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THE ESSENCE OF MILLENNIAL REFLECTIONS ON INTERNATIONAL STUDIES Realism and Institutionalism Michael Brecher and Frank P. Harvey When Michael Brecher was introduced to international relations (IR) at Yale in 1946, the field comprised international politics, international law and organization, international economics, international (diplomatic) history, and a regional specialization. The hegemonic paradigm was realism, as expressed in the work of E. H. Carr, Arnold Wolfers, Nicholas Spykman, W. T. R. Fox, Hans Morgenthau, Bernard Brodie, and others.1 The unquestioned focus of attention was interstate war and peace. By the time the other editor of this collection, Frank Harvey, was initiated into international relations at McGill in the late 1980s, the preeminent paradigm was neorealism,2 but there were several competing claimants to the “true path”: institutional theory,3 cognitive psychology,4 and postmodernism.5 And by the time he received his doctoral degree, other competitors had emerged, notably, critical theory,6 constructivism,7 and feminism.8 The consequence, at the dawn of the new millennium, was a vigorous, still inconclusive, debate about the optimal path to knowledge about international studies (IS), most clearly expressed in the views that it is a discipline—international relations (IR) or world politics—like economics, sociology, anthropology, history, or that it is a multidisciplinary field of study; the “big tent” conception of the premier organization, the International Studies Association (ISA). Page 2 →It was in this context that the Millennial Reflections Project was conceived. The origin and rationale of the idea may be found in the central theme of Michael Brecher’s presidential address to the ISA conference in Washington in February 1999: “International Studies in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Flawed Dichotomies, Synthesis, Cumulation.” The next stage was the creation of a set of ten millennial reflections theme-panels by Michael Brecher, then ISA president, and Frank Harvey, the program chair for ISA 2000: these panels served as the highly successful centerpiece of the Los Angeles conference in March 2000. Soon after, we enlisted the enthusiastic support of the University of Michigan Press for the idea of publishing revised and enlarged versions of these conference papers. Most of the participants in the Los Angeles panels readily agreed to revise and enlarge their papers. A few other papers were invited. The result is this volume and the accompanying set of four shorter, segment-focused volumes, prepared for the benefit of teachers and students of IS in colleges and universities everywhere. Whether a discipline or a multidisciplinary field of study, IS has developed over the last half century with diverse philosophical underpinnings, frameworks of analysis, methodologies, and foci of attention. This diversity is evident in the papers that were presented at the panels at the 2000 Los Angeles conference and revised for publication in this state-of-the-art collection of essays on international studies at the dawn of the new millennium. In an attempt to capture the range, diversity, and complexity of IS, we decided to organize the forty-four “think piece” essays into eight clusters. The mainstream paradigms of realism and institutionalism constitute the first two concentrations; critical perspectives (including critical theory, postmodernism, and constructivism); feminism and gender perspectives; methodology (including quantitative, formal modeling, and qualitative); foreign policy analysis; international security, peace, and war; and international political economy make up the remaining six. The raison d’être of the Millennial Reflections Project was set out in the theme statement of the Los Angeles conference, titled “Reflection, Integration, Cumulation: International Studies Past and Future.” As we noted in that statement, the number and size of subfields and sections has grown steadily since the founding of the International Studies Association in 1959. This diversity, while enriching, has made increasingly difficult the crucial task of
identifying intrasubfield, let alone intersubfield, consensus about important Page 3 →theoretical and empirical insights. Aside from focusing on a cluster of shared research questions related, for example, to globalization, gender and international relations, critical theory, political economy, international institutions, global development, democracy and peace, foreign and security policy, and so on, there are still few clear signs of cumulation. If the maturity of an academic discipline is based not only on its capacity to expand but also on its capacity to select, the lack of agreement within these communities is particularly disquieting. Realists, for instance, cannot fully agree on their paradigm’s core assumptions, central postulates, or the lessons learned from empirical research. Similarly, feminist epistemologies encompass an array of research programs and findings that are not easily grouped into a common set of beliefs, theories, or conclusions. If those who share common interests and perspectives have difficulty agreeing on what they have accomplished to date or do not concern themselves with the question of what has been achieved so far, how can they establish clear targets to facilitate creative dialogue across these diverse perspectives and subfields? With this in mind, our objective was to challenge proponents of specific paradigms, theories, approaches, and substantive issue areas to confront their own limitations by engaging in self-critical reflection within epistemologies and perspectives. The objective was to stimulate debates about successes and failures but to do so by avoiding the tendency to define accomplishments with reference to the failures and weaknesses of other perspectives. It is important to note that our call to assess the state of the art of international studies was not meant as a reaffirmation of the standard proposition that a rigorous process of theoretical cumulation is both possible and necessary. Not all perspectives and subfields of IS are directed to accomplishing cumulation in this sense. Some participants found the use of such words as synthesis and progress suspect, declaring in their original papers that they could not, or were not prepared to, address these social science-type questions. We nevertheless encouraged these individuals to define what they considered to be fair measures of success and failure in regard to their subfield, and we asked them to assess the extent to which core objectives (whatever they may be) have or have not been met, and why. Our intention obviously was not to tie individuals to a particular set of methodological tenets, standards, assumptions, or constraints. Page 4 →We simply wanted to encourage self-reflective discussion and debate about significant achievements and failures. Even where critiques of mainstream theory and methodology are part of a subfield’s raison d’être, the lack of consensus is still apparent and relevant. As a community of scholars, we are rarely challenged to address the larger question of success and progress (however one chooses to define these terms), perhaps because there is so little agreement on the methods and standards we should use to identify and integrate important observations, arguments, and findings. To prevent intellectual diversity descending into intellectual anarchy, the editors set out “guidelines” for the contributors, in the form of six theme questions, or tasks. The panelists were requested to address one or more of these tasks in their essays: 1. Engage in self-critical, state-of-the-art reflection on accomplishments and failures, especially since the creation of the ISA more than forty years ago. 2. Assess where we stand on unresolved debates and why we have failed to resolve them. 3. Evaluate the intrasubfield standards we should use to assess the significance of theoretical insights. 4. Explore ways to achieve fruitful synthesis of approaches, both in terms of core research questions and appropriate methodologies. 5. Address the broader question of progress in international studies. 6. Select an agenda of topics and research questions that should guide the subfield during the coming decades. The result, as is evident in the pages to follow, is an array of thought-provoking think pieces that indicate
shortcomings as well as achievements and specify the unfinished business of IS as a scholarly field in the next decade or more, with wide-ranging policy implications in the shared quest for world order. Readers will no doubt derive different conclusions from the various contributions. Some will observe that divisions within and across subfields of international studies are so entrenched that constructive dialogue is virtually impossible. Others will conclude that there is much more consensus than might have been imagined. In either case, the need for selfcritical assessment among IS scholars is imperative as we enter the new millennium. Page 5 →
Realism The first cluster of millennial reflections on international studies comprises six papers by proponents, critics, and a revisionist of realism, the dominant paradigm in the field during most of the Westphalian era, 1648 to 1990: John J. Mearsheimer, Joseph M. Grieco, John Vasquez, Kalevi J. Holsti, Manus I. Midlarsky, and Patrick James. Mearsheimer In “Realism, the Real World, and the Academy” John Mearsheimer presents a forceful, unremitting defense of realism as the paradigm wave of the future, no less than in the past. Responding to optimists who consider realism passé—such as President Clinton’s 1992 view that “the cynical calculus of pure power politics . . . is ill-suited to a new era” and John Mueller’s Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, both published in 1989—Mearsheimer declares: “The claim that realism has bitten the dust is wrong. In fact, realist theories are likely to dominate academic debates about international politics for the next century, much the way they have since at least the early days of the cold war.” Mearsheimer’s core thesis is that “despite the end of the cold war, the basic structure of the international system remains largely unchanged.” And since that is so, “we should not expect state behavior in the new century to be much different from what it was in past centuries”; nor, indeed, has it changed. He cites an array of evidence of different types: U.S. involvement in two full-scale wars in the 1990s—Iraq in 1991 and Serbia-Kosovo in 1999—and it came “dangerously close” to war against North Korea in 1994; persistent security competition and war in South Asia, the Persian Gulf, and Africa—surprisingly, he does not mention the Arab-Israel domain; larger U.S. defense expenditures in 2000 than the next six states combined; and the threat of war in Northeast Asia and Europe, the two regions of great powers where critics claim that realist logic is no longer relevant. In the former, the United States maintains one hundred thousand troops, “reducing the need for arms buildups and deterring the rise of hegemonic forces,” according to Joseph Nye, a respected nonrealist scholar and an architect of U.S. policy in Northeast Asia. War is a distinct possibility in that region, argues Mearsheimer—the United States against North Korea or Page 6 →against China over Taiwan: “NEAsia is a dangerous place, where security competition is a central element of interstate relations.” Even in Europe, he argues, it is NATO, a military institution, not the European Union, that ensures the security and stability of its members. He cites the following: the remarks of Russian president Putin in a 2000 policy statement—“Military force and violence remain substantial aspects of international relations”; the presence of one hundred thousand U.S. troops in Europe; and the pervasive view among many European political and military officials interviewed by Robert Art that “if the Americans removed their security blanket from Europe . . . the Western European states could well return to the destructive power politics” of the past, a view echoed by Christoph Bertram, a leading German strategic thinker. “The bottom line is that security competition and war between the great powers have not been burned out of the system,” writes Mearsheimer. States will “continue competing among themselves for power,” making realism highly relevant for the international politics of the twenty-first century. Mearsheimer’s paper concludes with a blunt attack on academic critics of realism: “The most serious threat to realism comes not from the real world, but from inside universities, where dislike of realism is widespread and often intense, especially among liberal international relations theorists.” In particular, he cites John Vasquez,
another contributor to these millennial reflections, for intolerance, hostility, and ad hominem attacks on realists. Grieco Joseph Grieco, a self-critical realist, provides a much less uncompromising defense of the longtime preeminent IR paradigm than John Mearsheimer in his “Modern Realist Theory and the Study of International Politics in the Twenty-first Century.” He notes three fundamental insights of modern realism: insight into “the impact of the anarchical structure of the international system on the preferences, strategies, interactions, and domestic institutions of states”; insight into “the impact of inequalities on international affairs, and in particular, inequalities in power”; and insight into “the importance of continuity in international affairs, but [realism] also alerts us to the pervasiveness of change.” Realism is not without flaws, however, according to Grieco, and must address four problems or challenges: first, the need for “greater Page 7 →acknowledgment that, however important realist-posited variables might be, there are other factors that, under certain circumstances, might vitiate their impact . . . [and] we may wish to expand our range of output variables to include the consequences of state behavior”; second, are states “security or power maximizers, and is there an observable difference between the two goals?”; third, “even if the liberal institutional perspective is incorrect . . . there is still much to be done by realist-informed scholars about the question of why many states appear to have a preference for international institutions”; and fourth, “there is much more that can be done to bring about . . . an integration of realist-posited and domestic structural variables” along with research into the possible linkage of democratic peace and democratic hegemons, notably the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century and the United States in the twentieth century—this “might yield a richer appreciation of both modern realism and domestic structural approaches to international politics.” For Grieco, as for Mearsheimer but not for Vasquez or K.J. Holsti, as the following makes evident, “realism will remain the core approach in the field of international relations.” However, his balanced, self-critical assessment displays both pride in realism’s accomplishments and an awareness of its shortcomings and the need to address them. Vasquez In a forthright critique, “Realism and the Study of Peace and War,” John Vasquez reaffirms his judgment that realism is a “degenerative research program” and, therefore, unworthy of future work: “it is precisely at the heart of the paradigm—on the questions of peace and war—where [realism] has failed . . . to provide more accurate, more powerful, and more relevant answers” than the idealist paradigm. His criteria for assessment are explanatory power, empirical accuracy, and policy relevance: on all of these he finds realism deficient. Waltz (Man, the State, and War and Theory of International Politics) is criticized on two grounds: first, that global anarchy, his fundamental “permissive cause” of war, is a constant and, logically, a constant cannot explain a variable (war); and second, that “a permissive cause implies that there are other causes, sufficient conditions, or probabilistic factors that bring war about in any one specific Page 8 →instance. Waltz’s explanation is inadequate because it fails to specify what these are.” Gilpin fares better, for he posits a variable—the decline of a hegemon and the rise of a challenger—to explain a variable, war; but “his explanation applies only to a small set of hegemonic wars.” Morgenthau’s classical realism does best of all, argues Vasquez, because it “comes close to predicting that war is a constant among states as they struggle for power and what we have in international politics is constant warfare.” That is, for Morgenthau, states are constantly preparing for war, engaging in war, or recovering from war. But even this sweeping view of war as constant is rejected—on empirical grounds, specifically three pieces of evidence. One is “the presence of peaceful eras, especially among major states”—that is, 1816–48 (Concert of Europe), 1871–95 (Bismarck’s European order), 1919–32 (League of Nations), and 1963– (détente). Another is the “presence of peaceful dyads,” based on Correlates of War Project data—seventy-five interstate wars from 1816 to 1992, with four hundred pairs of states in 1816 and about eighteen thousand in 1992—and many democratic dyads
that do not fight each other. Third is “the presence of zones of peace”—the Nordic peace system, North America after 1848, and most of the Western Hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa. Vasquez also contends that realism fails to explain the reality of peace, much less than rules, norms, and institutions. Thus he concludes: “the core questions that the realist paradigm has set for the field—the causes of war and the struggle to achieve peace—have not been adequately answered by classical realism [Morgenthau], neorealism [Waltz, Gilpin], and offensive realism [Mearsheimer].” Holsti (K.J.) Kalevi J. Holsti, too, is highly critical of the realist paradigm in his millennial reflections paper, “Performance and Perils of Realism in the Study of International Politics.” He notes four functions of realism, as of any theory: realism is (1) “a compressed, or shorthand, description of the essential characteristics of international politics”; (2) “a diagnostic tool for analyzing the sources of international conflict and derivatively for identifying the conditions for peace and security”; (3) “a set of prescriptions”; and (4) “a normative theory that posits the survival and security of the political community as the ultimate political value.” Page 9 →While acknowledging that “as a descriptive enterprise, realism has offered a great deal about how some states behave some of the time,” Holsti poses a series of questions arising from patterns of diplomatic-military practice—for example, the ubiquity of alliances, the absence of security dilemmas in South America’s IR, the lack of preparations by most states to defend borders, the absence of hegemons in South America or Southeast Asia, and the virtually nonexistent prospects of war in Western Europe since 1945. These lead him to the view that these are “important trends in the texture of international politics that challenge realist descriptions and explanations.” He terms “the most damaging lacuna in realism [as] its dismissal of interest in revolutions,” which “are based on ideas.” “Realism is also incomplete within its own frame of reference . . . offering only a limited roster of strategies for coping with the consequences of anarchy or human psychology.” Holsti also finds realism wanting as a diagnostic tool, except in special cases, notably nineteenth-century Latin America and the protracted conflicts/enduring rivalries between India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, and Israel and the Arabs. More generally, he notes the absence of major-power war since 1945, with the partial exception of Korea (1950–53), the lack of war in South America since 1942, and the sharp decline in territory-based conflicts since 1945. As for its prescriptive value, “the ultimate problem of realist prescription is that the very policies supposed to maintain international peace and security may actually lead to the unintended consequence of war.” Finally, realism is deemed more successful as a normative theory than in its other three functions, but more for settled (Euro-American) societies than revolutionary ones (Third World). The main culprit is the U.S. realists: “by divesting themselves of normative content, American versions of realism became mechanistic, deterministic, and hopelessly ahistorical.” Holsti is, however, much more generous than Vasquez toward realism, saying that “it has done what any good theory should do: it has stimulated further research and promoted improvement of guiding assumptions, main tenets, and shorthand characterizations.” Moreover, Holsti acknowledges realism’s continuing, important role in the explanation of world politics: “any understanding of past, contemporary, or future international politics is incomplete without the problem selection, the insights, the generalizations, and the explanations of realism. But realism is a perspective on politics, not the Page 10 →whole story. Even as a perspective, it suffers from serious descriptive, explanatory, and therefore prescriptive problems. But to pretend that it has nothing to tell us would be an immense error.” In conclusion, he notes important competitors as a guide to international politics—the English School, liberal internationalism, constructivism, and Kantian perspectives on civil society. Midlarsky Manus Midlarsky is a realist without pretense to paradigm omniscience. The title of his millennial reflections
paper, “Realism and the Democratic Peace: The Primacy of State Security in New Democracies,” specifies its primary thesis. He notes, correctly, “the virtual absence of the international security setting” in the vast research done on the democratic peace. And he postulates that the terms of the debate over which has temporal priority, peace or democracy, shift to security as the prime condition of democracy. “Clearly,” he argues, “the international setting is the key variable driving the relevant decision makers.” Midlarsky notes, with approval, “the inverted democratic peace theory” that “turns the theory on its head,” arguing that “it is the condition of international peace that yields democracy,” rather than the reverse. He explores this alternative explanation through a series of intriguing figures, pointing to support of his view that the pervasive “domestic explanations of the democratic peace [are] misguided to the extent that [they do] not include explicitly international factors.” Instructive case studies of Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Baltics, Finland, Ireland, and Austria in the inter-world war period provide Midlarsky with empirical evidence for his thesis. In his view, the emphasis on economic development “does not provide as strong a distinction between successful and unsuccessful democracies as does state security.” His conclusion, which challenges the pervasive democratic peace thesis, is in the realist tradition: “Among the several possible causes of democracy’s success in Europe [1919–39], the only one that consistently distinguishes between the successes and failures of new democracies is state security.” This, in turn, leads him to call for multiple strands of research—“the contributions of more than one paradigm as well as the domestic and international settings.” Page 11 → James The concluding paper in the realism cluster, “Systemism and International Relations: Toward a Reassessment of Realism,” focuses on what Patrick James contends are its neglected philosophical bases. To this end he introduces into IR theory the concept of systemism as the essential key to a fresh reassessment of realism as a paradigm. “Systemism means a commitment to understanding a system in terms of a comprehensive set of functional relationships. . . .the approach stands in opposition to either a ‘black box’ or some form of reductionism, which result, respectively, from holism and individualism.” Its main point is “that a theory should be expressed in terms of a full range of linkages at the unit and system level.” Translated into IR theory, systemism requires the incorporation of all four structural linkages—M-M (macromacro), M-m (macro-micro), m-M (micro-macro), and m-m (micro-micro). Viewed in these novel terms, the two major strands of realism are found wanting: the individualism of neotraditional (or neoclassical) realism is confined to the micro-micro (m-m) nexus, and the holism of structural realism to the macro-macro (M-M) linkage. As such, realism’s full potential has never been realized. Only the unifying approach of systemism, incorporating the findings from all four connections at both system and unit levels of analysis, concludes James, would generate the “vast, untapped potential” of realism as a paradigm for international relations. The millennial reflections papers on realism are full of insights and provocative arguments: a spirited, uncompromising defense of its continuing relevance to world politics at the dawn of the new millennium and a blunt reassertion of its claim to paradigm primacy (Mearsheimer); a self-critical assessment by an advocate of realism that highlights its achievements yet acknowledges shortcomings that need to be addressed (Grieco); a candid, unqualified criticism of its alleged fundamental flaws in logic, explanatory power, and empirical accuracy, which render it passé as a guide to IR research in the future (Vasquez); a historically grounded critique leading to a judgment that the assumptions, postulates, empirical adequacy, and claims of realism no longer accord with world politics since the end of World War II, tempered by an acknowledgment of its significant contributions to the IS field (Holsti); a critical view of the democratic peace thesis that turns it “on its head,” with the claim that democratic Page 12 →peace depends on the international security setting more than the reverse (Midlarsky); and a
call for revision that attributes the shortcomings of the two principal strands of realism to their philosophical underpinnings—neoclassical realism (individualism) and structural realism (holism)—and advocates systemism as the key to developing realism’s full potential as a paradigm for IR (James).
