Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Reductionist Gamble: Open Economy Politics in the Global Economy

  • Thomas Oatley (a1)


International political economy (IPE) should transition to “third-wave” scholarship because Open Economy Politics (OEP), which dominates current American IPE scholarship, can generate inaccurate knowledge. OEP can produce inaccurate knowledge because it studies domestic politics in isolation from international or macro processes. This methodological reductionism is often inappropriate for the phenomena IPE studies because governments inhabit a complex social system. As a result, the political choices that OEP strives to explain are typically a product of the interplay between domestic politics and macro processes. When OEP omits causally significant macro processes from empirical models, the models yield biased inferences about the domestic political relationships under investigation. Although scholars tolerated such errors when the gains from OEP were large, these errors are less tolerable now that OEP has matured. Consequently, the field should transition toward research that is nonreductionist, problem-driven, and pluralistic.



Hide All
Adserà, Alícia, and Boix, Carles. 2002. Trade, Democracy, and the Size of the Public Sector: The Political Underpinnings of Openness. International Organization 56 (2):229–62.
Alt, James E., Carlsen, Fredrik, Heum, Per, and Johansen, Kåre. 1999. Asset Specificity and the Political Behavior of Firms: Lobbying for Subsidies in Norway. International Organization 53 (1):99116.
Ayala, Francisco J. 1974. “Introduction.” In Studies in the Philosophy of Biology: Reduction and Related Problems, edited by Ayala, Francisco J. and Dobzhansky, Theodosius G., vii–xvi. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Barton, John H., Goldstein, Judith L., Josling, Timothy E., and Steinberg, Richard H.. 2006. The Evolution of the Trade Regime: Politics, Law, and Economics of the GATT and the WTO. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Bauerle Danzman, Sarah. 2010. Making Treaties Matter. M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bearce, David H. 2003. Societal Preferences, Partisan Agents, and Monetary Policy Outcomes. International Organization 57 (2):373410.
Beck, Nathaniel, Epstein, David, Jackman, Simon, and O'Halloran, Sharyn. 2001. Alternative Models of Dynamics in Binary Time-Series-Cross-Section Models: The Example of State Failure. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, July, Atlanta, Ga. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 4 January 2011.
Bernhard, William, and Leblang, David. 1999. Democratic Institutions and Exchange-Rate Commitments. International Organization 53 (1):7197.
Bernhard, William, and Leblang, David. 2002. Political Parties and Monetary Commitments. International Organization 56 (4):803–30.
Bird, Graham. 1996. The International Monetary Fund and Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence and Policy Options. International Organization 50 (3):477511.
Brambor, Thomas, Clark, William Roberts, and Golder, Matt. 2006. Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses. Political Analysis 14 (1):6382.
Brigandt, Ingo, and Love, Alan. 2008. Reductionism in Biology. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Zalta, Edward N.. Stanford, Calif.: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 4 January 2011.
Broz, J. Lawrence. 1998. The Origins of Central Banking: Solutions to the Free-Rider Problem. International Organization 52 (2):231–68.
Broz, J. Lawrence. 1999. Origins of the Federal Reserve System: International Incentives and the Domestic Free-Rider Problem. International Organization 53 (1):3970.
Broz, J. Lawrence. 2002. Political System Transparency and Monetary Commitment Regimes. International Organization 56 (4):861–87.
Burgoon, Brian. 2001. Globalization and Welfare Compensation: Disentangling the Ties that Bind. International Organization 55 (3):509–51.
Chase, Kerry A. 2003. Economic Interests and Regional Trading Arrangements: The Case of NAFTA. International Organization 57 (1):137–74.
Clark, William Roberts. 2002. Partisan and Electoral Motivations and the Choice of Monetary Institutions Under Fully Mobile Capital. International Organization 56 (4):725–49.
Clark, William Roberts, and Hallerberg, Mark. 2000. Mobile Capital, Domestic Institutions, and Electorally Induced Monetary and Fiscal Policy. American Political Science Review 94 (2):323–46.
Clark, William Roberts, Reichert, Usha Nair, Lomas, Sandra Lynn, and Parker, Kevin. 1998. International and Domestic Constraints on Political Business Cycles in OECD Economies. International Organization 52 (1):87120.
Cohen, Benjamin J. 2007. The Transatlantic Divide: Why Are American and British IPE so Different? Review of International Political Economy 14 (2):197219.
Cohen, Benjamin J. 2008. International Political Economy: An Intellectual History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Cranmer, Skyler J., and Desmarais, Bruce A.. 2011. Inferential Network Analysis with Exponential Random Graph Models. Political Analysis 19 (1):6686.
