Neoliberal vs. Neorealist Debate February 24, 2013 Ways of Understanding the Debate Jervis: Considerable amount of agreement (including shared assumption that not all state interests conflict) Most disagreement is about the prevalence of international conflict and the possible roles international institutions can play in promoting cooperation (not the absolute presence or absence of
both) Partly disagree because looking at different parts of the world (trade vs. security, for example) Jervis Most important difference in general is that: Neorealists believe that the existing levels of conflict in the world are insurmountable because states a) are cooperating as much as they can, b) in that they are already at their Pareto Optimal position Neoliberals argue that conflict can be further reduced
because cooperation is now impeded by problems of information and trust, problems that could be resolved through the operation of international institutions (just as they were resolved domestically through national institutions that created self-reinforcing norms that promote trust and cooperation) Jervis Also differ in their understanding of institutions: Neoliberals see institutions as having a life of their own in the sense that they can act independently of states and facilitate cooperation among
states that is not available due to the bare existence of overlapping or mutual interests. Institutions can create new opportunities for cooperation. Neorealists: institutions are just tools of states that provide the platform by which cooperation dictated by overlapping or mutual interests is played out. Empirically, it is not clear what institutions can do. It could be that they can be innovative (create opportunities for cooperation that statesmen cannot see) and transformative (can change preferences), though the latter so for have only arisen in circumstances in which such transformations were neither foreseen nor intended.
Jervis However, there is a difference among realists: Offensive realists tend to see the level of conflict as irreduceable. The problem isnt information or absence of norms (as indicated in Prisoner Dilemma situations) but incompatible interests particularly the presence of countries willing to go to war to expand, or the presence of countries with incompatible security requirements.
Jervis Defensive realists are more like neo-liberals in seeing many current conflicts as being describable by the Prisoners Dilemma, and thus accepting that a more optimal position is available through cooperation facilitated by information and trust-forming conditions. However, they also accept that some situations are not so describable, involving aggressors and incompatible security needs.
Mearshiemer: EH Carr There is no difference between current conditions and when Carr wrote in the 1930s: States and power are the most important factors in explaining international affairs Predominance of idealists, who do not accept that these factors are decisive. Carrs Views Statesmen misunderstand world politics
Are utopian, in that they hope To change the nature of international politics Create an international order not built on balance of power Believe in the efficacy of individuals to change the nature of states and their actions Carr Argued for the importance of military power But did not say why states pursue power and only hinted at how much power states want observes
they always want more Recognized that statesmen must pay attention to international norms in both peace and war, and that populations in states tend to embrace those norms and expect statesmen to follow them. But also seemed to argue that power and the following of norms are incompatible Carr Thus, despite some gaps, Mearshiemer suggests that Carr created the basis for powerful way of
explaining international politics that was free of nave moralizing and encompassed at least part of the types of analysis that modern liberal internationalists engage in. But discarded after WWII with the reemergence of idealists (liberal internationalists, English School, constructivists, post-modernists) Carr Move to marginalize the type of analysis that Carr articulated a mistake; even more of a mistake to try to eliminate all traces of realism in academia.
Current analysis: Argue by changing discourse rather than convince through rational argument Replace state as the unit of analysis with the individual Set up academic idealists as the principal actors. Niou and Ordeshook: Realist/Liberal Debate It is not possible to resolve the debate on empirical terms: Arguments and concepts on both sides too general and imprecise to create helpful
hypotheses to test No agreed conception of state goals to be used No common ground in use of rational choice or game theory because both sides misuse those analyses Niou and Ordeshook But can create a framework in which we can work out the likelihood of either cooperation or conflict in different environments or contexts made up of subjective beliefs, chance, and the presence of
clearly signaled intentions. We can think about liberalism and realism as describing different types of situations or contexts, in which they correctly assign a high likelihood of conflict (realists) or cooperation (liberals) Niou and Ordeshook Thus: Because it is not clear that states always pursue either absolute or relative gains in terms of goals, and because goals and
environments are intertwined such that goals create environments and environments create goals, can only think about goals and environments in relative terms themselves: g goal existing in e environment Niou and Ordeshook Also relevant are: Different types of equilibrium games Different types of equilibria Different types of equilibrium strategies
The first and third can be mixed and matched, such that a successful strategy for a equilibrium (x) may be employed, but in the context of equilibrium game (z) in which the optimal equilibrium is (1): ie., there may be strategies that attempt to achieve a type of equilibrium, but it may or may not work given the context involved. E.g., a tit for tat strategy may be best for dealing with a Prisoners Dilemma, but not for a Battle of the Sexes game. Niou and Ordeshook For liberals, this is where coordination comes into play. Coordination allows everyone to
understand the game and the correct strategies by means of norms and practices. These are achieved in states through constitutions, which lead to cooperation rather than conflict. The question is, is the situation the same in international politics? Niou and Ordeshook One indication that it is not always relevant is the fact that there can be non-cooperative equilibria (for example, competitive alliance systems).
Realists argue that such equilibria are easier to coordinate, and thus the natural tendency is to gravitate towards them. Liberals argue that cooperative equilibria are easier to coordinate. Empirically, it appears that both types of equilibria have existed. Nye: Neoliberalism and Neorealism Problems of IR: The world is not a laboratory cannot control for factors or run the same scenario multiple times
Theorists are too close to events, and generally attempt to instruct their fellow citizens This leads to different strategies to emerge from changing contexts. Thus liberalism arises in reaction to Vietnam and the different ways power was manifested during the 1970s Oil Crisis, and realism reemerged in the 1980s in the face of a more assertive Reagan administration Nye However, realism and liberalism are not as different as they are often depicted; instead, they are often complementary:
Realism provides essential discussions regarding the role of states, power and the international system. Liberalism provides important discussion regarding: How states define their interests through the workings of domestic politics How states can learn, particularly in terms of cooperation Pluralistic security communities (NATO) Regional cooperation (integration of Europe)
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