Institutionalism The second cluster of reflections on paradigms comprises four papers on institutional theory by David Lake, Robert Keohane, Joseph Nye, and Oran Young. Lake “Progress in International Relations: Beyond Paradigms in the Study of Institutions” presents David Lake’s wideranging reflections on IR as a whole and on international institutions. These take the form of addressing three broad questions: “What is the nature of our enterprise and what should our standards be? Where has there been significant progress in the field . . . and why? Why hasn’t there been more progress?” In his discussion of standards of inquiry, his “preferred approach is that of scientific realism . . . and the deductive method.” Lake focuses on two, though implying there are more, “significant areas of progress”: “our understanding of trade policy . . . employing what is sometimes called open economy politics (OEP)” and the “socalled democratic peace.” He attributes the success in both areas to commonalities in these research programs: “First, both are disciplined by a strong empirical foundation. . . . Second, there is an emphasis on deductive rigor. . . . Finally, both literatures have drawn upon and integrated their analyses into broader bodies of theory.” There are, however, “impediments to progress,” of which he notes three: “we debate assumptions, not implications,” for example, the now-dormant absolute-relative gains debate; “we work on separate islands of theory” and do not build bridges between them, as in choice theory; and “third, we fail to operationalize our variables, especially our dependent variables,” as with “cooperation.” In that context, “We need to devote more time and resources to developing operational definitions and collecting systematic data.” Page 13 →The record in the study of international institutions Lake terms a “mixed success.” On the one hand, he notes “enormous progress, especially over the last half century”—specifically, “strong theories that explain the formation and maintenance of international institutions, . . . detailed studies of how and where they matter . . . [and] a new generation of innovative midlevel theories designed to account for variations in legalization and institutional design.” The success, he suggests, was due to the concept of regime, a “progressive ‘problem shift’” that vastly extended the range of the subfield, and the use of “emerging work elsewhere in the social sciences on the sources and roles of institutions.” At the same time, Lake is candid about the failure of institutionalism, “after a flowering in the early 1980s, . . . to meet the high expectations of many of its proponents.” Specifically, it “lacks a ready operationalization of its key variable, whether regime or institution”; it “lacks an accepted empirical pattern or puzzle that motivates inquiry”; its practitioners “have not expanded their horizons far enough, and in so doing have fallen into . . . the endogeneity trap”; finally, they “have adopted an over-narrow conception of institutions,” ignoring many types evident in the past and today, a lacuna that creates selection bias. The way forward, for Lake, is to shift the focus from institutions to “the study of governance . . . defined as the design, construction, and maintenance of mechanisms to reach collective decisions and to enforce agreed-upon bargains,” a change that would reduce the likelihood of selection bias. He concludes with a blunt exposure of “the insidious side effects of current practices” and a powerful call for remedial action: insisting that “scholars ask interesting empirical questions”; ensuring that “‘normal science’ has a prominent place in our journals”; encouraging debunkers of received wisdom and contributors to incremental understanding of IR; rewarding those who devote enormous time and energy “to define concepts systematically, code cases, and build data sets”; and, finally, downgrading the “paradigm warriors” by asking them, “What have you helped us understand lately?”
Keohane It was Keohane and Nye who mounted the first major challenge to realism as the preeminent paradigm in IS. Here, in a succinct paper, “Institutional Theory in International Relations,” Robert Keohane Page 14 →presents a candid assessment of institutionalism’s achievements and some challenges it must address. As so often in the past three decades, he pays tribute to realism’s insights, “particularly the powerful understanding of international structure, and its constraining effects, developed by Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics.” He also reaffirms that “institutional theory accepts three basic realist assumptions: (1) states are the primary actors in world politics; (2) they can be analyzed as if they were rational; and (3) they are not altruistic but, rather, are broadly ‘self-interested.’” However, “states . . . construct institutions in an attempt not only to reduce transaction costs but to improve the information environment, thus enabling them to overcome some of the dilemmas and defensive stances identified by realism.” Keohane credits institutional theory with illuminating how international regimes work. “We have done rather well at extending [this] theory to other issue areas (trade, environment, human rights). The field has been pretty good at recognizing new trends—‘complex interdependence,’ increases in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their networks, transgovernmental relations, the information revolution, globalization”—along with developing new categories and taxonomies; “and we are alert to how institutions can change information and strategies.” At the same time, he is refreshingly self-critical about institutionalism’s shortcomings. Stated simply, “our record is better at description, and even descriptive inference, than at explanation.” He notes four specific problems: “(1) Distributive issues have been recognized as important, but institutional theory has been slow to integrate them into its analysis. . . . (2) We have been slow to develop systematic databases of institutions, which could be used for sophisticated quantitative work. . . . (3) Methodologically, we face the usual problem of strategic interaction: rarely are there unique equilibrium solutions. . . . (4) In particular, there is a serious problem of endogeneity, embedded in institutional theory itself. . . which needs to be solved—I expect, through a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches—before we will be able scientifically to establish the effects of international institutions on world politics.” He urges his colleagues to learn “from basic scientific discoveries in other fields that seem at first esoteric and irrelevant,” including game theory, simulation, mathematical explorations, and quantitative methods. He also reminds them not to denigrate interpretation and description in their commitment to science. Finally, while viewing Page 15 →arrogance and humility as necessary to intellectual progress, he says, “We are better at [the former], so it is more important to work at the latter!” Nye Like Keohane, Joseph Nye has consistently expressed respect for, and criticism of, realism: in the early 1960s, as a graduate student, “I was impressed by the power of the realist model and remain so,” he remarks in his millennial reflections paper, “Transnational Relations, Interdependence, and Globalization.” However, “I was equally impressed by the notion that realism captured only part of what was important in world politics. Ideas, institutions, and economic interdependence were left out.” In that context, he pays tribute to regional integration theory, developed by Ernst Haas, Karl Deutsch, and others in the 1950s and 1960s, as “a healthy antidote to the single-mindedness of the realist model, and it laid the basis for future work on transnational relations [and] interdependence. . . . [In sum,] the consistent theme of our [Keohane and Nye] argument has been to combine the two great theoretical traditions [realism and liberalism].” He also recognizes the contribution of constructivism: “Although their approach lacks theoretical elegance, I welcome the corrective provided by constructivists.” Interestingly, neither Keohane nor Nye refers to any of the other competing paradigms in their millennial reflections papers—critical theory, the English School, postmodernism, feminism. The Westphalian statecentric model, according to Nye, has been undermined by three trends of the last half century: the information revolution, globalization, and marketization. However, despite the declining role of military force, the absence of hierarchy among issues, and the growth of multiple channels of communication, the
three conditions of “complex interdependence,” “the nation-state is not about to be replaced as the primary instrument of domestic and global governance. . . .but it is not the only important actor.” This notion of more complex governance, similar to Roscnau’s “Two Worlds of World Politics,” is sketched in a nine-cell matrix comprising three levels of activity—supranational, national, and subnational—and three spatial sectors—transnational corporations (TNCs), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and NGOs. Nye, like Rosenau, is sensitive to the negative effects of globalization: he cites, approvingly, Karl Polanyi’s “powerful argument” Page 16 →that the failure of states in the nineteenth century to cope with these helped create the disruptive movements of the twentieth, notably communism and fascism. However, since world government is unlikely, there is need for an alternative, less ambitious, constraining governance structure. A candidate for this role is the Keohane-Nye concept of “networked democracies,” which is sketched in this paper, along with a call for “more modest normative principles and practices to enhance transparency and accountability” of IGOs, NGOs, and corporations, the triad of global governance today. Unlike Keohane’s “think piece,” Nye does not, in his paper, acknowledge shortcomings and problems in institutional theory. Rather, he concludes by expressing pride in the continuing relevance of the “tools and concepts” they developed in the 1970s, in their Power and Interdependence (1977), for world politics at the beginning of the new millennium. Young A pioneer in research on international systems, crises, and mediation, Oran Young has also been a prominent contributor to the literature on international regimes and institutions. The title of his paper states his puzzle and thesis clearly: “Are Institutions Intervening Variables or Basic Causal Forces? Causal Clusters versus Causal Chains in International Society.” Young notes—but dissents from—the mainstream instrumental perspective on the role of institutions, of neorealists like Susan Strange and Mearsheimer, and even neoliberals like Keohane: “The basic causal forces are factors such as power, interests, and knowledge, and the role of institutions is to intervene between these forces and collective outcomes in such a way as to prevent the occurrence of joint losses or to secure the achievement of joint gains.” His alternative perspective argues that “institutions often emerge as basic causal forces in their own right. . ., forces that play important roles in determining the values or shaping the operation of [populations, affluence, and technology].” Much of Young’s think piece is devoted to proving this proposition. Thus, “the size, rates of growth, and distribution of human populations are all influenced . . . by . . . the status of women. . . .where prevailing institutions accord women a full complement of rights, fertility rights are strikingly lower.” Similarly, affluence is a Page 17 →function of economic growth, and institutions play a key role in economic development. So too with technology, leading Young to conclude that institutions are not intervening but predictor or causal variables. More generally, he argues that each of the forces regarded as playing a causal role in collective outcomes, namely, “power, interests, and knowledge . . . is affected. . . by underlying institutional arrangements”; for example, “rules of the game frequently affect the bargaining power of those who participate in institutionalized activities at the international level,” as with the veto power of the Five in the UN Security Council. To the mainstream rejoinder that causal forces such as power precede each institutional link in the chain, Young adopts an agnostic view: “neither side has a compelling case for the distinction it seeks to establish between basic causal forces and intervening variables.” To resolve the puzzle Young proposes the use of multivariate analyses of collective outcomes as “products of clusters of variables that operate more or less simultaneously,” with an attempt to determine their relative causal
weight, that is, a form of regression analysis using the logic of statistical inference. He also advocates two other analytical procedures—“genetic explanations or tendency finding analysis” and “dynamic systems modeling.” In conclusion, he designates this as “a model in which clusters or combinations of interactive variables operate together to determine the content of collective outcomes.” The millennial reflections papers on institutional theory reveal a much greater consensus than do those on realism. All four authors identify themselves as “scientific realists” and have been major contributors to this second mainstream IR paradigm. All provide insights, but there are differences in emphasis. Lake provides an overview of the entire IR field (with special attention to institutions), a candid assessment of limited progress—at both levels of analysis— and why there has not been more, a blunt criticism of “paradigm warriors,” and a clear prescription for the “way forward,” notably a forceful call for change in attitudes of scholars; in particular, the need to ask clear empirical questions and recognize dissent. Keohane gives us a no less candid appraisal of progress and unfulfilled promise in institutional theory—strong on description, weaker on explanation, an explicit specification of problems that remain unsolved, and a call for more modesty and less arrogance among adherents to this paradigm, Page 18 →but without Lake’s call to move beyond paradigm debates. Nye offers a proud, positive assessment of institutional theory’s achievements (but lacking in self-criticism) and an assertion of the paradigm’s continuing relevance to contemporary world politics; in fact, a claim to have anticipated many transformational changes, notably globalization. Young’s offering is a provocative thesis that elevates the role of institutions in world politics and economics far beyond the conventional view—intervening variables—to that of basic causal forces, that is, independent variables, with a profound influence on power, interests, population, affluence, and technology.
Notes 1. E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: Macmillan, 1939); E. H. Carr, Conditions of Peace (London: Macmillan, 1942); Arnold Wolfers, Britain and Fiance between Two Wars: Conflicting Strategies of Peace since Versailles (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1940); Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962); Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1941); W. T. R. Fox, The Super-Powers: The United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union—Their Responsibility for Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1944); Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man versus Power Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946); Hans Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Knopf, 1948); Bernard Brodie, ed., The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946). 2. Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979); Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). 3. E. B. Haas, The Uniting of Europe (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1958); E. B. Haas, Beyond the Nation-State: Functionalism and International Organization (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1964); Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977). 4. Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976); Robert Jervis, Richard Ned Lebow, and Janice Gross Stein, Psychology and Deterrence (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985). 5. Richard K. Ashley, “The Poverty of Neorealism,” International Organization 38, no. 2 (1984): 225–86. 6. Robert W. Cox, “Social Forces, States, and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory,” Millennium 10, no. 2(1981): 126–55; Robert W. Cox, Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987). Page 19 →7. Alexander Wendt; “The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41, no. 3 (1987): 335–70; F. V. Kratochwil, Rules, Norms, and Decisions: On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 8. Jean B. Elshtain, Women and War (New York: Basic Books, 1987); Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); V. Spike Peterson, ed., Gendered States: (Re)Visions of International Relations Theory (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1992); J. Ann Tickner, Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992).
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REALISM, THE REAL WORLD, AND THE ACADEMY John J. Mearsheimer Realism, with its emphasis on security competition and war among the great powers, has dominated the study of international relations over the past fifty years. Hans Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz, in particular, have towered over the field during that period. Years from now when the history of the discipline in the twentieth century is written, two books will stand out above the rest: Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations and Waltz’s Theory of International Politics. They have few serious competitors. Many Americans and Europeans, however, believe that realism has a dim future. With the end of the cold war, so the argument goes, international politics has changed in fundamental ways. The world has not simply moved from bipolarity to multipolarity, but instead we have entered an era where there is little prospect of security competition among the great powers, not to mention war, and where concepts such as polarity and the balance of power matter little for understanding international relations. Most states now view each other as members of an emerging “international community,” not as potential military rivals. Opportunities for cooperation are abundant in this new world, and the result is likely to be increased prosperity and peace for almost all the states in the system. Not surprisingly, proponents of this optimistic perspective argue that realism is old thinking, and largely irrelevant to the new realities of world politics. Realists have gone the way of the dinosaurs; Page 24 →they just don’t realize it. The best that might be said for realism is that it was helpful for understanding how states interacted with each other before 1990, but it is largely useless now that the cold war is over. Therefore, we need new theories to help us make sense of international politics in the twenty-first century. President Clinton was a strong proponent of this view. For example, he declared in 1992 that “in a world where freedom, not tyranny, is on the march, the cynical calculus of pure power politics simply does not compute. It is ill-suited to a new era.” Five years later in 1997 he sounded the same theme in defense of NATO expansion. The president argued that the charge that this policy might isolate Russia was based on the belief “that the great power territorial politics of the 20th century will dominate the 21st century,” which he rejected. Instead, he emphasized that “enlightened self-interest, as well as shared values, will compel countries to define their greatness in more constructive ways . . . and will compel us to cooperate in more constructive ways.”1 This hopeful perspective is widely shared by academics. Consider two important statements that appeared in 1989, just as the cold war was coming to a peaceful conclusion. John Mueller claimed in Retreat from Doomsday that there is no longer a serious threat of war among the great powers, because wars of that kind have become too deadly (even without nuclear weapons) to have any political utility. “For the last two or three centuries,” he wrote, “major war—war among developed countries—has gradually moved towards terminal disrepute because of its perceived repulsiveness and futility.”2 Like dueling and slavery, great-power war no longer serves a useful social purpose. Francis Fukuyama made a similar claim in his famous article “The End of History?”3 He argued that “large-scale conflict must involve large states still caught in the grip of history, and they are what appear to be passing from the scene.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union, “there is no struggle or conflict over ‘large’ issues, and consequently no need for generals or statesmen; what remains is primarily economic activity.” The claim that realism has bitten the dust is wrong. In fact, realist theories are likely to dominate academic debates about international politics for the next century, much the way they have since at least the early days of the cold war.4 What the future has in store for realism will be largely a function of two considerations. First, what will it tell us
about events in the real world? Because the study of international politics is an empirical Page 25 →science, the most important criterion for assessing the worth of any theory is how well it explains state behavior. Realism has long been recognized as the dominant paradigm in international relations—even by scholars who dislike it—because it does a better job of explaining politics among states than any other body of theories. Second, what kind of respect will academia—one of the key institutions in any society for fostering thinking about world politics—accord realism? The potential problem for realism is that academics sometimes attempt to denigrate and silence ideas they dislike, even when those ideas shed light on important subjects. Realism appears to have a bright future in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, we still live in a nasty and brutish world where the great powers compete with each other for power. The only possible threat to realism is likely to come from inside academia, where it is frequently reviled. But any attempt to silence realism within the academy is likely to fail, simply because it is so difficult to repress or exclude compelling arguments, especially in the United States.