Dunning, Thad. 2004. Conditioning the Effects of Aid: Cold War Politics, Donor Credibility, and Democracy in Africa. International Organization 58 (2):409–23.
Eichengreen, Barry, Rose, Andrew, and Wyplosz, Charles. 1996. Contagious Currency Crises: First Tests. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 98 (4):463–84.
Epstein, David, and O'Halloran, Sharyn. 1996. The Partisan Paradox and the U.S. Tariff, 1877–1934. International Organization 50 (2):301–24.
Farrell, Henry, and Finnemore, Martha. 2009. Ontology, Methodology, and Causation in the American School of International Political Economy. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):5871.
Farrell, Henry, and Newman, Abraham L.. Forthcoming. Making International Markets: Domestic Institutions in International Political Economy. Review of International Political Economy.
Fioretos, Orfeo. 2011. Historical Institutionalism in International Relations. International Organization 65 (2):367–99
Fordham, Benjamin O. 1998. Economic Interests, Party, and Ideology in Early Cold War Era U.S. Foreign Policy. International Organization 52 (2):359–96.
Fordham, Benjamin O., and McKeown, Timothy J.. 2003. Selection and Influence: Interest Groups and Congressional Voting on Trade Policy. International Organization 57 (3):519–49.
Frieden, Jeffry A. 2002. Real Sources of European Currency Policy: Sectoral Interests and European Monetary Integration. International Organization 56 (4):831–60.
Frieden, Jeffry A., and Lake, David A.. 2005. International Relations as a Social Science: Rigor and Relevance. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 600 (1):136–56.
Frieden, Jeffry A., and Martin, Lisa L.. 2002. International Political Economy: Global and Domestic Interactions. In Political Science: The State of the Discipline, edited by Katznelson, Ira and Milner, Helen V., 118–46. New York: Norton.
Friedrichs, Jörg, and Kratochwil, Friedrich. 2009. On Acting and Knowing: How Pragmatism Can Advance International Relations Research and Methodology. International Organization 63 (4):701–31.
Gerring, John, and Thacker, Strom C.. 2004. Political Institutions and Corruption: The Role of Unitarism and Parliamentarism. British Journal of Political Science 34 (2):295330.
Giles, Micheal W., and Garand, James C.. 2007. Ranking Political Science Journals: Reputational and Citational Approaches. PS: Political Science & Politics 40 (4):741–51.
Gilpin, Robert. 1981. War and Change in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Goldsmith, Arthur A. 2001. Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa. International Organization 55 (1):123–48.
Goldstein, Judith L., Rivers, Douglas, and Tomz, Michael. 2007. Institutions in International Relations: Understanding the Effects of the GATT and the WTO on World Trade. International Organization 61 (1):3767.
Gourevitch, Peter. 1978. The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic Politics. International Organization 32 (4):881912.
Hafner-Burton, Emilie, Kahler, Miles, and Montgomery, Alexander. 2009. Network Analysis for International Relations. International Organization 63 (3):559–92.
Hall, Peter A., and Franzese, Robert J.. 1998. Mixed Signals: Central Bank Independence, Coordinated Wage Bargaining, and European Monetary Union. International Organization 52 (3):505–35.
Hallerberg, Mark. 2002. Veto Players and the Choice of Monetary Institutions. International Organization 56 (4):775802.
Hansen, Wendy L., and Mitchell, Neil J.. 2000. Disaggregating and Explaining Corporate Political Activity: Domestic and Foreign Corporations in National Politics. American Political Science Review 94 (4):891903.
Hathaway, Oona A. 1998. Positive Feedback: The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Industry Demands for Protection. International Organization 52 (3):575612.
Hays, Jude C., Ehrlich, Sean D., and Peinhardt, Clint. 2005. Government Spending and Public Support for Trade in the OECD: An Empirical Test of the Embedded Liberalism Thesis. International Organization 59 (2):473–94.
Hays, Jude C., Kachi, Aya, and Franzese, Robert J. Jr. 2010. A Spatial Model Incorporating Dynamic, Endogenous Network Interdependence: A Political Science Application. Statistical Methodology 7 (3):406–28.
Hellmann, Gunther. 2009. Pragmatism and International Relations. International Studies Review 11 (3):638–62.
Hiscox, Michael J. 1999. The Magic Bullet? The RTAA, Institutional Reform, and Trade Liberalization. International Organization 53 (4):669–98.
