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Unit Two: Realist Theory and IPE. Dr. Russell Williams. Outline:. Required Reading: Cohn, Global Political Economy , Ch. 3. Class Discussion Reading: Susan Strange, “ The Future of the American Empire, ” Journal of International Affairs , Fall 1988, Vol. 42 Issue 1, pp. 1-17.

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Unit two realist theory and ipe

Unit Two: Realist Theory and IPE

Dr. Russell Williams


Required Reading:

  • Cohn, Global Political Economy, Ch. 3.

    Class Discussion Reading:

  • Susan Strange, “The Future of the American Empire,”Journal of International Affairs, Fall 1988, Vol. 42 Issue 1, pp. 1-17.

  • Realism – the Basics

  • Implications of Realism for State Behavior

  • Realist Approaches to IPE

  • Modern Realism and IPE - Hegemonic Stability Theory

  • Conclusion

  • Further Reading

1 realism the basics
1) Realism – the Basics:

  • Dominant approach to the study of IR, but less important in IPE?

  • States are key actor

    • E.g. IO’s and MNC’s often only “extensions” of state power

  • States are:

    • “Unitary” - Domestic politics and interests less important

    • “Rational” - States pursue predictable strategies based on calculations of self interest

      • “Survival”

      • “Power”

      • “Sovereignty” - Internal and external

    • Global politics is a “self help” system – states must look after themselves

  • Politics” more important than economics

    • Economics only important topic when it relates to state power

  • Skepticism about international law, rules, regimes and values

    • Rules are for the “weak”. . . .

  • Skepticism about cooperation

    • States only cooperate when then they gain more than others

      = little cooperation under normal circumstances?

  • Realism “parsimonious”

    • Has few variables and leads to clear predictions

Realist Theories of International Relations (IR):

  • Avoid overgeneralization – not one single theory

    i) Classical Realism: (Machiavelli to Morgenthau)

    • Human nature is bad - hard to trust others

    • Reject liberal views of human nature

      • Therefore, other states are an inherent threat

    • E.g. Hobbes’“State of nature”

      • Makes a virtue of pursuit of power

      • Other theories seen as “idealism” (E.H. Carr)

ii) Structural Realism (1970-Present)

  • Waltz, Grieco and Mearsheimer

  • More scientific - explored where threats came from

    • Three “images”

      • Human nature?

      • Domestic Politics?

      • International Structure – lack of Government?

        = International Structure matters!!!

    • Global anarchy means states have to be amoral in the pursuit of power

      • Only two independent variables:

        • Anarchy

        • Distribution of power in the interstate system

  • Large impact on policymakers in US

  • More role for economics . . . (E.g. Thucydides)

2 implications for state behavior
2) Implications for State Behavior:

a) The “Security Dilemma”: Security and pursuit of power is a “zero sum” game

  • Any increase in my security or power means a decrease for others . . .

    = Cooperation unlikely

    b) “Relative gains” more important then “absolute gains”

  • States only cooperate to pursue relative advantages over others

    =E.g. IO’s seen as tools of powerful states which hurt the interests of weaker states

c) State policy driven by international structure and position in the global “balance” of power

  • Powerful states will pursue different strategies from weak – try to ensure the status quo

    =E.g. Only economically powerful support free trade

    Bottom Line:

    • Cooperation difficult

    • States unlikely to expose themselves to interdependence

3 realist approaches to ipe
3) position in the global Realist Approaches to IPE

a) Proto-realism and economics:

  • Most classical realists integrated international economics in their analysis.

    • Economics seen as a source of conflict and war

      • E.g. Imperialism

    • Economy important to state power

      • E.g. Thucydides and the Athenians

      • E.g. Machievelli

b) position in the global “Mercantilism” (16th to 18th Century)

Classical mercantilism:

  • States’ power dependent on treasure

  • Gold is key to power of emerging sovereign states

  • States seek to increase their holdings of gold and silver through:

    • Conquest and colonies

    • Increase exports, decrease imports

  • Problems?

