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International Relations. The Prisoners’ Dilemma and IR theories. Understanding the Prisoners’ Dilemma. International politics is unique: absence of higher authority Main actors (states) are functionally similar. What is the Prisoners’ Dilemma?. The pay off structure.

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international relations

International Relations

The Prisoners’ Dilemma and IR theories

understanding the prisoners dilemma
Understanding the Prisoners’ Dilemma
  • International politics is unique:
    • absence of higher authority
    • Main actors (states) are functionally similar

Hans Peter Schmitz

the pay off structure
The pay off structure
  • For player 1: 2 > 4 > 1 > 3
  • For player 2: 3 > 4 > 1 > 2
  • Most likely outcome is: 1 (both confess to avoid 25 years).
  • However, this is collectively suboptimal and results in prison terms for each person (3 years).
  • Why?: lack of communication and self-interest

Hans Peter Schmitz

nowak may reading
Nowak/May reading
  • Anarchy and anarchism
  • Hobbes vs. Darwin
  • Competition/free-riding vs. cooperation/reciprocity
  • Kin aid vs. reciprocity
  • Solutions: enforcement, tit-for-tat.

Hans Peter Schmitz

nowak may reading1
Nowak/May reading
  • Results (p. 5 of 10):
    • Cooperation is more likely over the long run.
    • Collapse of cooperation is always a possibility.
    • Pavlov: win-stay, loose-shift.
    • Pavlov survives after more earlier punishment for non-cooperation.
    • ‘shadow of the future’
    • Spatial games: do outsiders spoil cooperation?

Hans Peter Schmitz

theories of ir
Theories of IR
  • Neo-Realism: Prisoners’ Dilemma best describes international politics. Cooperation is unlikely because states are threatened by other states (self-interested survival under anarchy).
  • Institutionalism: PD can be overcome by building international institutions and communication (self-interested solution to collective action problems).
  • Constructivism: PD neglects identities and norms. States may share identities (democracy) and naturally cooperate (appropriate behavior expressing one’s identity).

Hans Peter Schmitz

solving the prisoners dilemma
Solving the Prisoners’ Dilemma
  • Neo-Realism: States must attain a position of strength to secure survival. Other states will interpret such efforts as threats and also strengthen their military: prisoners’ dilemma
  • Institutionalism: States have an incentive to work together to overcome the prisoners’ dilemma.
  • Constructivism: States are driven by norms and ideas: “Anarchy (PD) is what states make of it” (Alexander Wendt)

Hans Peter Schmitz

who what why and how
Who, what, why, and how?

Hans Peter Schmitz