, “The Relative Gains Problem for International Cooperation,” American Political Science Review 87 (09 1993), pp. 729–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66. The quotation is from p. 226 of Axelrod and Keohane, “Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy.“ Also see Oye, Kenneth, “Explaining Cooperation Under Anarchy,” in Oye, Kenneth, ed., Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), particularly pp. 12Google Scholar.

67. Art, Robert and Jervis, Robert, International Politics, 3d ed. (Boston: Harper Collins), p. 1Google Scholar.

68. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, pp. 105 and 111Google Scholar.

69. Milner, “The Assumption of Anarchy in International Relations Theory.“

70. Stein, , “Coordination and Collaboration,” p. 30Google Scholar.

71. Keohane, “Institutionalist Theory and the Realist Challenge After the Cold War.“

72. Powell, Robert, “Guns, Butter, and Anarchy,” American Political Science Review 87 (03 1993), pp. 115–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The present discussion extends some of the observations made in that essay (see pp. 126–27).

73. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 121Google Scholar.

74. External balancing through alliances is impossible when there are only two states. Rather, the states engage in internal balancing. For a discussion of internal and external balancing, see Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 168Google Scholar.

75. Brodie, Bernard, Strategy in the Missile Age (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1959)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For other discussions of the effect of the nuclear revolution, see Jervis, Robert, The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989)Google Scholar; Powell, Robert, Nuclear Deterrence Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Schelling, Thomas, Arms and Influence (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966)Google Scholar; and Snyder, Glenn, Deterrence and Defense (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961CrossRefGoogle Scholar).

76. Buzan, Jones and Little reach the same conclusion in The Logic of Anarchy. They and Morrow offer the expansion of the Roman empire as an important example of the failure of balances to form. See Morrow, James, “Social Choice and System Structure,” World Politics 41 (10 1988), pp. 7597CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

77. Huntington, Samuel, “Why International Primacy Matters,” International Scurity 17 (Spring 1993), pp. 6883CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Jervis, Robert, “International Primacy,” International Security 17 (Spring 1993), pp. 5267CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Waltz, Kenneth, “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” International Security 18 (Fall 1993), pp. 4479CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Jervis uses a neorealist perspective to frame his discussion, but his conclusions differ from Huntington's.

78. Huntington, , “Why International Primacy Matters,” p. 93Google Scholar.

79. For a different view, see Waltz, , “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” especially p. 74Google Scholar.

80. Jervis, , “International Primacy,” pp. 5759Google Scholar.

81. Lipson, , “International Cooperation in Economic and Security Affairs,” p. 80Google Scholar.

82. Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 105Google Scholar. See also Waltz, , Man, State, and War, p. 198Google Scholar.

83. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 66Google Scholar.

84. Grieco, , “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” p. 129, emphasis originalGoogle Scholar.

85. Grieco, , “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” p. 610Google Scholar.

86. Ibid., pp. 610–11.

87. Keohane, , “Institutionalist Theory and the Realist Challenge After the Cold War,” pp. 418–25Google Scholar.

88. Powell, “Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory.“

89. See Grieco, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” as well as his “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” and Cooperation Among Nations. Although Grieco's model may be seen as a reduced form, it is not clear that he sees it as such. His assertion that a state's utility function must incorporate a term reflecting its concern for absolute gains and one reflecting its concern for relative gains may be true of a particular model, but it does not hold for all models. His apparent claim that it is true for all models suggests that he does not interpret his model as a reduced form.

90. Lipson, “International Cooperation in Economic and Security Affairs.“ See also Gowa, Joanne and Mansfield, Edward, “Power Politics and International Trade,” American Political Science Review 87 (06 1993), pp. 408–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

91. Jervis, “Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation.“

92. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 9Google Scholar.

93. Ibid., p. 246.

94. Krasner, , “Global Communications and National Power,” p. 235Google Scholar.

95. The quotation is from p. 535 of Garret, Geoffrey, “International Cooperation and Institutional Choice,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 533–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For another discussion of conflicting interests, see Moravcsik, Andrew, “Negotiating the Single European Act,” International Organization 45 (Winter 1991), pp. 1956CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

96. Keohane, , “Institutionalist Theory and the Realist Challenge After the Cold War,” pp. 446–47Google Scholar.

97. Krasner, “Global Communications and National Power.“ See also James Morrow, “Modeling International Regimes,” International Organization, forthcoming.

98. Krasner, , “Global Communications and National Power,” p. 235Google Scholar.

99. To simplify matters, I have assumed that institutions are efficient in that they move the states out to the Pareto frontier. Of course, institutions need not be efficient. For a discussion of institutions and efficiency, see North, Douglass, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

100. North analyzes the problem of institutional change and stability in ibid.

101. Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

102. Krasner, Stephen, “Regimes and the Limits of Realism,” in Krasner, Stephen, ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 355–68Google Scholar.

103. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 103Google Scholar.

104. Krasner, , “Global Communications and National Power,” p. 235, emphasis addedGoogle Scholar.

105. See Milgrom, Paul, North, Douglass, and Weingast, Barry, “The Role of Institutions in the Revival of Trade: The Law Merchants, Private Judges, and the Champagne Fairs,” Economics and Politics 2 (03 1990), pp. 123CrossRefGoogle Scholar; North, Douglass and Weingast, Barry, “Constitutions and Commitment,” Journal of Economic History 49 (12 1989), pp. 803–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Weingast, Barry, “The Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law,” manuscript, Hoover Institution, 02 1993Google Scholar.

106. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance.

107. Grieco, , “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” pp. 611–13Google Scholar. See also Gowa and Mansfield, “Power Politics and International Trade.”

108. See, for example, Weingast, Barry, “Constitutions as Governance Structures,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 149 (03 1993), pp. 286311Google Scholar; Ostrom, Elinor, Governing the Commons (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Tilly, Capital and Coercion.

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