  • c) Economic Nationalism and Neo Mercantilism: position in the global

    • 19th and 20th century and beyond . . .

    • Industrialization seen as key economic goal

      • Necessary to independence (sovereignty)

      • Essential to military might (security)

    • States need industrial development to survive (Friedrich List)

      • States should:

        • Adopt high tariffs (protectionism)

        • Encourage development of national industries

    4 modern realism and ipe
    4) Modern Realism and IPE: position in the global

    Post War Period:

    • Liberal free trade collapsed prior to WWII  “Economic nationalism”

    • Post War Realists believed economic cooperation had to be enforced by dominant states

      • Could reduce threats and conflict

      • Breton Woods system and free trade possible because:

        • US military and economic dominance

        • Threat of the Soviet Union = other states had no choice but to cooperate

    1970 position in the global ’s - Post War System under stress:

    • Economic crises = Post War liberal economic order under threat????

      • US decline?

        • US economy relatively smaller

        • Economic success of Germany and Japan

      • OPEC

      • Global economic slowdown

      • Financial instability = end of dollar standard

    • “Détente” – decline of the cold war

    • Result: Realists begin to pay more attention to economics

      =Declining economic cooperation in north and era of the “new protectionism”

    position in the global Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST)”:

    • 1980s realists argue, “politics” still dominant over economics

      =Economic “cooperation” becoming more difficult because of declining US power

      • “Hegemony” (Realism): Leadership, or dominance, of international system by single state

        HST assumes:

      • Like liberalism, free trade and globalization good in theory, but unlikely to occur because states mistrust one another under conditions of anarchy

      • “Free trade” and economic cooperation seen as “public goods”

        • Non excludible and non rival

          =“Free riders” – collective action problems

    position in the global Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST)”:

    • Hegemonic state can either:

      • Provide public goods itself - So dominant economically that it is in its interest to do so . . . .

      • Force “free riders” to “pay” for public goods

    • Key claim: Hegemony = Liberal economic order

    • Problems:

      • What is hegemony????

        • Economic or military?

        • “Soft Power” or ideology?

      • How do we know when a state is hegemonic, or the world is uni-polar?

    position in the global Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST)”:

    • Problems:

      1) Risk of tautology

      • “Reading off the “dependent variable”

        2) Empirical record?

      • If US had declined by 1980s, why globalisation?

        Contemporary Realism:

    • Retreat to “High Politics”?

      • Post 9/11 return to emphasis on security and military conflict

      • Economic issues have been “securitized”

    Conclusions : position in the global

    a) Strengths of Realism:

    • Parsimony

    • Focus on distributional outcomes – who gains what . . . .

    • Rejection of idealistic prescriptions of how the world should be

    b) Weaknesses of Realism: position in the global

    • Domestic politics?

    • Under emphasis of importance of wealth and economics?

    • Empirical problems?

    • There seems to be a lot more economic cooperation then realists assumed likely . . . .

      • Does HST overcome this problem?

    Further reading
    Further Reading: position in the global

    • Samuel P. Huntington, “The Lonely Superpower,”Foreign Affairs, 78-2 (March/April 1999), pp. 35-49.

      • Example of realist analysis of contemporary US challenges.

    • Joseph M. Grieco, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism,”International Organization, 42-3 (Summer 1988), pp. 485-507.

    • John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,”International Security, 19-3 (Winter 1994/95), pp. 5-49.

      • Examples of realism’s critiques of liberal challengers

    For next time
    For Next Time: position in the global

    Unit Three: Thinking Liberally - Diversity and Hegemony in IPE

    • Required Reading:

      • Cohn, Ch. 4.

    • Class Discussion Reading:

      • Eric Helleiner, “Economic Liberalism and Its Critics: The Past as Prologue?,”Review of International Political Economy, 10-4 (November 2003), pp. 685-696.