Realism The realist paradigm comprises a body of theories that share a handful of core beliefs. Specifically, states are the principal actors in world politics, and no higher authority sits above them. This absence of hierarchy in the state system is commonly called anarchy, which does not mean chaos and violence, but simply that states are sovereign political entities. Furthermore, calculations about power dominate state thinking, and states compete for power among themselves. There is a zero-sum quality to that competition, which sometimes makes it intense and unforgiving. States cooperate with each other for sure, but at root they have conflicting interests, not a harmony of interests. Finally, war is a legitimate instrument of statecraft. To paraphrase Clausewitz, war is a continuation of politics by other means. These common tenets among realist theories notwithstanding, there are significant differences among them. For example, Morgenthau maintains that states are hardwired with an insatiable lust for power, which causes them to seek to maximize their share of world power. Waltz, on the other hand, emphasizes that the structure of the system causes states to compete for power but that states should not strive to maximize power. Instead, they should aim to control Page 26 →an “appropriate” amount of power.5 Furthermore, there are important differences between “defensive realists” (Robert Jervis, Jack Snyder, Stephen Van Evera) and “offensive realists” (myself and Randall Schweller].6 My goal here, however, is not to assess the relative merits of particular realist theories but rather to determine the future relevance of the more general realist paradigm.
The Real World Despite the end of the cold war, the basic structure of the international system remains largely unchanged. States are still the key actors in world politics, and they continue to operate in an anarchic system. It is difficult to find a serious scholar who argues that the United Nations or any other international institution has coercive leverage over the great powers or is likely to have it anytime soon. Moreover, not only is there no plausible replacement for the state on the horizon, but there is little interest anywhere in the world for doing away with the state and putting an alternative political arrangement in its place. Nothing is forever, but there is good reason to think that the sovereign state’s time has not yet passed. If the basic structure of the system has not changed since 1990, we should not expect state behavior in the new century to be much different from what it was in past centuries. In fact, there is abundant evidence that states still care deeply about power and will compete for it among themselves in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the danger still remains that security competition might lead to war, neither of which has gone away with the disappearance of the Soviet Union. To illustrate this point, consider that the United States has fought two wars since the end of the cold war—Iraq (1991) and Kosovo (1999)—and it came dangerously close to going to war against North Korea in 1994. Although the United States now spends more on defense than the next six countries combined, U.S. officials do not seem to
think this is enough. Indeed, both candidates in the 2000 presidential campaign advocated spending even more money on the Pentagon. Thus, there is little reason to think that states no longer care about their security. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine anyone arguing that security competition and war are outmoded in (1) South Asia, where India and Pakistan are bitter enemies, are armed with nuclear weapons, and are caught up in a raging dispute over Kashmir; (2) the Persian Page 27 →Gulf, where Iraq and Iran are bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and show no signs of becoming status quo powers; and (3) Africa, where interstate conflict appears to have increased since the end of the cold war. One might concede, however, that these regions remain mired in the old ways of doing business and argue instead that it is security competition and war among the system’s great powers, not minor powers such as Pakistan and Iran, that is passé. Therefore, Europe and Northeast Asia (NEAsia), where there are clusters of great powers, are the places where realist logic no longer has much relevance. But this argument does not stand up to scrutiny. There is a large literature on security in NEAsia after the cold war, and almost every author recognizes that power politics is alive and well in the region and that there is good reason to worry about armed conflict.7 The thought of Japan seriously rearming strikes fear in the heart of virtually every country in Asia, and if China continues to grow economically and militarily over the next few decades, there is likely to be intense security competition between China and its neighbors, as well as the United States. According to one expert, China “may well be the high church of realpolitik in the post-Cold War world.”8 Apparently the Chinese have not gotten the word that realism has been relegated to the scrap heap of history. Furthermore, the United States is in a position today where it might find itself in a war with North Korea or with China over Taiwan. In short, NEAsia is a potentially dangerous place, where security competition is a central element of interstate relations. Possibly the best evidence that power politics is still relevant in NEAsia is that the United States maintains one hundred thousand troops in the region and plans to keep them there for a long time. If NEAsia were a zone of peace, those American forces would be unnecessary and they could be sent home and demobilized, saving the U.S. taxpayer an appreciable sum of money. Instead, they are kept in place to help pacify a potentially volatile region. Joseph Nye, one of the main architects of post-cold war American policy in NEAsia and a scholar with a wellestablished reputation as a liberal international relations theorist (not a realist), made just this point in a 1995 article in Foreign Affairs.9” It has become fashionable,” he wrote, “to say that the world after the Cold War has moved beyond the age of power politics to the age of geoeconomics. Such clichés reflect narrow analysis. Politics and economics are connected. International economic systems rest upon international political Page 28 →order.” He then made the pacifier argument: “The U.S. presence [in Asia] is a force for stability, reducing the need for arms buildups and deterring the rise of hegemonic forces.” Not only do “forward-deployed forces in Asia ensure broad regional stability,” but they also “contribute to the tremendous political and economic advances made by the nations of the region.” In short, “the United States is the critical variable in the East Asia security equation.” What about Europe, which some writers believe is the best place to look for evidence that power politics is outmoded among the great powers? It was widely believed in the early 1990s that Russia had undergone a fundamental transformation in its thinking about international politics. Its leaders, many believed, understood that the pursuit of power was not likely to enhance Russian security and that the best way to achieve that end was to work with the West to create a peaceful order across all of Europe. Furthermore, some argued that in the wake of the cold war the European Union (EU) would provide the foundation for a stable political order in western Europe, and eventually across the entire continent. It seems clear, however, that things are not working out this way in Europe. NATO, not the EU, provides the basis of stability on the western half of the continent, and NATO is a military institution. Moreover, the expansion of NATO eastward has angered the Russians, who now appear to be thinking and acting like old-fashioned realists. Consider what President Vladimir Putin says in “The National Security Concept of the Russian Federation,” a seminal policy document that he signed on January 10, 2,000. “The formation of international relations,” he writes, “is accompanied by competition and also by the aspiration of a number of states to strengthen their
influence on global politics, including by creating weapons of mass destruction. Military force and violence remain substantial aspects of international relations.”10 But as with NEAsia, probably the best evidence that power politics has not disappeared from Europe is that the United States maintains one hundred thousand troops in the region, and it places great importance on keeping NATO intact. If Europe were “primed for peace,” NATO could be disbanded and those American forces could be sent home and demobilized.11 Instead, they are kept in place, because there is potential for intense security competition in Europe, and the United States is determined to keep it from breaking out. Otherwise why would Washington spend tens of billions of dollars every year to maintain a large military presence in Europe? Page 29 →It appears that many Europeans believe that the United States is keeping a lid on security competition in their region. Between 1990 and 1994, Robert Art conducted more than one hundred interviews with European political-military elites. He found that most believed that “if the Americans removed their security blanket from Europe . . . the Western European states could well return to the destructive power politics that they had just spent the last forty-five years trying to banish from their part of the continent.”12 Presumably that perspective is even more tightly held today, given that the early 1990s was the heyday of optimism about the prospects for peace in Europe. For a closer look at how many Europeans think about the American presence in Europe, consider the views of Christoph Bertram, a former director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and one of Germany’s foremost strategic thinkers. He wrote in 1995, “To disband NATO now would throw Europe into deep insecurity. . . . It would be a strategic disaster.”13 He goes on to say that “if the United States turned its back on Europe, NATO would collapse and the European Union would be strained to the point of disintegration. Germany would stand out as the dominant power in the West of the continent, and Russia as the disturbing power in the East. The United States would lose much of its international authority as well as the means to help prevent European instability from igniting international conflict once again.” The bottom line is that security competition and war between the great powers have not been burned out of the system. States across the globe are likely to continue competing among themselves for power. And this means that realist theories are likely to have much to say about international politics in the twenty-first century.
The Academy The most serious threat to realism comes not from the real world but from inside universities, where dislike of realism is widespread and often intense, especially among liberal international relations theorists. A good example of this hostility is found in a recent article in the American Political Science Review by John Vasquez, a member of the millenial reflections panel on realism held at the International Studies Association’s 2000 convention. After assessing some of the more important realist writings of the past twenty years, he concludes that realism is a degenerating paradigm (as opposed to a progressive Page 30 →paradigm). He is certainly entitled to advance this view, of course, but he goes on to suggest that research by realist scholars does not “deserve continued funding, publication, and so forth.”14 He probably also believes that political science departments should not hire realists. This statement is remarkable for its intolerance. Indeed, it is hard to understand how it got past the editors at the American Political Science Review. Surely if someone had called for running liberal theories or formal modeling out of the scholarly world, the editors would have told the author that ad hominem attacks of that sort have no place in the flagship journal of political science. Apparently standards are different when it comes to realism. This example is hardly unique, however, as any university-based realist knows all too well. Morgenthau, for example, speculated that he probably would not have received tenure at the University of Chicago in 1946 if his first book dealing with realist themes, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics, had been in print when the tenure decision was made.15 In a 1989 book of autobiographical essays by thirty-four international relations scholars, Morgenthau’s name “is more frequently cited than any other name.” Yet, the editor notes, “many of the references
in these pages are negative in tone. He seems to have inspired his critics even more than his supporters.”16 Kenneth Waltz, the other king of realist scholarship generates similar hostility. For example, Fareed Zakaria notes that “it was a ritual, at almost every IR seminar I attended as a graduate student at Harvard, for the speaker to spend some time denouncing Waltz’s work.”17 Parenthetically, it is worth noting that despite realism’s widely acknowledged dominance of the intellectual agenda in international relations, Harvard’s government department has not employed a realist theorist since Henry Kissinger left in 1969. Moreover, it made no effort to hire either Morgenthau or Waltz, the two most influential international relations scholars of the past fifty years. Harvard’s apparent antipathy toward realism is not unique. Yale’s political science department has not had a realist on its distinguished faculty since 1957, when Arnold Wolfers retired. Robert Gilpin, a realist who taught at Princeton until recently, maintains that “liberal intolerance” of realism, which has a long and rich history, has increased recently because realists refuse to “believe that, with the defeat of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, the liberal millennium of democracy, unfettered markets, and peace is upon us.”18 Page 31 →There is certainly much evidence of realism bashing in the aftermath of the cold war. To cite a few examples, a 1995 article in International Studies Quarterly not only predicted the imminent demise of realism but concluded that future research should “explore why for the past several decades the discipline of international politics remained mesmerized by a false theory”!19 A prominent British scholar argued in 1994 that “many of the central themes of realism appear as (domesticated) descendants of the militaristic and racist Social Darwinism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.”20 Finally, Stanley Hoffmann, a Harvard professor, told the New York Times in March 1993 that realism is “utter nonsense today.”21 There is little reason to think that such hostility toward realism will subside anytime soon. Nevertheless, this intolerance is unlikely to put an end to the realist research agenda, mainly because realism offers too many important insights about international politics to be silenced for long. Try as they may, realism’s detractors will find that it is almost impossible to suppress sound arguments in the United States. The American university system is large and decentralized, and serious scholars with controversial ideas can always find a few institutions willing to support them. Realism might be abandoned if it ceased to say anything important about international politics, but as discussed, that is unlikely to be the case. As a result, people who care about the real world will continue to rely on the insights that realist theory provides, and students will continue to be impressed by realism’s compelling explanations of state behavior. Realism will disappear only if there is a revolutionary change in the structure of the international system, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
Notes 1. William J. Clinton, “American Foreign Policy and the Democratic Ideal,” campaign speech, Pabst Theater, Milwaukee, Wise., October 1, 1992; “In Clinton’s Words: ‘Building Lines of Partnership and Bridges to the Future,’” New York Times, July 10, 1997. 2. John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989), 4. 3. Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest, no. 16 (1989): 3–18. The quotations in this paragraph are from pp. 5 and 18. Also see Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and The Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). Page 32 →4. For evidence that realism has always been the dominant paradigm in the discipline of international relations, see Brian C. Schmidt, The Political Discourse of Anarchy: A Disciplinary History of International Relations (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998). 5. Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory,” in The Origin and Prevention of Major
Wars, ed. Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 40. 6. See Sean M. Lynn-Jones and Steven E. Miller, preface to The Perils of Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and International Security, ed. Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), ix-xii; and Benjamin Frankel, “Restating the Realist Case: An Introduction,” Security Studies (special issue: “Realism: Restatements and Renewal”) 5, no. 3 (1996): xiv-xx. 7. See, for example, the many articles on Asian security published over the past decade in Foreign Affairs, International Security, and Survival. Some of the best pieces from International Security are published in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller, eds., East Asian Security (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996). 8. Thomas J. Christensen, “Chinese Realpolitik,” Foreign Affairs 75, no. 5 (1996): 37. 9. Joseph S. Nye Jr., “East Asian Security: The Case for Deep Engagement,” Foreign Affairs 74, no. 4 (1995): 90–102. The quotations in this paragraph are from pages 90–91, 102. 10. The document was originally published in Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye on January 14, 2000. For key excerpts, from which this quote is taken, see “Russia’s National Security Concept,” Arms Control Today 30, no. 1 (2000): 15–20. 11. The phrase “primed for peace” was coined by Stephen Van Evera to describe post-cold war Europe. See Stephen Van Evera, “Primed for Peace: Europe after the Cold War,” International Security 15, no. 3 (1990–91): 7–57. 12. Robert J. Art, “Why Western Europe Needs the United States and NATO,” Political Science Quarterly in, no. 1 (1996): 5–6. 13. Christoph Bertram, Europe in the Balance: Securing the Peace Won in the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment, 1995), 17–18, 85. Also see pp. 10–11. 14. John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91, no. 4(1997): 9°°15. See “Bernard Johnson’s interview with Hans J. Morgenthau” in Truth and Tragedy: A Tribute to Hans f. Morgenthau, ed. Kenneth Thompson and Robert J. Myers (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1984), 371. 16. Joseph Kruzel, “Reflections on the Journeys,” in fourneys through World Politics: Autobiographical Reflections of Thirty-four Academic Travelers, ed. Joseph Kruzel and James N. Rosenau (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1989), 505. 17. Personal correspondence, October 7, 1999. Page 33 →18. Robert G. Gilpin, “No One Loves a Political Realist,” Security Studies (special issue: “Realism: Restatements and Renewal”) 5, no. 3 (1996): 3. 19. Bahman Fozouni, “Confutation of Political Realism,” International Studies Quarterly 39, no. 4 (1995): 508. 20. Fred Halliday, Rethinking International Relations (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1994), 11. 21. Quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “Friends Like Russia Make Diplomacy a Mess,” New York Times, March 28, 1993, sect. 4, p. 5.
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MODERN REALIST THEORY AND THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Joseph M. Gricco Participants in the millennial reflections panels held under the auspices of the 2000 annual meeting of the International Studies Association were invited to offer self-critical reflections about the state of different elements of the field of international relations and to put forward recommendations on how these different elements might push forward most productively in the years ahead. Toward that end, I present ideas about some of the main contributions of modern realist theory to the study of world politics, a few of its main problems as an approach to international studies, and a sample of its most promising areas of future development.