Hiscox, Michael J. 2001. Class Versus Industry Cleavages: Inter-Industry Factor Mobility and the Politics of Trade. International Organization 55 (1):146.
Hiscox, Michael J. 2002. International Trade and Political Conflict: Commerce, Coalitions, and Mobility. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Iversen, Torben. 1998. Wage Bargaining, Central Bank Independence, and the Real Effects of Money. International Organization 52 (3):469504.
Jackman, Simon. 2000. In and Out of War and Peace: Transitional Models of International Conflict. Stanford, Calif.: Department of Political Science, Stanford University. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 4 January 2011.
Jensen, Nathan M. 2003. Democratic Governance and Multinational Corporations: Political Regimes and Inflows of Foreign Direct Investment. International Organization 57 (3):587616.
Johnson, James. 2006. Consequences of Positivism: A Pragmatist Assessment. Comparative Political Studies 39 (2):224–52.
Kahler, Miles, ed. 2009. Networked Politics: Agency, Power, and Governance. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Kang, David C. 2002. Bad Loans to Good Friends: Money Politics and the Developmental State in South Korea. International Organization 56 (1):177207.
Karol, David. 2000. Divided Government and U.S. Trade Policy: Much Ado About Nothing? International Organization 54 (4):825–44.
Katzenstein, Peter J. 2009. Mid-Atlantic: Sitting on the Knife's Sharp Edge. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):122–35.
Keefer, Philip, and Stasavage, David. 2002. Checks and Balances, Private Information, and the Credibility of Monetary Commitments. International Organization 56 (4):751–74.
Keefer, Philip, and Stasavage, David. 2003. The Limits of Delegation: Veto Players, Central Bank Independence, and the Credibility of Monetary Policy. American Political Science Review 97 (3):407–23.
Keohane, Robert O. 1984. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Keohane, Robert O. 2009. The Old IPE and the New. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):3446.
Keohane, Robert O., and Nye, Joseph. 1977. Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Boston: Little, Brown.
Kindleberger, Charles P. 1973. The World in Depression, 1929–1939. Berkeley: University of California Press.
King, Gary, Tomz, Michael, and Wittenberg, Jason. 2000. Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):347–61.
Kosack, Stephen, and Tobin, Jennifer. 2006. Funding Self-Sustaining Development: The Role of Aid, FDI, and Government in Economic Success. International Organization 60 (1):205–43.
Krasner, Stephen D. 1976. State Power and the Structure of International Trade. World Politics 28 (3):317–47.
Krasner, Stephen D., ed. 1983. International Regimes. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Ladewig, Jeffrey W. 2006. Domestic Influences on International Trade Policy: Factor Mobility in the United States, 1963 to 1992. International Organization 60 (1):69103.
Lake, David A. 2006. International Political Economy: A Maturing Interdiscipline. In The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy, edited by Weingast, Barry R. and Wittman, Donald A., 757–77. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lake, David A. 2009a. TRIPs Across the Atlantic: Theory and Epistemology in IPE. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):4757.
Lake, David A. 2009b. Open Economy Politics: A Critical Review. Review of International Organizations 4 (3):219–44.
Leblang, David, and Bernhard, William. 2000. The Politics of Speculative Attacks in Industrial Democracies. International Organization 54 (2):291324.
Leblang, David, and Satyanath, Shanker. 2006. Institutions, Expectations, and Currency Crises. International Organization 60 (1):245–62.
Li, Quan, and Resnick, Adam. 2003. Reversal of Fortunes: Democratic Institutions and Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to Developing Countries. International Organization 57 (1):175211.
MacIntyre, Andrew. 2001. Institutions and Investors: The Politics of the Economic Crisis in Southeast Asia. International Organization 55 (1):81122.
Maliniak, Daniel, and Tierney, Michael J.. 2009. The American School of IPE. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):633.
Manger, Mark S. 2009. Investing in Protection: The Politics of Preferential Trade Agreements between North and South. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mares, Isabela. 2004. Economic Insecurity and Social Policy Expansion: Evidence from Interwar Europe. International Organization 58 (4):745–74.
McNamara, Kathleen R. 2009. Of Intellectual Monocultures and the Study of IPE. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):7284.
Meissner, Christopher M. 2005. A New World Order: Explaining the International Diffusion of the Gold Standard, 1870–1913. Journal of International Economics 66 (2):385406.
Milner, Helen V. 1988. Resisting Protectionism: Global Industries and the Politics of International Trade. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Milner, Helen V., and Kubota, Keiko. 2005. Why the Move to Free Trade? Democracy and Trade Policy in the Developing Countries. International Organization 59 (1):107–43.
