By Joseph M. Grieco; Abstract: The newest liberal institutionalism asserts that, although it accepts a major realist proposition that international. Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism Author(s): Joseph M. Grieco Source: International Organization. Grieco claims that liberalism has attributed to realism a concept of the state that is not present in realist theory. Liberal literature takes as its unit.

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Realism as pertaining to international relations means that international anarchy fosters competition amongst states that restrains their ability to cooperate with each other. In other words, institutions can help states anardhy cooperate.

The tensions and conflicts of the s in part swept away these ideas, however, the limited cooperation that still occurred in that decade spurred the rise in the 80s of the neo-liberal institutional theory Axelrod etc.

NLI theory is based on the premise that states seek to maximize their absolute gains in international policy. Therefore they are in a sense indifferent to how much they gain relative to other players. The main obstacle to cooperation in this view and hence the definition of anarchy is cheating. The theory suggests that cheating can be overcome by institutions. The realist view on the other hand is that states are concerned with absolute and relative ljmits.

They worry that their partners may gain more than they do, and so even in the absence of cheating a state may grieci from an agreement if the other partners will gain more from it than they do, coopeation subverting existing power structures. In other words, this is the threat of war.

NLI theory fails to consider the threat of war arising from international anarchy. This is presumably why we continue to see trade disputes. Assuming that politicians believe that an open economy is good for everyone grleco. There would be no retaliation to unilateral measures by one county to restrict trade, as the unilateral measures in the long run only negatively affect the country that enacts them.

ANARCHY AND THE LIMITS OF COOPERATION « A blog on the LSE Masters of Public Administration

However, if trade is part of the power play to retain influence in the world, as Huntington suggests, then allowing one state to gain advantage economically would not be permissible as it would threaten the power position of the other trading partner. Perhaps more critically it seems to me, if the realist view is correct then there is no real hope for globalization. Assuming the world opens up all its markets and the equilibrium is achieved whereby each produces subject to its competitive advantage, then states will simply have to accept the level of power which their advantageous industries afford them.


This view seems highly unrealistic. States will continue to want to have industries that afford them economic and hence power dominance to maintain their position in their world i. Could we for example imagine the USA allowing China to achieve a position of dominance based on trade etc.?

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Notify me of new comments via email. Central Features of Realism States cooperatiin the major actors in world affairs The international environment penalizes states if they fail to protect their interests International anarchy is the force shaping the motives of states States in anarchy are preoccupied with power and security and often fail to cooperate even in the face of common interests International institutions affect the prospects for cooperation only marginally.

New-Liberal Institutionalism NLI broadly accepts but says that institutions can help states work together. A state may cooperate or defect. The equilibrium then is DD in the absence of some centralized authority that can bind states to their promises.

NLI stresses that these forces do actually exist. This is especially true when the benefits from cooperation are large compared with the costs of sanctioning cheaters and monitoring compliance costs reduced by the actions of international institutions. Regimes reinforce reciprocity delegitimize defection thus making it more costly. One way of reducing monitoring costs is to keep the number of parties to an agreement small. Realism and Neo-Liberal Institutionalism NLI says cooperatjon states grieo the greatest possible individual gain when playing the prisoner dilemma universe.

Anarchy and the limits of cooperation: a realist critique of the newest liberal institutionalism

The chosen strategy is the one that yields the highest score given what a state expects the other to do, and institutions ensure that the highest score is achieved by mutual cooperation. Thus the major problem in the NLI world is cheating, and this is overcome by institutions. Realists also think of cheating as a problem. For them, one source of failure to cooperate is the lack of central agency to enforce promises.


Anarchy for realists is the absence of a common government in world politics. Therefore, although this includes the absence of an agency to prevent cheating, it also includes the absence of an agency to prevent other states from using violence or the threat of violence to destroy or enslave. Thus states may be driven by greed and ambition, but they are also driven by fear and mistrust.

Put like this, it is clear that utility maximization is not the overall goal, rather survival is their core interest. This means they are sensitive to any erosion in their standing or relative capabilities. They therefore are not interested in absolute gains, but in preventing others from achieving advances in their relative capabilities. This is so strong that states may forego pacts which promise sizeable absolute gains, solely in order to prevent partners benefiting from relatively larger gains thus threatening their position in the world.

This is not necessarily an aggressive position. Generally it is defensive. The problem is founded on uncertainty about the future intentions of partners and their relative future capabilities. Utility For the NLI the utility of a state from cooperation is equal to its absolute value: K will vary, but it will always be greater than zero.

It is dependent on factors such as how long partners have been cooperating for, how predictable are the intentions, whether power is on the rise or decline, the particular issue area etc. Faced with both cheating and relative gains problems states seek to ensure that others comply with agreements and that the collaboration produces balanced gains. This balancing is a central part of diplomatic cooperation. This entry was written by majorgressinghamposted on May 27, at Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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