Modern Realism’s Contributions to International Relations Employing terms suggested by Quincy Wright, the field of international relations is centrally concerned with identifying and understanding the causes of war and the conditions of peace.1 Modern realist theory—the work of such scholars as Hans Morgenthau, E. H. Carr, Nicholas Spykman, Raymond Aron, Robert Gilpin, and Kenneth Waltz—has surely contributed vitally to international relations insofar as it casts important light on both the problem of war and the problem of peace among nations.2 It does so by providing us with three fundamental insights into world politics. Page 35 →1. Modem realism helps us appreciate the impact of the anarchical structure of the international system on the preferences, strategies, interactions, and domestic institutions of states. Modern realist theory provides the strongest and clearest analysis of the peculiar (but not unique) setting in which states interact: the absence of a centralized authority reliably capable of providing protection and the redress of grievances. This political context, in turn, through processes of selection and socialization, has a constraining effect on the strategies that states are likely to pursue and even, at the limit, the preferences that they seek to satisfy in the international domain. In particular, modern realism provides us with the tools to appreciate that states that are colocated in a self-help system will be concerned about their security and their independence and, by consequence, the means by which they can retain some minimally acceptable level of both, or at least mitigate the harm that may be done to one or the other. In addition, modern realism helps us to apprehend the systemic sources of constraints on the amenability of national governments to work together even when they share common interests. Finally, realism sheds light on the observable behavior of many major states to resist rather than to acquiesce in the face of overwhelming power. Other systems-level theories of international relations—for example, neoliberal institutionalism and social constructivism—largely accept this modern realist depiction of world politics as the starting point for their own analyses.3 These approaches put themselves forward as fundamental alternatives to realist theory. However, in the main they do no more than suggest that not all of the inferences put forward by modern realism about world politics necessarily obtain at present, or they need not do so for all time. These alternative approaches are essentially “yes, but” commentaries on the realist understanding of world affairs.4 This is not the case, it should be noted, with domestic structuralist and individual-level theories that focus either on the cognitive dynamics of individual leaders or their pragmatic interest in achieving and retaining political office. Such approaches do indeed provide a very different understanding of world affairs from that put forward by realism.5 However, one of the key points made by realist theories and by other literatures whose main findings are highly consistent with realist expectations is that international power conditions may in fact influence the shape and operation of the domestic institutions of nations. In that sense, it might be suggested that the forces emphasized Page 36 →by realism—and in particular, the problem of security in an anarchical international
environment—might have an important direct or indirect role in generating the domestic institutions that then have a subsequent impact on the foreign behavior of nations.6 2. Modem realism helps us appreciate the impact of inequalities on international affairs, and in particular inequalities in power. While modern realist theory emphasizes the similarity in structural circumstances in which states find themselves (the absence of a centralized world authority), it emphasizes as well that the degree to which different states will be able to ensure their individual security and independence in the risk-laden context of world politics, and the means by which they will pursue those and other ends, will differ greatly as a function of their power. International life is profoundly unfair: the range of choice that is available to the United States in international matters and even domestic matters is greater than it is for France. It may not be going too far to suggest that no other theory of international relations, whether it focuses on systemic or domestic-structural or individual-level factors, pays as much serious attention to the problem of power and inequality in power in the international domain as does realist international theory. Indeed, most alternatives to realist theory—most notably, neoliberal institutionalism—deal with the problem of power simply by defining it away or by ignoring its role in human and group interactions. It is, indeed, sometimes suggested that power is coming to play a smaller role in world politics. The behavior of two countries, Germany and Japan, is often cited as evidence for this diminished salience of power in the international system. Germany allows its smaller European neighbors to have disproportionate power in the framework of European Union (EU) institutions, and this willingness to so eschew German relative influence is “puzzling” unless one understands that the German public and especially its political class have become international in their “acquired collective identities.”7 It is surely true that the Germany of today and the foreseeable future is different from the Germany of 1914 or 1939. However, if Germany has become uninterested in possessing formal influence commensurate with its great and growing relative capabilities in Europe, how do we account for the facts that the German government sought unsuccessfully, as matters developed at the EU summit at Nice in December 2000, to increase Germany’s votes in the Council of Ministers beyond that possessed by France, and did succeed, by virtue of pressing for changes in EU voting rules to include national population Page 37 →thresholds, to bring the EU to a new set of circumstances wherein Germany’s relatively large population has now been translated into a level of formal German weighting in EU voting that is greater than that of France or Britain or Italy?8 In the case of Japan, there is no question but that that country pursued its interests during the second half of the twentieth century in a more peaceful and cooperative manner than it did during the first half of that century, and that there is an antimilitarist culture strongly in place in that country as well as Germany, as Berger has demonstrated.9 However, as Berger has also noted, Japan’s cooperative, antimilitarist orientation in world affairs rests not just on important domestic institutional, political, and indeed cultural dynamics, but also on a very important international-political condition, namely, that the United States largely supplies Japan with its external security. As Berger also has noted, notwithstanding all the domestic changes that have occurred in Japan since World War II, there are circumstances in which many of the cooperative/antimilitarist assumptions and values and practices we have witnessed in postwar Japanese foreign policy would be severely tested, namely, those in which the U.S.-Japanese alliance came to an end and a serious new security threat came into being. Thus, the abjuring of traditional forms of power on the part of Japan, that most civilian of modern states, seems to rest to a large degree on the presence of the very traditional forms of power put forward in Asia by America. 3. Modern realism helps us appreciate the importance of continuity in international affairs, but it also alerts us to the pervasiveness of change. Modern realism also helps us understand both continuity and change in world affairs. In particular, it helps us understand why the interstate system remains anarchical and why no single world dictator or world government has emerged (the process of balancing); it helps us understand why cooperation among nations is hard but not impossible to achieve (the problem of relative gains and the problem of dependency, and the solution of hegemonic leadership); and it helps us understand why states that are culturally and economically very different nevertheless converge in certain respects in their military and diplomatic infrastructure, and even in their domestic institutions (the mechanics of selection and socialization).10 At the same time, modern realism pinpoints two sources of profound change in world affairs, namely, shifts in the distribution of capabilities across
states and reactions by national actors to structural conditions and dynamics.11 Page 38 →
Modern Realism’s Problems Modern realism provides us with powerful insights into world affairs, and it is the starting point for all other important theories of international relations. However, as with every other approach, realism is flawed and in need of improvement. I note five problems or challenges before it, and how modern realism might address each. Realism and the Positing of Empirical Expectations Realists and their critics seem to concur that realism yields the view that states will invariably balance against a rising power rather than bandwagon with it, that states will invariably fail to cooperate rather than succeed in doing so if relative gains problems are in operation, and that states will always resist rather than embrace specialization in the face of the risk of dependency. These are useful and interesting hypotheses, but I wonder if both realist and nonrealist scholarship would benefit from two adjustments of these hypotheses. The first and very modest adjustment would involve greater acknowledgment that, however important realistposited variables might be, there are other factors that under certain circumstances might vitiate their impact. Hence, rather than suggest that states always balance rather than bandwagon, we might suggest that, other things being equal, states facing a rising power will be more likely to balance against rather than to bandwagon toward that state. This approach requires modesty in what we think realism (or any theory) can accomplish at present: even if international structure is quite important, we would need to acknowledge that the best we can do is to put forward probabilistic statements about its impact on real-world decisions and actions of states. Second, rather than looking only at expected state policy as the basis for generating and testing realist and nonrealist hypotheses, we may wish to expand our range of output variables to include the consequences of state behavior. Peter Feaver has suggested that such a focus on consequences and not just state actions might be very helpful in estimating the veracity of realist claims.12 His premise is that realism is both a deductive argument (with a cluster of resulting explicit empirical observable expectations) about how the world operates and a normative claim that states ought to adjust their policies according to systemic conditions or risk disaster. That realists seek to generate policy proposals on the basis of their research is evidence, Feaver suggests, that realism recognizes that some states will fail to Page 39 →act in accord with their true, “real” interests. Along these lines, Feaver also suggests, Waltz’s core insight is not that states will always act in accord with systemic requirements, but that states that engage in “system-insensitive” behavior are more likely to suffer than are states that engage in “system-responsive” behavior. This general insight, Feaver then argues, can be applied to the specific issue of balancing: what may be termed the Feaver adverse consequences hypothesis about balancing is that states that fail to balance when systemic conditions call for balancing are more likely to suffer harm than those states that do elect to balance when circumstances call for that strategy. A problem that would still be in operation with the Feaver hypothesis is the specification of the precise systemic conditions that would lead realists to predict balancing rather than other strategies, such as bandwagoning or hiding. Assuming that this challenge could be overcome, the key question then would be, in general, and controlling for a range of other conditions that might affect success and failure by a state in the international arena, the following: do the states that fail to balance experience a higher probability of suffering adverse consequences at the hands of a rising power than do the states that elect to balance against that rising power? This path of research suggested by Feaver would not just be relevant to the question of realist arguments about balancing but would be useful in assessments of the whole range of realist arguments about world politics so long as such arguments suggest that states that are system-insensitive will pay a cost for such insensitivity. Realism and State Preferences for Power A second theoretical problem for realism can be phrased as a question: does the co-location of states in an
anarchical political environment typically lead “normal” states to be security or power maximizers, and is there an observable difference between the two goals?13 The present writer, drawing upon Waltz,14 has suggested that states, from a realist viewpoint, are “defensive positionalists”—that is, they do not so much wish to dominate as to prevent their becoming dominated by others—and as such they will typically prefer in their foreign relations to attain that level of capabilities and retain that margin of autonomy that are needed to maintain their relative power position and thereby prevent their becoming vulnerable to pressures or threats from other nations.15 However, an alternative view has been put forward Page 40 →with great vigor from within the general realist perspective: Schweller has argued that at least some states want to change their status in the system and therefore will want to advance their relative power position.16 Further, Mearsheimer has suggested that, as a general rule, “states in the international system aim to maximize their relative power position over other states.”17 The question of whether states seek to maximize power for its own sake or attempt to maximize security and therefore are power-maximizers is important for realism for at least two reasons. First, if realists do think that states value power even more than security, they would need to expect states to bandwagon rather than balance in those instances in which the former yielded greater power than the latter. This is a point that is made with great effect by Schweller in his analysis of revisionist states.18 Second, an assumption that states value power above all else would require realists to change their current specification of the problem of international cooperation. That is, they would need to argue that states seek not to avoid gaps in gains favoring partners but instead to maximize gaps in their favor. A strong desire to maximize gaps in gains would make cheating much more attractive to states, and therefore the fear of cheating would be much greater. States would also have a much more aggressive set of interests regarding the distribution of gains from cooperation. Realists, in specifying such a world, would be driven to argue that cooperation among states is essentially impossible to achieve. Yet this would cause them to face the unbearable burden of explaining why there are in fact substantial amounts of cooperation among states. Perhaps one way realist theory may be able to avoid the power-security maximization trap is to restrict, in the way suggested in general by Waltz, its expectations about the impact of anarchy on the interests of states regarding relative power. The argument would be that realism’s focus on anarchy cannot readily lead it to expect more than that states are concerned primarily about their survival and security and that they seek to ensure both not by maximizing power to their advantage but by minimizing gaps in power that are likely to favor rivals or adversaries. This restricted understanding of the effects of anarchy on state preferences regarding power may itself be rather far-reaching, for it yields such important expectations as those regarding the tendency of states to choose balancing over bandwagoning, the tendency of states to fear functional differentiation, and the likely prevalence of the relative gains problem for cooperation. Page 41 →Of course, there are states that seek to maximize their power, and some do so to enhance their security. Yet realists may wish to acknowledge that a systemic-based theory may not be able to account for these instances of state behavior by itself. Instead, they may wish to argue that the factors leading states to so define their security problem in terms of the need for a favorable imbalance of power may be driven by such nonsystemic factors as military technology or the perceptions of national decision makers, although they could still argue that international anarchy exacerbates tensions or “tightens” the security dilemma.19 At the same time, realists would be able to argue that their expectations and analyses become highly relevant once a power-maximizing state comes into being and begins to operate in the international system—for example, one would expect to see balancing against that highly assertive state. Realism and International Institutions There is very little concrete or systematic evidence, as Mearsheimer has emphasized,20 that international arrangements have strong independent effects on the preferences, policies, or interactions of states. Indeed, in contrast to liberal institutionalist expectations, a recent statistical analysis by Mansfield and Bronson of the political sources of trade provides evidence that mutual membership in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade either has no significant effect on bilateral trade between countries or may actually be a negative predictor of such trade.21 In the same vein, a recent statistical analysis by Bennett and Stam suggests that mutual membership in international institutions does not appear to have a consistently depressive effect on the likelihood
of militarized conflicts between countries, and it may be possible that mutual organizational membership is associated with an increase, not a decrease, in the probability of such conflicts; as they conclude, “We thus find some support for realism’s contention that IGOs [intergovernmental organizations] will have little effect on the use of force.”22 Yet even if the liberal institutional perspective is incorrect and international institutions do not have a systematic impact on state preferences and behavior, realism may still want to study international institutions. That is because states often seem to have a preference to construct and work through international institutions. Priess and Schweller have gone some way in this direction, as has Ikenberry.23 However, there is still much to be done by realist-informed Page 42 →scholars about the question of why many states appear to have a preference for international institutions. One possible line of analysis in this respect might be to suggest that relatively weaker states may choose to cooperate through an institution in order to attain “voice opportunities”24 with regard to their stronger partners.25 But that still leaves us with the stronger partners: why do they accept and even embrace institutionalization? One possible realist hypothesis is that such institutionalization allows the stronger state to exercise its hegemony in an efficient manner and under a cover of legal equality such that there is less resistance to its preferences and proposals. So, for example, the EU might be a vehicle by which Germany is able to employ its power discretely and legitimately and thereby dominate its neighbors without arousing substantial resistance on their part or even very much resentment. Of course, cutting against this function of international institutions as a basis for formal equality of power but real inequality of influence is the tendency for states often to wish at some point to have institutional arrangements operate and indeed be structured in such a way that there is no hiding of real power conditions in the arrangement: see, for example, the earlier discussion of Germany and its new preferences for voting rules in the EU. Realism and Interaction Effects Some of the very best realist-informed research done in recent years—for example, Snyder’s work on state overextension, Walt’s work on revolutionary states and the international system, and Schweller’s work on revisionist states—seeks to integrate domestic structural and realist-posited systemic-level variables in a coherent argument about different elements of world politics.26 Much more can be done to bring about such an integration of realist-posited and domestic structural variables. For example, a growing body of research suggests that regime type interacts in important ways with systemic conditions and dynamics. The best developed of this literature concerns regime type and international conflict management—that is, the democratic peace literature. But there are other interesting areas of interaction between domestic regime type and international politics. For example, studies by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman and by David Rousseau, Christopher Gelpi, Dan Reiter, and Paul Huth have suggested Page 43 →that democracies are disproportionately likely to be the target of militarized challenges in world politics.27 This is an odd finding, since studies by Lake and by Stam and Reiter suggest that democracies are disproportionately likely to win the wars they fight, and Ajin Choi is completing a thesis at Duke that identifies as a key reason for this warfighting superiority of democracies their superior capacity to work together as war-coalition partners.28 Kurt Gaubatz has found that democracies form more durable alliances, which would also seem to be a deterrent to challenges being launched against them.29 Why, then, do democracies appear disproportionately to attract trouble if they are such effective fighters? It would be very interesting to learn if realist-informed arguments could help address that question. Moreover, there is the question of whether realist theory can contribute to the new literature on how the preferences of leaders to remain in office interact with domestic institutional circumstances to affect leadership policy choices and even leadership performance in the political-military domain. Recent years have seen several interesting studies that focus on the impact on foreign policy that is induced by the interest of leaders to retain office, importantly mediated by the character of the domestic institutional setting in which such leaders find themselves, and it would be quite interesting to learn whether and in what manner these interactions might be
influenced by differences in international political or military circumstances.30 In addition, and following the pathbreaking work on Chinese foreign policy by Johnston,31 there might be important and interesting interaction effects in operation between realist-posited variables and those emphasized by the social constructivists. The latter suggest that there may exist at any given time a body of beliefs commonly shared by national decision makers within or perhaps even across different countries, and these beliefs may act as an independent force on the positing by national leaders of state preferences and the selection by them of national strategies to satisfy those preferences. One potentially interesting line of research might inquire as to whether such structures of commonly held beliefs vary with recent and current international conditions. This line of inquiry might, in practical terms, seek to explore the effects of World War II, for example, on the beliefs of major-state leaders regarding the best paths to security. Page 44 → Realism and the Democratic Peace We often think that the democratic peace thesis raises serious problems for modern realist theory, as might the related vein of work constituting a “democratic efficacy” thesis, which suggests that democracies are disproportionately likely to prevail in international crises and wars.32 However, drawing upon the realist work discussed previously regarding the possible generative effects of the international system for domestic structures, as well as the work by Gilpin on hegemony and international economic cooperation,33 future research might investigate the possibility that the democratic peace is endogenous to particular international structures—specifically, the presence of a democratic hegemon, Britain in the nineteenth century and America in the twentieth—for these hegemons may have played a key role in the emergence and sustained viability of many democracies and thus of the democratic peace. This line of research would not in any way undermine the democratic peace finding or the different arguments about the manner in which democracies might in fact be better able to resolve disputes among themselves short of the use of military violence. However, if this line of research proved to be fruitful, it might yield a richer appreciation of both modern realism and domestic structural approaches to international politics.
Modern Realism’s Future Realism will remain the core approach in the field of international relations. So long as the international system has certain key attributes—the presence of a number of powerful states that can do serious harm to one another and the absence of a reliable centralized source of authority that can settle conflicts among those states—then realist theory, based as it is on trying to understand the impact of those attributes, will have something serious to say about world politics. However, realism is likely to evolve in its own understanding of world politics and to have some interesting conversations with other perspectives. In my view, the Feaver emphasis on the adverse consequences of systeminsensitive state behavior offers the most promising pathway for realism’s own development. In addition, my sense is that the two strongest candidates for useful dialogue with modern realism in the years ahead are social constructivism and, especially, as has always been true, domestic structuralism. Through such internal development and external dialogue with other approaches, Page 45 →modern realism will continue to provide the surest starting point for our understanding of the problem of war and peace among nations.