Mosley, Layna. 2000. Room to Move: International Financial Markets and National Welfare States. International Organization 54 (4):737–73.
Mukherjee, Bumba, Smith, Dale L., and Li, Quan. 2009. Labor (Im)mobility and the Politics of Trade Protection in Majoritarian Democracies. Journal of Politics 71 (1):291308.
Murphy, Nancey. 1998. Supervenience and the Nonreducibility of Ethics to Biology. In Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, edited by Russell, Robert J., Stoeger, William R., and Ayala, Francisco J., 463–90. Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Publications/Berkeley, Calif.: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.
Noland, Marcus. 1997. Chasing Phantoms: The Political Economy of USTR. International Organization 51 (3):365–87.
Phillips, Nicola. 2009. The Slow Death of Pluralism. Review of International Political Economy 16 (1):8594.
Pitruzzello, Salvatore. 2004. Trade Globalization, Economic Performance, and Social Protection: Nineteenth-Century British Laissez-Faire and Post–World War II U.S.-Embedded Liberalism. International Organization 58 (4):705–44.
Polkinghorne, John C.n.d. Reductionism. In Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, edited by Tanzella-Nitti, Giuseppe, Larrey, Philip, and Strumia, Alberto. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 4 January 2011.
Rodríguez, Francisco, and Rodrik, Dani. 2000. Trade Policy and Economic Growth: A Skeptic's Guide to the Cross-National Evidence. In NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, edited by Bernanke, Ben S. and Rogoff, Kenneth, 261325. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Rudra, Nita. 2002. Globalization and the Decline of the Welfare State in Less-Developed Countries. International Organization 56 (2):411–45.
Saban, Daniela, Bonomoa, Flavia, and Stier-Mosesc, Nicolás E.. 2010. Analysis and Models of Bilateral Investment Treaties Using a Social Networks Approach. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications 389 (17):3661–73.
Sachs, Jeffrey D., and Warner, Andrew. 1995. Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration. In Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. Vol. 1, edited by Brainard, William C. and Perry, George L., 1118. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Scheve, Kenneth. 2004. Public Inflation Aversion and the Political Economy of Macroeconomics Policymaking. International Organization 58 (1):134.
Schnietz, Karen E. 2003. The Reaction of Private Interests to the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act. International Organization 57 (1):213–33.
Shapiro, Ian. 2002. Problems, Methods, and Theories in the Study of Politics, or What's Wrong with Political Science and What to Do About It. Political Theory 30 (4):596619.
Simmons, Beth A. 1996. Rulers of the Game: Central Bank Independence During the Interwar Years. International Organization 50 (3):407–43.
Simmons, Beth A., Dobbin, Frank, and Garrett, Geoffrey. 2006. Introduction: The International Diffusion of Liberalism. International Organization 60 (4):781810.
Simmons, Beth A., and Elkins, Zachary. 2004. The Globalization of Liberalization: Policy Diffusion in the International Political Economy. American Political Science Review 98 (1):171–89.
Simmons, Beth A., and Hainmueller, Jens. 2005. Can Domestic Institutions Explain Exchange Rate Regime Choice? The Political Economy of Monetary Institutions Reconsidered. Paper presented at the 63d Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April, Chicago.
Simon, Herbert A. 1962. The Architecture of Complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106 (6):467–82.
Stone, Randall W. 2004. The Political Economy of IMF Lending in Africa. American Political Science Review 98 (4):577–91.
Strang, David, and Chang, Patricia Mei Yin. 1993. The International Labor Organization and the Welfare State: Institutional Effects on National Welfare Spending, 1960–80. International Organization 47 (2):235–62.
Verdier, Daniel. 1998. Domestic Responses to Capital Market Internationalization Under the Gold Standard, 1870–1914. International Organization 52 (1):134.
Verdier, Daniel. 2001. Capital Mobility and the Origins of Stock Markets. International Organization 55 (2):327–56.
Wacziarg, Romain, and Welch, Karen Horn. 2008. Trade Liberalization and Growth: New Evidence. World Bank Economic Review 22 (2):187231.
Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Waltz, Kenneth N. 1986. Reductionist and Systemic Theories. In Neorealism and Its Critics, edited by Keohane, Robert O., 4769. New York: Columbia University Press.
Wibbels, Erik, and Arce, Moisés. 2003. Globalization, Taxation, and Burden-Shifting in Latin America. International Organization 57 (1):111–36.
World Trade Organization. n.d. The Regulation of State Trading Under the WTO System. Available at ⟨⟩. Accessed 4 January 2011.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed