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Neo-Liberal Institutionalism. The Prisoners’ Dilemma. Player 1. Player 2. Neo-Liberal Institutionalism. Accepts the basic assumptions of realism States: main actors States: unitary, rational actors Goals: states follow their interests

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The prisoners dilemma
The Prisoners’ Dilemma

Player 1

Player 2

Neo liberal institutionalism1
Neo-Liberal Institutionalism

  • Accepts the basic assumptions of realism

    • States: main actors

    • States: unitary, rational actors

    • Goals: states follow their interests

      • -but have multiple interests in addition to security and power

      • -power not always fungible

    • System: anarchical, no central authority

Central question
Central Question

What Facilitates Cooperation in an Anarchical System?


  • Robert Axelrod The Evolution of Cooperation (1984)

  • If you play the PD repeatedly the winning/dominant strategy is TIT FOR TAT, not DEFECT

  • Implications:

    • Cooperation can get started even in a world of unconditional defection;

    • Iteration, long term horizons important;

    • Strategy of reciprocity can thrive where many other strategies of cooperation fail

    • Once established cooperation based on reciprocity can protect itself from invasion of other strategies

Conditions for cooperation
Conditions for Cooperation

  • Hegemonic Interest (Realism and Institutionalism)

  • Repeated interaction

    • Repeated PD: dominant strategy is “Tit-for-Tat”; NOT “Defect”

  • No immediate threat to state survival

  • Smaller number of actors

  • Type of cooperation dilemma

Cooperation dilemmas

PD: problems of cheating, credible commitment

Battle of the Sexes: coordination problems

Cooperation dilemmas

International regimes
International Regimes

  • “…implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations.”

    Stephen Krasner (1983) International Regimes, p.2.

    Example: GATT/WTO

Institutions facilitate cooperation
Institutions Facilitate Cooperation

  • Institutionalize iteration

  • Provide information

  • Credible commitments

  • Issue linkage

  • Reduce transaction costs

    • make agreements and monitoring less costly to administer

  • Resolve distribution conflicts

Growth in the number of international regimes environmental treaties 1968 1998
Growth in the Number of International RegimesEnvironmental Treaties 1968-1998

Realist critique
Realist Critique

  • Institutions reflect the distribution of power and interests and therefore are irrelevant

  • Neo-liberal have ignored the problem of relative gains that would inhibit or shape cooperation

  • Little empirical evidence that institutions matter