Notes 1. Quincy Wright, The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace (London: Longmans, Green, 1935). 2. Hans Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 4th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1973, first published 1948); Edward H. Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis, 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: Macmillan, 1939); Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace,
1941); Raymond Aron, Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations, trans. Richard Howard and Annette Baker Fox (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966); Robert Gilpin, “The Politics of Transnational Relations,” in Transnational Relations and World Politics, ed. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), 48–69; Robert Gilpin, U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation: The Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Basic Books, 1975); Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Robert Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987); Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959); Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979); Kenneth N. Waltz, “Structural Realism after the Cold War,” International Security 25 (summer 2000): 41. 3. On the development of neoliberal institutionalism, see Arthur A. Stein, “Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World,” in International Regimes, ed. Stephen D. Krasner (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), 115–40; Robert M. Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984); Robert O. Keohane, “The Demand for International Regimes,” in Krasner, International Regimes, 141–71; Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984); and David A. Baldwin, ed., Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). In a recent essay, Legro and Moravscik put forward the thesis that neorealism has converged with liberalism; actually, it may be more accurate to conclude that, in very broad terms, the opposite has occurred. Key constructivist works would include John G. Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” in Krasner, International Regimes, 195–231; Friedrich Kratochwil and John G. Ruggie, “International Organization: A State of the Art on an Art of the State,” International Organization 40 (autumn 1986): 753–75; Jeffrey W. Legro, Cooperation Page 46 →under Fire: AngloGerman Restraint during World War II (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995); Jeffrey W. Legro, “Whence American Internationalism,” International Organization 54 (spring 2000): 253–89; Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996); and Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998). Constructivism has largely focused to date on how commonly held norms and beliefs promote peace and cooperation among nations. However, there has also been work by Johnston on how commonly held beliefs at the national level (in particular, China) might propel a state to be less rather than more amenable to international cooperation. Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Ming China (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995); Alastair Iain Johnston, “Cultural Realism and Strategy in Maoist China,” in Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security; Alastair Iain Johnston, “Realism(s) and Chinese Security Policy in the Post–Cold War Period,” in Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War, ed. Ethan B. Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 261–318. 4. One of the helpful characteristics of the new literature (for example, John Oneal and Bruce Russett, “Assessing the Liberal Peace with Alternative Specifications: Trade Still Reduces Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research 36 [July 1999, 423–42] on the potentially dampening effects of economic interdependence on the probability of military conflict between nations is that it does not seek to claim that any such effects obviate the importance of realist-emphasized variables, such as military power and alliances. Of course, it is not clear that economic interdependence does in fact generally reduce the risk of militarized conflicts: for the contrary view, see for example Waltz, Theory of International Politics, and Katherine Barbieri, “International Trade and Conflict: The Debatable Relationship” (paper presented at the Thirty-ninth Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Minneapolis, March 17–21, 1998). It is possible that the effects of economic interdependence vary in response to other conditions, such as the relevant states’ expectations about future market access or whether they are both democracies (in which case interdependence is likely to mitigate the likelihood of conflict) or are both nondemocracies or constitute a mixed pair (in which cases interdependence may exacerbate the risk of conflict). On the interaction between regime type and interdependence as it relates to the problem of war, see Paul A. Papayoanou, “Interdependence, Institutions, and the Balance of Power,” International Security 20 (spring 1996): 42–76;
and Christopher Gelpi and Joseph M. Grieco, “Democracy, Interdependence, and the Liberal Peace” (Duke University, March 31, 2000, unpublished). Finally, it should be noted that one of the more interesting developments in the recent literature on interdependence is its focus not just on trade integration but interdependence via foreign Page 47 →direct investments, which actually was of greater interest to one of the key earlier writers on interdependence, Norman Angell. See Richard Rosecrance, The Rise of the Virtual State: Wealth and Power in the Coming Century (New York: Basic Books, 1999); Norman Angell, The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power to National Advantage, 4th ed. (New York: Putnam, first published 1913). 5. Key examples of individual-level works that focus on cognitive or other psychological characteristics of leaders include Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976); Irving L. Janis, Groupthink, 2d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980); Richard N. Lebow, Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crises (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981); and Robert Jervis, Richard Ned Lebow, and Janice Gross Stein, Psychology and Deterrence (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985). An interesting discussion of socialpsychological dynamics that would seek to reinforce realist-specified dynamics in international relations is put forward by Mercer. Jonathan Mercer, “Anarchy and Identity,” International Organization 49 (spring 1995): 229–52. Other key works on the impact of different levels of domestic politics on foreign policy that emphasize the manner in which domestic dynamics may propel states to go in directions not anticipated by a focus solely on their systemic position would include Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); and Charles Kupchan, The Vulnerability of Empire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994). 6. A good starting point for reading in this area is Otto Hintze, “The Formation of States and Constitutional Development” and “Military Organization and the Organization of the State,” both in The Historical Essays of Otto Hintze, ed. Felix Gilbert (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 157–215; Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, A.D. 900–1990 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); Theda Skocpol, “A Critical Review of Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy,” American Journal of Sociology 4 (fall 1973): 1–34; Aristide Zolberg, “Strategic Interactions and the Formation of Modern States: France and England,” International Social Science Journal 32, no. 4 (1980): 687–716; Barry Posen, “Nationalism, the Mass Army, and Military Power,” International Security 18 (autumn 1993): 80–124. 7. Peter J. Katzenstein, “United Germany in an Integrating Europe,” in Tamed Power: Germany in Europe, ed. Peter J. Katzenstein (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997), 3. 8. On the difficult negotiations at Nice and the question of German efforts to increase its formal power in EU decision making, see “EU Strikes Reform Deal after Marathon,” BBC Online, December 11, 2000, . 9. Thomas V. Berger, “Norms, Identity, and National Security in Germany and Japan,” in The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, ed. Peter J. Katzenstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 312–56. Page 48 →10. The question of whether states balance, and if so if they balance against a state rising in material capabilities (Waltz, Theory of International Politics) or one that is becoming more threatening, which may be due to the possession of greater material resources of that state but also because it presents a threatening ideology or some other nonmaterial threat (Stephen Walt, The Origins of Alliances [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987]), has been very controversial for neorealist theory. For a very useful discussion of the question of balancing in realist theory, see John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 899–912. The relative gains debate is pursued in, for example, Joseph M. Grieco, Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990); a number of essays in Baldwin, Neorealism and Neoliberalism; and Emerson M. S. Niou and Peter C. Ordeshook, “Less Filling, Tastes Great: The Realist-Neoliberal Debate,” World Politics 46 (January 1994): 209–34. For recent realistinspired work on the question of systemically induced socialization of states, see Posen, “Nationalism, the Mass Army, and Military Power”; and Stephen Walt, Revolution and War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). 11. A highly developed realist-inspired argument about international structural change and its consequences
for state behavior concerns the role of hegemonic leadership for the international economy: on this theme see Gilpin, U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation; Stephen D. Krasner, “State Power and the Structure of International Trade,” World Politics 28 (April 1976): 317–47; and David A. Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade: International Sources of U.S. Commercial Strategy, 1887–1939 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987). A related vein of research emphasizes that a country’s trading patterns are likely to be highly influenced by its security relations with different partners: on this thesis see Brian M. Pollins, “Does Trade Still Follow the Flag?” American Political Science Review 83 (June 1989): 465–80; Joanne S. Gowa, Allies, Adversaries, and International Trade (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994); and Edward D. Mansfield and Rachel Bronson, “Alliances, Preferential Trading Arrangements, and International Trade,” American Political Science Review 91 (March 1997): 94–107. 12. See Peter D. Feaver, “Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm? (Or Was Anyone Ever a Realist?),” correspondence section of International Security 25 (summer 2000): 165–69. 13. A superior discussion of this problem is presented in Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962), 81–102. 14. Waltz, Theory of International Politics. 15. Grieco, Cooperation among Nations. 16. Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration, especially 85–88. 17. John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19 (winter 1995–96): 11; also see Fareed Zakaria, Page 49 →“Realism and Domestic Politics: A Review Essay,” International Security 17 (summer 1992): 177–98. 18. Randall Schwcller, “Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back,” International Security 19 (summer 1994): 72–107. 19. This is the path taken by Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire. 20. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions.” 21. Mansfield and Bronson, “Alliances, Preferential Trading Arrangements, and International Trade,” 100, 103. 22. D. Scott Bennett and Allan C. Stam, “Research Design and Estimator Choices in the Analysis of Interstate Dyads: When Decisions Matter,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 44 (October 2000): 667. For alternative results on the question of international institutions and the dampening of the risk of militarized conflicts, see Russett and Oneal, “Assessing the Liberal Peace with Alternative Specifications,” to which Bennett and Stam responded in their 2000 essay. It should be noted that Bennett and Stam emphasize that their results may differ from those reported by Russett and Oneal because while the former’s data set ends in 1984, the latter’s does so in 1992. For a quantitative analysis that does seem to support the proposition that international institutions facilitate cooperation (in the particular instance, the imposition of economic sanctions), see Lisa Martin, Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992). For a recent general argument that international institutions matter, see Lisa Martin and Beth Simmons, “Theories and Empirical Studies of International Institutions,” International Organization 52 (autumn 1998): 729–57. 23. Randall L. Schweller and David Priess, “A Tale of Two Realisms: Explaining the Institutions Debate,” Mershon International Studies Review, 41 (May 1992): 1–32; G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000). 24. Joseph M. Grieco, “The Maastricht Treaty, Economic and Monetary Union, and the Neorealist Research Programme,” Review of International Studies 21 (January 1995): 21–40; Joseph M. Grieco, “State Interests and International Rule Trajectories: A Neorealist Interpretation of the Maastricht Treaty and European Economic and Monetary Union,” Security Studies 5 (spring 1996): 176–222. 25. This line of discussion follows the suggestions offered by Morgenthau regarding the European Coal and Steel Community in the second edition of Politics among Nations in 1958, and, beginning with the third edition in 1966, the European Economic Community; see, for example, Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 3d ed., 531–34. 26. Snyder, Myths of Empire; Walt, Revolution and War; Randall Schweller, Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler’s Strategy of World Conquest (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). 27. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman, War and Reason: Domestic and International Imperatives
(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); David L. Rousseau, Christopher Gelpi, Dan Reiter, and Page 50 →Paul K. Huth, “Assessing the Dyadic Nature of the Democratic Peace, 1918–1988,” American Political Science Review 90 (September 1996): 512–33. 28. David A. Lake, “Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War,” American Political Science Review 86 (March 1992): 24–37; Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam III, “Democracy, War Initiation, and Victory,” American Political Science Review 92 (June 1998): 377–90; Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam III, “Democracy and Battlefield Military Effectiveness,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 42 (June 1998): 259–77; Ajin Choi, “Cooperation for Victory: Democracy, International Partnerships, and War Performance, 1816–1992” (Ph.D. thesis, Duke University, 2001). 29. Kurt T. Gaubatz, “Democratic States and Commitment in International Relations,” International Organization 50 (winter 1996): 109–39. 30. For example, Fearon has explored the manner in which democracies, able to generate relatively greater domestic audience costs for leaders who escalate but lose crises short of war, are more likely to prevail in such crises; Bueno de Mesquita, Morrow, Siverson, and Smith have investigated the relatively greater interest of democratic as opposed to nondemocratic leaders to ensure victory by their nations in wars so as to ensure their political survival; and Goemans has shown that authoritarian leaders might find themselves trapped into continuing wars they cannot expect to win for fear of the especially dire consequences for them of losing such wars. James D. Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes,” American Political Science Review 88 (September 1994): 577–92; Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson, and Alastair Smith, “Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace,” American Political Science Review 93 (December 1999): 791–807; Hein Goemans, War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000). 31. Johnston, Cultural Realism; Johnston, “Cultural Realism and Strategy in Maoist China”; Johnston, “Realism(s) and Chinese Security in the Post–Cold War Period.” 32. Among the many important readings in this line of analysis, see those by Michael Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part I,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (summer 1983): 205–35; Michael Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part II,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (fall 1983): 323–53; Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism (New York: Norton, 1997); Bruce Russett and Zeev Maoz, “Normative and Structural Causes of the Democratic Peace, 1946–1986,” American Political Science Review 87 (1993): 624–38; Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post–Cold War World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993); John Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” International Security 19 (fall 1994): 87–125; and Bueno de Mesquita et al., “Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace.” The democratic peace thesis has been subjected to a number of analytical challenges and empirical tests, but thus far the thesis has remained Page 51 →highly robust. For criticisms of the thesis, see in particular those by Christopher Layne, “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” International Security 19 (summer 1994): 5–49; David Spiro, “The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace,” International Security 19 (fall 1994): 50–86; Henry Farber and Joanne Gowa, “Polities and Peace,” International Security 20 (fall 1995): 123–46; Ido Oren, “The Subjectivity of the Democratic Peace,” International Security 20 (fall 1995): 147–84; William Thompson, “Democracy and Peace: Putting the Cart before the Horse?” International Organization 50 (winter 1996): 141–74; and Joanne S. Gowa, Ballots and Bullets: The Elusive Democratic Peace (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999). For a highly effective response to most of the critiques of the democratic peace thesis, see Zeev Maoz, “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?” International Security 22 (summer 1997): 162–98; and, in respect to Gowa’s Ballots and Bullets, John Owen, “Review of Joanne Gowa’s Ballots and Bullets,” American Political Science Review 94 (June 2000): 509–10; and Thomas Schwartz, “Review of Joanne Gowa’s Ballots and Bullets,” Comparative Political Studies (June 2000): 690–93. An interesting qualification of the democratic peace thesis is found in the work of Mansfield and Snyder, in which they suggest that whatever might be the behavior of full-fledged democratic polities, democratizing states are peculiarly prone to become embroiled in military conflicts. Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security 20 (summer 1995): 5–38. For the “democratic efficacy” literature, see Lake, “Powerful Pacificists”; Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International
Disputes”; Stam and Reiter, “Democracy, War Initiation, and Victory”; Bueno de Mesquita et al., “Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace”; and Choi, “Cooperation for Victory.” Superior foreign decision making in security matters is also found to be associated with democracies in the work of Gaubautz, “Democratic States and Commitment in International Relations”; Snyder, Myths of Empire; and Goemans, War and Punishment. 33. Gilpin, U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation.
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REALISM AND THE STUDY OF PEACE AND WAR John Vasquez Appraising realist theories or evaluating the realist paradigm from which they are derived is a very important topic; indeed it is one that has given rise to intense debate within the field from time to time. It is, however, too broad and complicated a topic for a short essay like this one. Therefore, I shall focus on realist explanations of two specific topics—peace and war—with an emphasis on the classical realism of Morgenthau, the neorealist work of Waltz and Gilpin, and the “offensive realism” of Mearsheimer.1 If appraising theory and evaluating paradigms is going to lead to fruitful debate between the adherents of competing approaches, there must be some shared understanding as to what are appropriate criteria of adequacy. Most of these are widely shared across disciplines, even between those as disparate as the physical and social sciences. These include such basic criteria as explanations should be empirically accurate and they should in principle be testable (i.e., there should be at least some body of evidence that would be accepted as refuting an explanation). In addition, it is generally accepted that theories that are more parsimonious are better than those that include all possible variables, and that theories that have the power (ability) to explain a variety of phenomena and events are better than those that can only explain the minuscule.2 My thanks to Michael Brecher and Marie Henehan for valuable comments. The views expressed here, however, should not be attributed to either of them. Page 53 →Elsewhere, I have elaborated and justified various criteria that can be used to appraise theory and paradigms.3 Here, I will briefly apply the following to assess the adequacy of realist explanations of peace and of war: empirical accuracy, explanatory power, and policy relevance. Empirical accuracy means that propositions and hypotheses derived from the theory must be true, in that they do not contradict evidence marshaled to test or assess the explanation. Explanatory power means that a theory is able to provide a plausible answer to the major question(s) that a field of inquiry is trying to answer. Explanatory power is separate from empirical accuracy; in other words, a theory may have great explanatory power in that one can adopt the “logic” of a theory’s or paradigm’s perspective to derive a plausible account of how and why certain things occur in the world, but whether this account is true must await systematic investigation. Thus, astrology has great explanatory power in that it can explain and even claims to be able to predict a great number of events, but many think it is not accurate. Policy relevance is defined here as the ability of a theory to provide guidance to the most pressing practical problems of the day. Explanatory power and policy relevance are particularly important because these criteria are often seen as the strongest suits of realist analysis. There are also other criteria that can be employed, and one that has attracted widespread attention is Lakatos’s notion of degenerative versus progressive research programs.4 I have applied that criterion to neotraditional research on Waltz’s balancing-of-power proposition elsewhere.5 Some have maintained that this criterion is one of the more important, especially when part of the evidence is discrepant with a theory and gives rise to reformulations intended to save the theory. In the appraisal I made using Lakatos’s criterion, I argued that there is sufficient evidence of degeneration in the neotraditional research program on balancing that a warning flag should be raised on future work in that area. By this I meant that serious scholarly work on the balance of power must show how, in principle, any reformulation that constructs a new theory is falsifiable and acknowledge that discrepant evidence falsified the previous formulations of the theory or show why it does not. Work that does not do that should not be labeled as progressive, but as failing to satisfy a crucial criterion in philosophy of science. I did not maintain, as Mearsheimer states, that the research of realist scholars does not “deserve continued funding, publication, and so forth.”6 The full context of that passage is given in note 7.7 Page 54 →What I did say, at the beginning of the article, was that a degenerative research program should not continue to command the intellectual energy and resources of the field. At the end of the article I said that continued theoretical
reformulation of the balance of power needed special scrutiny because of this problem. I was careful to differentiate the failure of this one research program from other realist research programs, which I did not appraise in terms of this criterion, but I did say it raised serious questions about the realist paradigm as a whole. Paradigm displacement, if it occurs, will come as a result of where individual scholars are willing to place their research bets. Open debate, agreement on criteria for appraisal, and careful rigorous research based on testable differences between competing theories will advance this process. I did not suggest that realist scholars should be denied access to journals, teaching positions, or grants simply because they are working within the realist tradition. Appraisal need not go hand in hand with the specter of the Spanish Inquisition, but it does mean that empirical claims cannot go on being made without substantiating evidence that meets rigorous standards. All of this, of course, is meant to apply only to empirical claims and theory. In the realm of normative claims, there is much less agreement on criteria of adequacy. More important, these questions are logically of a different order, since they deal with preferences. Here, realism still has much to offer, as I have stated elsewhere,8 especially in an age of “humanitarian interventionism.” Each area of realism, therefore, must be evaluated on its own terms. In this essay, I look at realist explanations of peace and war. I do not apply the criterion of degenerative versus progressive research programs, because there has not been a plethora of reformulating realist theory on this topic, so the question of degenerative versus progressive research does not even arise. Various elements of the realist paradigm can be traced back in the West at least to the time of Thucydides. In terms of the contemporary institutionalization of international relations inquiry as an academic discipline, which was founded at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth,9 the realist paradigm did not come to dominate the field until after the start of World War II with the idealist-realist debate taking place at the beginning of that war and immediately afterward.10 It is generally conceded that Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations11 was the single work that transformed the field of international relations from “idealist advocacy to realist analysis,”12 even though his work is the cumulation of an entire generation’s Page 55 →trying to formulate a realist alternative to the dominant idealism. Realist thinkers who helped lead the way for Morgenthau were Schuman, Carr, Niebuhr, Schwarzenberger, Wight, and Kennan among others.13 I argue that Morgenthau’s work was of such importance in the post–World War II period that it can be regarded as an exemplar that gave rise to a paradigm for the field displacing the idealist paradigm.14 While his specific theory, which today we often refer to as classical realism, is different from other specific realist theories, it embodied certain fundamental assumptions about the world scholars were studying and said, in effect, that if one adopts these assumptions (as opposed to those of idealism or Marxism), then one would come to an understanding of the way the world really works. I identify the three most fundamental assumptions of the realist paradigm as: 1. Nation-states or their decision makers are the most important actors for understanding international relations. 2. There is a sharp distinction between domestic politics and international politics. 3. International relations is the struggle for power and peace. Understanding how and why that struggle occurs and suggesting ways for regulating it is the purpose of the discipline. All research that is not at least indirectly related to this purpose is trivial.15 Theories that share all three of these assumptions can be regarded as realist, those that reject one or more as nonrealist. Kuhn tells us that a paradigm does not provide all the answers; indeed, it may only provide scholars with the promise of answers.16 Theory construction, for Kuhn, is a process of paradigm articulation in which scholars use the assumptions of a paradigm to build theories that fulfill that promise. The heart of the realist paradigm and the very reason it was able to displace the idealist paradigm is that it promised to provide more accurate, more powerful, and more relevant answers to the questions of peace and war. I argue in this essay that it is precisely at the heart of the paradigm—on the questions of peace and war—where it has failed. The appraisal that is conducted here is based on explicit criteria, and it provides a strong test of realism, unlike the test Mearsheimer (herein) provides, which is too easy for realism to pass. Page 56 →
Mearsheimer’s Irrelevant and Weak Test Mearsheimer’s (herein) main argument in his defense of realism is that realism is alive and well because states still engage in power politics and wars still occur. This is a weak defense of realism because it misses the deeper and more fundamental criticism that has been made of realism. I and other critics of realism, such as Burton,17 have not denied that power politics behavior exists or that it is about to be abolished forever in today’s world. Power politics does exist, but my point is that it is but one form of relations, one form of doing politics. There are also other forms of relations, other ways of conducting politics. A good theory should explain when and why power politics behavior occurs, when and why other forms of relations occur, and what connections, if any, there are between the two. Long ago, I wrote: Power politics is not so much an explanation as a description of one type of behavior. . . . If this is correct, then power politics behavior itself must be explained; it does not explain. . . . An adequate theory of world politics would seek to discover when policy makers adopt a power politics image of the world, what kinds of behavior this image fosters, and when such behavior results in war. . . .[I]t should be possible to find non-power politics behavior and develop a theory of what conditions promote power politics and non-power politics behavior. . . . Such an approach . . . would not only explain everything the realist paradigm purported to explain but would also discover and explain a vast area of behavior that the realist paradigm purportedly ignored.18 The adequacy of realism, therefore, cannot be appraised simply by looking at the world and pointing to conflict and various forms of power politics practices. A good theory must explain when and why this behavior occurs, when it does not, why and how it leads to war, and whether it can be superceded to create peace. I have spent a great deal of my professional life dealing with these questions, and here I do not revisit that work. In this essay I examine a different aspect of realism—its explanations of peace and war. I examine the work of Waltz, Gilpin, Morgenthau, and Mearsheimer as it relates to this topic in light of the criteria of explanatory power and policy relevance. The work presented here is somewhat preliminary, because space does not permit a full textual analysis of Page 57 →all these thinkers. Nevertheless, after applying these criteria I reach several conclusions. I show that neorealist explanations of war in many instances lack explanatory power because they are incomplete (or logically flawed, or both); they do not provide the minimal information we would expect from an adequate explanation. Since they fail, in principle, to provide what we want from an explanation, they do not provide much guidance for scholars trying to understand the causes of war. Classical realist and “offensive realist” explanations of war are logically superior to neorealist explanations, and while they too are somewhat incomplete, the main problem with them is that they are empirically inaccurate. After dealing with realists’ explanations of war, I turn to their explanations of peace. Here, again, I find a paucity of explanations, so much so that I conclude that realism provides little guidance to a pressing issue of our time—constructing a peaceful post–cold war era. On this basis I conclude that realist explanations of peace have limited policy relevance for a key political issue of our day—the building of a structure of peace among major states.
The Realist Explanation of War This section begins by applying the criterion of explanatory power to realist explanations of the onset of war. It assesses realist explanations by asking whether they are logically sound and powerful explanations. It then turns to whether the explanations that appear the most powerful are empirically accurate. Although it may seem strange, neither Morgenthau nor Waltz provides a complete explanation of war. In his major statement on the subject Waltz divides explanations of war into three images: first, that human nature is the cause of war; second, that war results from the nature of states—typically their polity or economy; and third, that war results from global anarchy.19 Waltz maintains that war is a product of global anarchy. This he admits is only a “permissive cause,” in that war occurs because there is nothing to prevent it. The problem with this third image explanation is that anarchy is a constant. The criticism Waltz lays against the first image explanation is equally
apropos here—namely, a constant cannot explain a variable.20 This puts Waltz in a bit of a dilemma because he can either predict constant warfare, which he obviously does not want to do, since this is not true, or he can introduce this unconventional idea of a “permissive Page 58 →cause.” The problem with the latter is that a permissive cause implies that there are other causes, sufficient conditions, or probabilistic factors that bring war about in any one specific instance. Waltz’s explanation is inadequate because it fails to specify what these are. Presumably, because Waltz is a realist, we could assume that the causes of war have something to do with power. Nevertheless, the obvious ways in which power might affect war are not endorsed by Waltz. He refuses to say, for example, that balances of power are associated with peace; indeed he takes Gulick’s position that they are not,21 since states may go to war to preserve the balance of power. Waltz’s argument that balancing of power is a law means that anarchy produces balancing-of-power politics but not that balancing itself prevents war.22 Likewise, he does not attribute the causes of war to any other specific distribution of power or its disruption. While he maintains that a bipolar system is more stable than a multipolar system, this does not mean that wars will not occur under bipolarity. By maintaining that anarchy is a permissive cause, Waltz leaves the factors that actually bring about war unspecified, and thereby even implies that by default these factors may lie outside the system structure, for example, in the interactions of states. An adequate explanation of the onset of war should present an account of the factors that actually bring about wars. Relying on a constant, like anarchy, cannot logically make such a specification. Gilpin’s explanation of war is better, in that he has a variable explaining a variable.23 For him, wars occur when the hegemon declines and a challenger arises. In his later treatment of the question of what causes war Gilpin says that the decline of a hegemon and the rise of a challenger is a necessary condition of war, not a sufficient condition.24 While this is an advance over Waltz, we still do not know what sufficient conditions are important, and without knowing the sufficient conditions of war, we cannot know why war occurs. Gilpin’s explanation is also incomplete in another sense—his explanation applies only to a small set of hegemonic wars, that is, those between the hegemon and its challenger. It leaves a multitude of other interstate and imperial wars unexplained. The failure of both Gilpin and Waltz to specify sufficient conditions (or the factors that make war probable) means that the two major neorealist theories of war are still woefully incomplete and Page 59 →provide little, if any, guidance to the study of the causes of war. As such they can be seen as having limited explanatory power, at least to the question of the causes of war. Can the classical realism of Morgenthau do better? Classical realism may have an easier time than neorealism in its analysis of war because Morgenthau comes close to predicting that war is constant among states as they struggle for power and that what we have in international politics is constant warfare. In a famous quote he says: “All history shows that nations active in international politics are continuously preparing for, actively involved in, or recovering from organized violence in the form of war.”25 For Morgenthau, anarchy is not the source of war (indeed, unlike Carr26 he does not use this concept per se); rather war is a natural occurrence, a side effect if you will, of the struggle for power. The struggle for power Morgenthau attributes to a “will to power” inherent in human nature,27 but his analysis could just as easily be reformulated to have anarchy play this role. With this proposition, the debate over realism shifts from a logical problem with the explanatory power of realism and the question of “what a good explanation should look like” to a question of the empirical accuracy of the explanation that is offered. Applying the criterion of empirical accuracy to this explanation means examining the evidence provided in the historical record in as rigorous a way as possible to determine if warfare is fairly constant. Is it true that active states are continuously preparing for, involved in, or recovering from war? So long as defenders and critics of
realism do not try to define “preparing,” “active,” and “recovering” so broadly as to make Morgenthau’s proposition nonfalsifiable, it should be possible to answer the question. Three pieces of evidence in the historical record suggest that the proposition is incorrect: (1) the presence of peaceful eras, especially among major states; (2) the presence of peaceful dyads; and (3) the presence of zones of peace. None of these three things should occur if war is relatively constant. For example, if Morgenthau and the thrust of realism, including Mearsheimer’s offensive realism, are correct, we would not expect that the major states are always going to be at war with one another and that peace among them is an idea whose time will never come. This, in part, is what Mearsheimer (herein) is saying—namely, that the post–cold war period is not peaceful, that there are still wars and states engaged in power politics behavior. While the latter, as stated in the previous section, is not a Page 60 →strong defense of realism, it does illustrate the tendency of realism to deny that peaceful eras have actually occurred in the past. In other words, Morgenthau and Mearsheimer seem to agree that the struggle for power and war are relatively constant. Given this emphasis, it is not unreasonable to expect that war—or preparing for and recovering from it—is the condition that states find themselves in. The evidence since 1815, however, portrays a different picture. Of course, wars and power politics, especially among the European major states, are fairly frequent, but they are not constant. Peter Wallensteen finds that periods where major states attempt to construct rules of the game to regulate their interactions, even if these are not entirely successful, are associated with the absence of any wars among major states and a reduction in the number of militarized interstate disputes among them.28 The periods of peace he identifies are not unknown to historians: Concert of Europe, 1816–48; Bismarck’s order, 1871–95; League of Nations, 1919–32,; and détente, 1963–.29 Contrary to realist expectations, peace not only is possible but has actually occurred in the international system, and among the most war-prone states in the system, the major states.30 Even more damaging to the realist portrayal of the world is to examine all states in the post-Napoleonic period. If we look at how many years since 1815 there has not been an interstate war under way, as Geller and Singer do for the 1816–1992 period,31 we find that there are 81 peaceful years out of 180. In addition, they find that there are 150 states that never fight a war and an additional 49 who experience only one or two; conversely, a comparatively few states account for many of the wars that break out. These states are France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey, all of which have more than ten wars, and in the post-1945 period—Israel, India, Pakistan, and the United States. The concentration of war among certain states means that there are many pairs of states that are peaceful dyads; that is, they do not fight each other. There are seventy-five interstate wars from 1816 to 1992, according to Geller and Singer.32 In this period, they point out that there are about 400 pairs of legally recognized states in 1816 and about 18,000 in 1992. Many of these pairs of states do not fight each other because they cannot reach each other; still the potential for war far outstrips the actual occurrence of war. If one looks just at neighbors, which have a higher war rate, the potential still outstrips the actual in that there are 40 bordering states in 1816 (with two interstate wars up to 1848) and 317 bordering states in 1992, Page 61 →(with five interstate wars from 1980 to 1991).33 War, according to Geller and Singer, is relatively rare and is concentrated in certain dyads. Most pairs of states, even if they are neighbors, are peaceful dyads for much of their history. This, of course, does not mean that there are not certain regions or neighbors that have the kind of continuous war preparation/war fighting/war recovery Morgenthau describes. One thinks of India and Pakistan, Israel and her Arab neighbors, and in an earlier era, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The point is not that Morgenthau never applies but that the domain of the theory is less than universal and maybe even confined to certain periods and zones. The most obvious class of peaceful dyads that has received attention in recent years is the democratic dyad. There is considerable evidence that democratic states do not fight each other.34 Even if one wants to challenge the robustness of this finding,35 it remains the case that there are large numbers of dyads consisting of democracies that do not fight each other. This is troubling for realism, because it is not clear why a class of dyads whose common characteristic is their type of government should not fight each other. The peacefulness of the democratic dyads is an anomaly for realism that is not easily explained away (see Midlarsky, herein). The weakness of realism on this point is underlined by the fact that this pattern was predicted by the rival liberal paradigm some
time ago,36 and that a leading realist, Waltz in Man, the State and War, denied that the causes of war lay within the characteristics of states and specifically that democracy was a factor. The last piece of evidence that contradicts realist claims about the pervasiveness of war is the presence of zones of peace. The democratic peace is one such zone, but there are others. Some of these are geographic such as the Nordic peace system37 and North America after 1848 (excluding the Caribbean) as well as the general paucity of interstate warfare in the Western Hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa (compared with Europe). Some regions of the world are less prone to interstate wars than others. Why is that? Just as realism in its various forms does not expect war to vary by time or type of government, so too it does not expect it to vary by geographic location. In this regard the west European peace since 1945 is an especially difficult anomaly for realism to explain away. The creation of the Schuman Plan and the evolution of the Common Market was based not on a realist theory of international politics but on the kind of Page 62 →nonrealist and often liberal theory of international relations exemplified by Mitrany and by Deutsch et al.38 Deutsch’s idea of creating a security community where states do not even think of fighting each other is a very difficult test for nonrealist theory to pass, and a relatively easy one for realism to pass, yet in western Europe, the most war-torn region in the world from 1816 to 1945, and for a good time before that, peace was established. Nor can these states be seen as even preparing for war against each other. The armaments they have are not directed toward one another. But disarmament is not needed to support the point that peace is possible. States may still have arms in case peace decays, but the presence of arms does not mean that the armaments have caused the (west European) peace that exists. Explaining away this west European peace is critical for realists, and realists like Mearsheimer have recognized this, by saying that it was not the kinds of factors that Deutsch and others identify that produced this peace but the fear of the Soviet Union’s power and the threat it posed. Thus, Mearsheimer predicts that with the end of the cold war, this peace will begin to fall apart and that European and democratic states will begin to turn on each other.39 This is an important prediction that provides a testable difference between realism and its critics, just as Waltz’s prediction—that states will balance against the United States in the coming years—does.40 While the future will be the best arbiter of this disagreement, it remains the case that integration theory was used to build the European Union and that it was explicitly stated beforehand that such integration would eliminate the threat of another European war. It was the latter, not the Soviet Union, that was seen as the immediate threat by Schuman and the other architects of the European Coal and Steel Community. Another zone of peace that contradicts realist theory is the territorial zone of peace that exists across many dyads in the world.41 According to the territorial explanation of war,42 power politics and the struggle for power are most characteristic of neighbors that do not have legitimately recognized or established borders with each other. This class of dyads exhibits many of the behaviors that realists emphasize, but once borders are accepted, the territorial explanation maintains that peace can reign across the dyad even if other major nonterritorial issues arise and even if there is a shift in the capability of these states. Such a theory helps explain what may be underlying the relations of so many of the peaceful dyads that exist in the Page 63 →world—the settlement of their borders. The settlement of border disputes may not always be peaceful, but so long as it is accepted as a legitimate border (as the border between the United States and Mexico is, which was established through war), then according to this theory the probability of war should go down. Stephan Koes provides some empirical evidence to support this claim.43 These examples also illustrate that while states may have fought each other in the past, they can reach such a state of peace that they do not seriously prepare for war against each other. This is certainly true of the United States and Canada despite the existence of military contingency plans each has against each other buried deep in their file drawers. Examining the question of whether peace is possible presents three anomalies for realism: the presence of peaceful eras, peaceful dyads, and zones of peace. None of these is really expected by classical and offensive realism. If one asks how these cases of peace were found, then one finds that in each instance it was the result of scholars being guided by nonrealist theory. The sudden “discovery” that democratic dyads do not fight each other was produced this way, as was Wallensteen’s findings.
The findings unrelated to the democratic peace have not been as extensive or as closely scrutinized; nevertheless, they point to important theoretical differences between a realist and nonrealist approach and also serve as a basis for questioning the relevance of realism to deal with the most pressing problems of our own time—the establishment of a more peaceful order and one that would extend the current peace among major states far into the future.
