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Anarchy in international relations theory: the neorealist-neoliberal debate

  • Robert Powell (a1)
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1. Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979).

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. 322–45.

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

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. 73.

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

10. Ibid., pp. 79–101.

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

12. Ibid.

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

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

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

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. 91.

18. The quotation is drawn from ibid.

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

20. Ibid., p. 325.

21. Keohane, Robert, “Theory of World Politics,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 175–76. 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. 327.

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 1993. For Jervis's insightful discussion of the spiral model, see his Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977).

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).

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

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

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. 101–46. 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); Snyder, Jack, The Ideology of the Offensive (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); and Van Evera, Stephen, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War,” International Security 9 (Summer 1984), pp. 58107.

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

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 original.

30. Ibid., p. 461.

31. See Cox, Robert, “Social Forces, States, and World Orders,” in Keohane, , Neorealism and Its Critics, pp. 204–54; 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. 139–74; 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. 391425.

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

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); Katzenstein, Between Power and Plenty; and Tilly, Charles, Capital and Coercion (New York: Blackwell, 1990).

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

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

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

41. Ibid.

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

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. 5456.

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 particular.

47. Keohane, “Theory of World Politics.“

48. Ibid., p. 194.

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

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 particular.

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

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

57. See Keohane, Robert, “Institutionalist Theory and the Realist Challenge After the Cold War,” in Baldwin, , Neorealism and Neoliberalism, pp. 269301, and particularly p. 292; 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. 600624; and Cooperation Among Nations (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990).

59. Grieco, , “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation,” p. 129. Gowa made the same criticism of Axelrod's use of the repeated prisoners' dilemma [Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984)] 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. 172–79.

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

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

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. 255300; and Cox, “Social Forces, States, and World Orders.“

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

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. 729–43.

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. 12.

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

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

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

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

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. 115–32. The present discussion extends some of the observations made in that essay (see pp. 126–27).

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

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. 168.

75. Brodie, Bernard, Strategy in the Missile Age (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1959). 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); Powell, Robert, Nuclear Deterrence Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Schelling, Thomas, Arms and Influence (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966); and Snyder, Glenn, Deterrence and Defense (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961).

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. 7597.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

86. Ibid., pp. 610–11.

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

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. 408–20.

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

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

93. Ibid., p. 246.

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

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

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

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. 235.

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).

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).

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

103. Keohane, , After Hegemony, p. 103.

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

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. 123; North, Douglass and Weingast, Barry, “Constitutions and Commitment,” Journal of Economic History 49 (12 1989), pp. 803–32; and Weingast, Barry, “The Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of Law,” manuscript, Hoover Institution, 02 1993.

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

107. Grieco, , “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” pp. 611–13. 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. 286311; Ostrom, Elinor, Governing the Commons (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); and Tilly, Capital and Coercion.

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