The Relevance of Realist Prescriptions for Building a Structure of Peace The fact that both classical realism and offensive realism do not think a permanent peace is possible raises questions about how much their empirical theory can tell us about peace, and how it should be constructed. One of the criteria for appraising the ability of a theory to guide practice is the criterion of relevance. This criterion maintains that a good practical theory be able to provide sound guidance on the most difficult policy problems of the day.44 The most pressing problem major states face in the post–cold war era is how to build a peaceful order amongst themselves. How much guidance does realism provide for this major issue of our time? Page 64 →If one is interested in building a contemporary peaceful order or extending the current peace among major states far into the future, realism does not tell one how to build that order or why any given peaceful order ought to work. If one wants to know how to avoid specific wars, realism will provide prescriptions on how to avoid attack by building up power—peace through strength. I have argued that if you follow these prescriptions, generally, you will increase the probability of war, not avoid it.45 Today, and for long periods within international relations theory, many nonrealists have argued that constructing a global order through the creation of a common set of rules of the game, the promulgation of norms (and a body of international law) to regulate behavior, and the erection of a set of international institutions is critical for building and maintaining peace. Mearsheimer has referred to this as “the false promise of international institutions.” He argues that there is little evidence that institutions can preserve a peace, let alone create it.46 Mearsheimer ignores, however, an entire body of evidence produced by quantitative peace research that has analyzed data on the post-1815 period. This research has found evidence that rules, norms, and institutions do matter. As with any set of limited and continuing studies within social science, the evidence on this question is not definitive, but it is still a more reliable guide than argumentation based on anecdotal evidence. Regardless of one’s position on quantitative analysis, this is a body of evidence that should not be ignored. What does that evidence say? In “Universalism versus Particularism: On the Limits of Major Power Order,” Wallensteen attempted to measure, through the use of historical judgment, those periods from 1815 to 1976 in which the major states attempted to establish rules of the game for managing their relations. He found that during these periods there were no wars among major states, although there were other types of wars, especially imperial wars. His analysis has been criticized for relying on historical judgment rather than on more precise operational indicators. This concern is met by Kegley and Raymond,47 who in a series of studies find that in the half decades when the pacta sunt servanda tradition of international law (which maintains that treaties are binding regardless of circumstances) is dominant there are fewer wars and militarized disputes than when the rebus sic stantibus tradition of international law (which says that treaties are binding only so long as the matters stand) is dominant. Raymond in a Page 65 →recent review of this literature argues that this evidence strongly suggests that restrictive normative orders are more peaceful than permissive normative orders.48 Norms that rein in unilateral behavior reduce the incidences of the use of force, including war. Why this helps produce peace can be explained by the findings of a very early study by Wallace,49 who documented a path to peace separate from a path to war for the 1820–1964 period. He found that when there is status inconsistency among major states, they tend to engage in alliance making and then arms racing, which he found to be highly correlated with war. Conversely, when there is no status inconsistency, states do not engage in this sort of power politics behavior. Instead, the absence of status inconsistency is correlated with the creation of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which in turn is negatively correlated with the presence of arms racing.
This can be seen as a path to peace, whereas the other can be seen as a path to war. Faber and Weaver provide additional support for these results in their study of European relations from 1816 to 1915.50 They find that the more conferences and treaties signed, the less likely war. They also find that settling certain kinds of issues, namely territorial issues, is negatively correlated with war. Faber and Weaver provide important quantitative evidence that the Concert of Europe did work. Their study, along with Wallace’s, suggests that IGOs and conference diplomacy can provide a functional equivalent to war, by providing procedures for making binding decisions. Since Mearsheimer wrote “The False Promise of International Institutions” in 1994–95, there has been other research on the importance of institutions. Russett, Oneal, and Davis find that states that have high shared memberships in international organizations are less likely to fight each other.51 I have found that in Wallensteen’s (“universalist”) periods, where norms are present, the threat or use of force to settle territorial issues is less frequent and arms racing among major states is almost nonexistent.52 Those are two important clues as to why norms are associated with peaceful eras. The use of force on territorial issues greatly increases the probability of war,53 as does the presence of arms racing in the context of crisis interactions,54 yet in Wallensteen’s universalist periods these phenomena go down. The thrust of this body of research suggests that in the international relations of major states there are two separate worlds. One is the world of power politics, which often degenerates into war. The Page 66 →other is a world of rules of the game, norms, and international organizations that is negatively correlated with the power politics practices of alliance making, coercive diplomacy, and arms racing. The limited evidence produced by peace research implies that the presence of norms, rules, and international organizations reflects a different way of conducting political business. To avoid war it is necessary to create nonviolent ways of contending on political issues that are as effective as war. It is also necessary to control and manage the kinds of issues that are on the political agenda so that the most war-prone issues, which are territorial disputes, are kept off the agenda.
Conclusion This analysis maintains that the core questions that the realist paradigm has set for the field—the causes of war and the struggle to achieve peace—have not been adequately answered by classical realism, neorealism, and offensive realism. These three branches of the realist paradigm, in terms of the study of peace and war, have been found deficient on two of the criteria on which realism has historically scored high—explanatory power and policy relevance. These three branches of realism lack a complete or full explanation of war. They do not specify the sufficient conditions of war and thus leave scholars with little guidance as to what factors bring about war. While Gilpin is better than Waltz and Morgenthau in that he is more precise, he confines his analysis to only the necessary conditions of war, and to only the very small set of hegemonic wars between the two strongest states in the system, which leaves most wars in history unexplained and unexamined. Morgenthau may provide the least flawed analysis if he is seen as employing a constant (the will to power) to explain a constant (war). Such an explanation, however, seems empirically inaccurate because war is comparatively rare within the system, at least since 1815. Because realism tends to see war as fairly frequent, it has not given much attention to an explanation of peace. If permanent peace is not possible, what is there to explain? This means that realism provides little guidance to building a structure of peace in the current era.55 The denial that peace is possible has produced three anomalies for realism—the democratic peace, the presence of peaceful eras, and the presence of other zones of peace. None of these is expected by realism, especially peace among major states. Because peace is not Page 67 →expected, realists have spent little time trying to explain it. It is dismissed as either a respite between periods of warfare or the result of overwhelming power. Understanding politics requires more complicated models. The perspective of power politics prevents us from seeing what are the more important factors in international relations by focusing our attention on that which, at best, applies only to a very limited domain of the historical record. A theory that can explain that limited domain plus all the rest of world politics is, by definition, a better theory and deserves to displace realism. What that
theory and paradigm will be is still an open question, but it is apt to be a synthesis of midrange theories that will explain not only the onset of war but also the building of peace. Much of this problem results from too great a focus on the role of power and an insufficient attention to other variables. This means that those forms of realism that have broken with this focus to incorporate the importance of institutions,56 domestic politics,57 cognitive psychology and perceptions,58 or the security dilemma59 hold more promise. Nevertheless, a complete break with the realist paradigm will probably produce a better guide to research, as evinced by the few studies reviewed here, as well as more theoretical insights. There is no need for the field as a whole to choose one research strategy over the other; indeed, there is less collective risk in a theoretical pluralism in the short run. However, there is a need for systematic and rigorous theory appraisal using a common set of criteria if the long-term risk of devolving into nonfalsifiability and dogma is to be avoided. War is brought about by more than just differences in capability. Peace cannot be preserved and built simply because one side is more powerful than another. Politics, like everyday life, does not consist solely of intimidation and coercion. Until the field has a paradigm that examines more than just the single factor of power, it will not understand what causes war or how peace can be built.
Notes 1. Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 1st and 5th eds. (New York: Knopf, 1948, 1978); Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: AddisonWesley, 1979); Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War,” International Page 68 →Security 15 (summer 1990): 5–56; John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19 (winter 1994–95): 5–49. 2. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed., enlarged (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). 3. John A. Vasquez, “World Politics Theory,” in Encyclopedia of Government and Politics, ed. M. Hawkesworth and M. Kogan (London: Rout-ledge, 1992), 836–61; John A. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), ch. 10. 4. John A. Vasquez and Colin Elman, eds., Realism and the Balance of Power: A New Debate (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, forthcoming). 5. John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 899–912. 6. John J. Mearsheimer, “Realism, the Real World, and the Academy,” in this volume. 7. “The case that any given research program is degenerating (or progressive) cannot be logically proven. . . . A more reasonable stance is that exemplified by the trade-off between type 1 and type 2 errors in deciding to accept or reject the null hypothesis. Deciding whether a research program is degenerating involves many individual decisions about where scholars are willing to place their research bets, as well as collective decisions as to which research programs deserve continued funding, publication, and so forth. Some individuals will be willing to take more risks than others. This analysis seeks to present evidence that is relevant to the making of such decisions.” Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm,” 900. 8. John A. Vasquez, “The Enduring Contributions of Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations,” International Studies Notes 24, no. 1 (1999): 5–9. 9. Brian Porter, ed., The Aberystwyth Papers: International Politics, 1919–1969 (London: Oxford University Press, 1972). 10. John A. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: A Critique (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1983); Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism, ch. 2. 11. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 1st ed. 12. William C. Olson, “The Growth of a Discipline,” in Porter, The Aberystwyth Papers, 19–20.
13. Frederick L. Schuman, International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1933); E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis (New York: Harper and Row, 1939); Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Power Politics (New York: Scribner’s, 1940); Georg Schwarzenberger, Power Politics (New York: Praeger, 1941); Martin Wight, Power Politics: “Looking Forward,” pamphlet no. 8 (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1946); and George Kennan, American Diplomacy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951). 14. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: A Critique, 35–39. Page 69 →15. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism, 37. 16. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 23–24. 17. John Burton, Global Conflict (Brighton, England: Wheatsheaf, 1984). 18. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: A Critique, 216; reprinted in Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism, 167–68. 19. Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959). 20. Waltz, Man, the State, and War. Hidemi Suganami, On the Causes of War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 24–25, makes a similar point. 21. Edward V. Gulick, Europe’s Classical Balance of Power (New York: Norton, 1955). 22. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 121. 23. Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics. 24. Robert Gilpin, “The Theory of Hegemonic War,” in The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars, ed. R. Rotberg and T. Rabb (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 17. 25. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 5th ed., 42. 26. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis. 27. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 5th ed., 36–37. 28. Peter Wallensteen, “Universalism vs. Particularism: On the Limits of Major Power Order,” Journal of Peace Research 21, no. 3 (1984): 243–57. 29. Wallensteen’s analysis in ibid, ends in 1976, but I have assumed that his classification of this period as universalist would extend to the present. 30. On the war proneness of major states in comparison with other types of states, see Stuart Bremer, “National Capabilities and War Proneness,” in The Correlates of War, vol. 2, ed. J. David Singer (New York: Free Press, 1980), 57–82; and Stuart Bremer, “Who Fights Whom, When, Where, and Why,” in What Do We Know about War? ed. John A. Vasquez (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000): 23–36. 31. Daniel S. Geller and J. David Singer, Nations at War: A Scientific Study of International Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 1. 32. Ibid. 33. The number of wars is calculated from Meredith Reid Sarkees, “The Correlates of War Data on War: An Update to 1997,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 18 (fall 2000): 123–44, especially app. A. 34. Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993); Bruce Russett and John Oneal, Triangulating Peace (New York: Norton, 2001); and James Lee Ray, Democracy and International Conflict (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995). 35. Joanne Gowa, Ballots and Bullets: The Elusive Democratic Peace (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999); for specific cases see Miriam Fendius Elman, ed., Paths to Peace: Is Democracy the Answer? (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997). Page 70 →36. Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, 1795; Rudolph J. Rummel, “Libertarianism and International Violence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 27 (March 1983): 27–32; Michael Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics,” American Political Science Review 80 (December 1986): 1151–69. 37. Nazli Choucri, “In Search of Peace Systems: Scandinavia and the Netherlands, 1870–1970,” in Peace, War, and Numbers, ed. B. M. Russett (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1972), 239–99. 38. David Mitrany, A Working Peace System (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1943); Karl W. Deutsch et al, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957). 39. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future,” 46–48. 40. Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” International Security 18 (fall 1993): 44–79. 41. Arie M. Kacowicz, “Explaining Zones of Peace: Democracies as Satisfied Powers?” Journal of Peace Research 32 (August 1995): 265–76.
42. John A. Vasquez, The War Puzzle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), ch. 4. 43. See Stephan Koes, “Territorial Disputes and Interstate War, 1945–1987,” Journal of Politics 57, no. 1 (1995): 159–75; Kacowicz, “Explaining Zones of Peace”; and Mark Zacher, “The Territorial Integrity Norm: International Boundaries and the Use of Force,” International Organization 55 (spring 2001): 215–50. 44. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism, 234–35. 45. Vasquez, The War Puzzle, chs. 3, 5. 46. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” 84. 47. Charles W. Kegley Jr. and Gregory A. Raymond, “Alliance Norms and War: A New Piece in an Old Puzzle,” International Studies Quarterly 26 (December 1982): 572–95; Charles W. Kegley Jr. and Gregory A. Raymond, “Normative Constraints on the Use of Force Short of War,” Journal of Peace Research 23 (September 1986): 213–27; Charles W. Kegley Jr. and Gregory A. Raymond, When Trust Breaks Down (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990). 48. Gregory A. Raymond, “International Norms: Normative Orders and Peace,” in Vasquez, What Do We Know about War? 233–36. 49. Michael D. Wallace, “Status, Formal Organization, and Arms Levels as Factors Leading to the Onset of War, 1820–1964,” in Russett, Peace, War, and Numbers, 49–69. 50. Jan Faber and R. Weaver, “Participation in Conferences, Treaties, and Warfare in the European System, 1816–1915,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 28 (September 1984): 522–34. 51. Bruce Russett, John Oneal, and David R. Davis, “The Third Leg of the Kantian Tripod for Peace: International Organization and Militarized Disputes, 1950–1985,” International Organization 52, no. 3 (1998): 441–68. 52. John A. Vasquez, “Mapping the Probability of War and Analyzing the Possibility of Peace,” presidential address to the Peace Science Society (International), Conflict Management and Peace Science (forthcoming). Page 71 →53. Paul Hensel, “Charting a Course to Conflict: Territorial Issues and Interstate Conflict, 1816–1992,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 15, no. 1 (1996): 43–73; Paul D. Senese, “Geographical Proximity and Issue Salience: Their Effects on the Escalation of Militarized Interstate Conflict,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 15, no. 2 (1996): 133–61; John A. Vasqucz and Marie T. Henehan, “Territorial Disputes and the Probability of War, 1815–1992,” Journal of Peace Research (forthcoming). 54. Michael D. Wallace, “Armaments and Escalation: Two Competing Hypotheses,” International Studies Quarterly 16 (March 1982): 37–51; Susan G. Sample, “Arms Races and Dispute Escalations: Resolving the Debate,” Journal of Peace Research 34 (February 1997): 7–22. 55. Does this mean that realism has nothing to say or offer, or that it has not provided an important contribution to international relations theory? No, see Vasquez, “The Enduring Contributions of Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations,” where I delimit some of Morgenthau’s lasting contributions, including realism’s role as an important antidote to liberalism’s penchant for messianism. 56. Randall L. Schweller and David Priess, “A Tale of Two Realisms: Expanding the Institutions Debate,” Mershon International Studies Review 41 (May 1997): 1–32. 57. Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Jennifer Sterling-Folker, “Realist Environment, Liberal Process, and DomesticLevel Variables,” International Studies Quarterly 41 (March 1997): 1–25. 58. Jack Snyder, The Ideology of the Offensive (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); William Curti Wohlforth, The Elusive Balance: Power and Perceptions in the Cold War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993). 59. Charles L. Glaser, “Realists as Optimists: Cooperation as Self-Help,” International Security 19 (winter 1994–95): 50–90.
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PERFORMANCE AND PERILS OF REALISM IN THE STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS K. J. Holsti Along tradition of research, interpretation, and speculation about international politics goes under the name of realism. Although some dispute the pedigree as simply a “construction” of contemporary analysts, in fact a number of writers whose roster includes Machiavelli, Rousseau, Meinecke, von Gentz, Morgenthau, and Waltz, to name just a few, share a number of common themes such as their images of the world, their understanding of historical processes, the dilemmas and paradoxes that are peculiar to states that exist in a condition of anarchy, and the normative primacy of security in such an environment. They each made unique contributions to our interpretation and understanding of international politics, but they also shared many perspectives. Hence we can say that realism constitutes a distinct tradition in the field. Like all theories of international politics, realism has four functions: (1) it is a compressed, or shorthand, description of the essential characteristics of international politics; (2) it is a diagnostic tool for analyzing the sources of international conflict and derivatively for identifying the conditions for peace and security; (3) it is a set of prescriptions that derives from the diagnostic exercise; and (4) it is a normative theory that posits the survival and security of the political community as the ultimate political value. Any evaluation of the tradition must distinguish between these four functions. Page 73 →
The Essential Characteristics of International Politics As a descriptive enterprise, realism has offered a great deal about how some states behave some of the time. It has generalized and thus helped create understanding in an area that would otherwise be dominated solely by historical narratives organized around frameworks of time, place, and personality. Without generalization there would be no distinct field of study called international politics, but only diplomatic or military histories. Morgenthau claimed more than a half century ago that realism offers a “portrait” of a phenomenon, not an exact replica. It highlights essences at the cost of empirical precision. This is the necessary cost of generalization. Thus, the charge that realism both over-and underdetermines is in part beside the point. No competing theoretical rendering of the field offers generalizations that are less deficient from an empirical perspective. Some—one thinks of the theories of globalization or constructivist approaches, for example—have yet to meet even the most basic requirements of authoritative social science, nor have they developed a tradition of speculation and analysis of continuing ethical problems and dilemmas. The realist belief in the famous Waltz proposition that the quality of international life does not change in anarchical systems overlooks a mounting body of evidence that matters are otherwise today. The texture of international politics differs in significant ways from that of the eighteenth or nineteenth century, or even of the first ninety years of the twentieth century. In their descriptions of the essential characteristics of international politics, realists have typically made two important assumptions: (1) these characteristics are universal: we will find similar behaviors wherever there are independent political communities and the consequent condition of anarchy; and (2) these characteristics will not change through historical processes so long as the condition of universal anarchy exists. In brief, the realist descriptions of the essential characteristics of international politics transcend time, place, and personality. The universalist assumption is no longer warranted. Realism has not been able completely to transcend time, place, and personality. Consider some questions that arise from recent patterns and anomalies in diplomaticmilitary practice:
Why are alliances—a ubiquitous phenomenon of eighteenth-or nineteenth-century Europe—not to be found in twentieth-century South America, or in contemporary Africa or Southeast Page 74 →Asia? In fact, why are alliances today so rare throughout the world except in Europe? Why are there no security dilemmas in South America today even though it is a complete subsystem, with a nineteenth-century history characterized by frequent wars, bids for hegemony, and balancing behavior? Why are so many countries in the world reconfiguring their armed forces away from defense-related functions to peacekeeping and internal policing (including repression of the state’s population)? If the world is characterized by anarchy and the security dilemma—threats from neighbors—why is it that today most states do not make preparations to defend their borders against external aggression? The Maginot Line is an archaeological relic, and one finds few counterparts elsewhere. The Franco-German border is today a weapons-free zone, as is the border between Norway and Sweden, Canada and the United States, Mozambique and Malawi, the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and many others. Why are there no hegemons or pretenders to such role or status in South America or Southeast Asia and perhaps in some other areas of the world? Why have the vast majority of armed conflicts occurred within states since 1945? The problem par excellence that drives realist analysis is the relations between states, yet the incidence of interstate war has declined precipitously in the last half century.1 In this period, far more people have died or been otherwise threatened by their own governments, secessionist movements, protostates, or warlords than by foreign armies. Why are the prospects of interstate war in some regions in the world almost nonexistent? What does the dramatic decline in the probability of war between states in Western Europe in the past fifty-five years tell us about the contemporary texture of international politics? Why are the relations between states in Western Europe so fundamentally different than they were just one generation ago, not to mention three hundred years ago? Do these questions suggest mere anomalies? Or are there important trends in the texture of international politics that challenge realist descriptions and explanations? John Mearsheimer argues in his contribution to this volume that realist-type behavior is “alive and Page 75 →well.” Indeed it is—at least in some areas of the world. But can one productively employ traditional strategic concepts that may possibly be relevant to Asia also to the processes of European unification?2 Numerous studies have demonstrated beyond doubt that a realist-type analysis of the relations between the European Union members would be incomplete at best and totally misleading at worst. Other approaches, including institutionalism and constructivism, do a better job of describing and explaining the political dynamics of this region. So, contrary to realist characterizations of international politics, much has indeed changed in the quality of international life. Realist-inspired literature neither acknowledges it nor attempts to provide explanations. Its universalist pretensions are open to serious scrutiny. Many trenchant critiques of realism and the problem of change are available. My fellow authors John Vasquez and Joseph Grieco have addressed this issue, so I do not need to cover the terrain again. However, I would add the point that at the most fundamental level, all theories of international politics are basically arguments about change: of what kinds, when, and whether it is possible, given certain psychological or structural characteristics. The problem is that few theorists specify what they mean by change, how they identify it, and how to assess its consequences. Change can mean anything from added complexity, through transformation, to obsolescence. New phenomena are also a form of change. By failing to address these critical distinctions, most theories or approaches to the field are deficient. But realism is particularly flawed and narrow-sighted, for the only change it acknowledges is in the number and cast of great-power characters and in the distribution of capabilities between them. Major international institutions such as colonialism have come and gone, hardly noticed in the realist literature. Major innovations such as peacekeeping do not fit well with the great-power bias of realism. There appear to be significant changes in international norms and how they operate to constrain government choices, and yet, as Stephen Krasner has recently argued,3 power and interest generally trump norms. The evidence partly supports this view, but recent constructivist and norm-related literatures show convincingly that norms often modify interests, indeed that norms and interests often become inseparable.4 The list of changes that have significant consequences on the quality of international life is long but largely ignored in the realist-inspired literature.
Page 76 →Perhaps the most damaging lacuna in realism is its dismissal of or lack of interest in revolutions. The main variables in realist analyses are distributions of power or other structural characteristics. Since states are vitally interested in power either as an end or a means, it follows that conflict is an inevitable consequence of power differentials. In terms of historical change, then, war and its outcomes have been the most significant consequences of the search for power and security. War, in this view, is the major motor of historical change. Yet, as Fred Halliday has convincingly argued, revolutions have been no less significant engines of international change.5 They have been both major sources and major consequences of wars. While balances and imbalances of power, alliances, and concentrations of power have all been correlated with the incidence of war, realist-inspired studies have not examined the significant causal relationships between revolutions and war. To leave out one of the most important “international” events—revolutions—from analysis is a major shortcoming of realism’s theoretical lens and its capacity to generate convincing general characterizations of the world of international politics. Revolutions are based on ideas. Ideas, coupled with political mobilization, are a main source of international change. One can hardly understand comprehensively the main features of nineteenth- or twentieth-century international politics while ignoring ideas. But most realists are intellectual materialists. The only significant source of change in the distribution of capabilities is the law of uneven economic growth between states.6 The rise and decline of hegemons, balances, imbalances, degrees of polarity, and the like are explained in realist lore through changes in capabilities. There is sparse room in structural and other versions of realism for the driving force of ideas.7 As constructivist critics term it, interests are exogenously given in realism. Yet one would get a highly distorted portrait of the essential characteristics of international politics during the last two centuries without acknowledging the fundamental importance of ideas as sources of policy, crises, wars, and revolutions. Realism is also incomplete within its own frame of reference. It is incomplete, for example, in offering only a limited roster of strategies for coping with the consequences of anarchy or human psychology. It emphasizes balancing as the only option available to threats posed by potential or actual hegemons. The historical record shows, as the diplomatic historian Paul Schroeder8 has demonstrated, that other choices such as “indifference” (Latin America during Page 77 →World War II), “hiding” (neutrality or isolationism), subversion (undermining the adversary), or integration are available and have been made. The realist strategic menu also underlines that bandwagoning is not an option for dealing with the hegemony problem, but I know of no other way to describe the 1936 anti-Commintern Pact, the May 1939 “Pact of Steel,” or the Soviet-Nazi arrangements of September 1939. In fact, the responses to Germany’s threat to traditional Westphalian norms of territorial independence in the late 1930s ranged from complete indifference, through hiding and balancing, all the way to bandwagoning. Such a wide range of responses in just one diplomatic scenario necessarily raises serious doubts about the descriptive and predictive capacity of realism’s balance-of-power theory. Indeed, that theory is mostly a muddle, for it has been used to explain both war and peace. Even if the real purpose of balancing is to prevent hegemony—as it did several times in Europe’s modern history—then why is there no countercoalition to today’s hegemon? One possible answer to such empirically based criticisms is that realism was never a complete project and has done what any good theory should do: it has stimulated further research and promoted improvement of guiding assumptions, main tenets, and shorthand characterizations. Refinements, amendments, and reconfigurations have indeed appeared in works by Robert Art, Robert Gilpin, Jack Levy, Michael Barnett, and many others. But from an empirical point of view, even if the research program is not entirely “degenerative,” as John Vasquez has argued, there seems to be an increasing gap between what realism—even its amended versions—offers as the essential characteristics of international politics and what we observe in everyday events and trends. Take the matter of conflict, the normative core of realism. Both the structuralist and psychology versions of realism propose that conflict is an inevitable or at least highly probable consequence of anarchy. But as Karl Deutsch and Alexander Wendt have demonstrated in their research programs, “anarchy is what states make of it.” Karl Deutsch’s great contribution to the theory of international politics was to turn Rousseau and Hobbes on their heads: instead of insecurity as an inevitable consequence of human nature or the condition of anarchy, he demonstrated empirically that we can have states (anarchy) and predictable peace between them too.9 The vast literature on the democratic peace has largely confirmed Deutsch’s original formulation of the concept of the
pluralistic security community. Page 78 →If we confine our studies only to power rivalries and to those relationships that do in fact conform to realist characterizations, we would have to ignore the relations of most states to each other most of the time. The truth is that for them, insecurity, war, and conflict no longer command the relevant parts of their diplomatic environments that they once did. If the realist explanation for this is a successful hegemonic Pax Americana, then what happened to the balance of power that was supposed to prevent the rise of a hegemon?
Realism as a Diagnostic Tool Theorists also seek explanations. They want to discover the sources of the essential characteristics they describe. Both Rousseau and Waltz have contributed brilliant explanations for some critical questions in the field, such as why wars and balances of power recur, why the state system reproduces itself, why the price of sovereignty is (often) insecurity, why states resist integration and specialization, and why, despite the obvious increments to security and economic welfare through cooperation, they avoid dependence and frequently fail to cooperate. Structural explanations of such phenomena are powerful and parsimonious, both virtues of any theoretical statement. They help us understand a particular syndrome that accompanies major rivalries and numerous international conflicts. The essential features of the India-Pakistan rivalry, pre-earthquake Greek-Turkish relations, Latin America in the nineteenth century, or the Middle East are nicely encapsulated by such theoretical explanations. Realism was the predominant academic version of international politics during most of the cold war precisely because there was a reasonable fit between what analysts observed in East-West relations and what realist hypotheses predict. In comparison, liberalism, Marxism, or “world society” explanations or theories could not deliver many goods in that era. But realist diagnostics, particularly those of the Hobbesian tradition, have had a difficult time establishing any sort of lasting explanatory reputation. Any explanation that rests upon a fixed list of personality attributes such as the search for power, the search for glory, and diffidence falls flat when lifted to the level of states. This version of realism simply cannot explain the huge variations in state behavior when they are aggregated. Immense systemic variations such as the absence of great-power war (Korea as a partial exception) since 1945, terminating a pattern of almost constant great-power Page 79 →warfare since the sixteenth century; the lack of war in South America since 1942; the precipitous decline of territorially-based conflicts since 1945; and a host of other trends, generalizations, and anomalies escape detection when viewed from the Hobbesian lens of international politics. Structural explanations do not fare much better, but it can be argued, as Rousseau and Waltz suggest, that they were never designed to explain particularities, but only generalizations of a very broad order. Yet students of the field are not comfortable only with broad generalizations. There is much more to the field, they suggest, than propositions such as “the price of sovereignty is international insecurity” or “states are compelled to seek relative rather than absolute gains.”
Prescription It is difficult to evaluate the prescriptive lessons that derive from diagnostic exercises of a very general order. Some, like Morgenthau, insist that prudence and maintaining a balance of power are sufficient to create some semblance of order and security in the system. But as Morgenthau himself learned during his strident efforts to change American policy in Vietnam in the 1970s, his notions of prudence or balance were not shared by Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s policies and the intellectual analyses upon which they were based were at least consistent with realist policy tenets, but in hindsight they led to folly. The prescriptive dimension of realism is by no means selfevident, even when analysts share its general analytical perspectives. Their prescriptions are, moreover, undermined by structuralist arguments to the effect that balances form naturally irrespective of human intentions. Maybe the only significant prescriptions that derive logically from the explanations are that the world is a dangerous place and that one must prepare for the eventuality of malefactors. This leaves immense latitude of choice, notwithstanding structural arguments that system characteristics compel policymakers to behave in certain ways irrespective of their personal preferences. Moreover, there is not much evidence that policymakers are familiar with, or guided by, prescriptions deriving
from academic theories of international politics. True, the early prototypes of the French diplomatic academy in the eighteenth century had in their compulsory curriculum texts by Machiavelli, but they also included Pufendorf, Grotius, and (later) Vattel. Some have argued that most Page 80 →American foreign service officers during the cold war were familiar with Morgenthau’s great work, but it is unlikely that they took it much to heart as virtually the whole of American policy during the cold war, and particularly in Vietnam, violated almost every prescription advocated by the professor. Indeed, the two most vocal critics of American policy during the cold war have both been characterized as realists: Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan. Thus, either this pigeonholing is invalid or American policy during the cold war was not based on realist tenets. But it could be argued that the influence of academic theories on the public or policymakers, or on both, is more subtle. For example, realism may legitimize a climate of fear. The notion that the inevitable consequence of anarchy is insecurity, for example, may end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Certainly during the cold war the mood of fear that served as the permissive background for spending $5.8 trillion in perfecting the system of mutual assured destruction was sustained if not openly advocated by realist-type analyses. The United States spent vast sums in the forty-five years of the cold war to counter a threat that was blown out of proportion—sometimes deliberately for domestic political reasons. That a gullible public could swallow the story of the Soviet Union as a mighty power out to conquer the world through military means might have been in part due to academic theories that emphasize the nastiest side of international politics. I doubt it was a necessary condition, however, because despite the recent decline of realism as the predominant academic version of international politics, such official thinking persists. For example, we used to be told that the only way to deal with the communist threat was to build mighty second-strike retaliatory forces. But now we are told that such forces cannot deter “rogue” states and that therefore we need an antimissile defense system. The theory of deterrence was supposed to be foolproof, or at least the best possible way to prevent communist aggression. Now we learn that it was wrong or insufficient. And so American taxpayers by implication wasted an estimated $5.8 trillion on a faulty system of mutual assured destruction and will spend billions more to build a supposedly foolproof national missile defense system.10 The drive to create a national missile defense system actually has little to do with external threats and everything to do with bureaucratic and scientific aspirations, prestige, and status. Could it be that the constant harping about the world as a dangerous place, which is the leitmotif of realism, conditions people to accept fictions as fact and thus to endure Page 81 →having their pockets picked for worthless projects? But the problem is that American /Western behavior would probably have been similar no matter what types of academic theories were in vogue. Such prescriptive problems can be linked to the most obvious and often-noted omission in realist analyses, the lack of concern with domestic politics. The rational unitary actor serves as a useful assumption for some kinds of studies, particularly those dealing with bargaining and overall government strategies, but it eliminates sensitivity to the domestic sources of foreign policy. Even during the height of the cold war those were never negligible, and today one could make the case that, at least for the United States, they have become commanding. There is little in recent decisions to stay out of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, to promote policies that antagonize most American trade partners, to stall on paying United Nations assessments, or to revise the Antiballistic Missile Treaty that smacks of national interest, rationality, or prudence. These decisions derive from American domestic politics. That is why so few governments outside the United States can do anything about them. There is no prescription deriving from realist diagnostics that raises domestically inspired aspirations, quirks, or follies to a diplomatic necessity, prudence, or virtue. Structural versions of realism simply close out anything that occurs within black boxes and contains a sole prescription, which is to balance rather than to bandwagon, but since balancing in the system occurs automatically, we need not be bothered with actual policy choices. The ultimate problem of realist prescription is that the very policies supposed to maintain international peace and security may actually lead to the unintended consequence of war. This theme is developed further in John Vasquez’s contribution to this volume. Overall, then, the realist prescriptions that follow diagnosis are inadequate on numerous grounds: they are too vague and inherently subject to extremes of interpretation; they ignore the demands of domestic politics; they are overdetermined; and they are often counterproductive.
Yet we know on the basis of historical evidence that alternative prescriptive frameworks may offer little more. One thinks of the 1930s, when not one of the great powers of the era attempted to deter Hitler. Until the Polish crisis in the summer of 1939, none of Hitler’s ultimate victims issued any threats; appeasement (France and England) Page 82 →and bandwagoning (the Soviet Union and Italy) were the preferred strategies, and they also proved to be utter failures.
Realism as a Normative Theory Throughout its history as a reasonably coherent body of thought about the problems and perplexities of international politics, realism has been at heart a normative exercise. It contains four propositions. First, it insists that the problems of security, war, and peace have a greater claim to examination, study, and speculation than do other problems. Why is this so? Because, second, realists believe that the ultimate political good is the safety and survival of independent political communities. And why is this the case? It is, third, as my colleague Robert Jackson has insisted, because states provide the “good life” for their citizens.11 Transnational corporations cannot do it; the Catholic Church cannot do it; the International Monetary Fund cannot do it; nor can the drug cartels. They may assist or hinder, but they cannot do the things that states do, however poorly some of them do it. If we acknowledge these as acceptable moral propositions, then it follows, fourth, that the ultimate political virtue is prudence, the quality or strategy that sustains a reasonable balance between the national interest in safety and survival on the one hand and the means by which those purposes are promoted on the other. Moralism, legalism, and ideologically driven policies, devoid of an understanding of the national interest, can only lead to the modernday equivalent of holy wars, to a lack of tolerance for diversity in the world, and to the Munichs, Vietnams, and Afghanistans of our era. As a normative theory, realism has been on the whole more successful than as a descriptive, diagnostic, or prescriptive enterprise. It has a surface appeal that effectively transcends time, place, and personality. Its main tenets are as applicable to the diplomatic situation of 1756 or 1854 as they are today. Statements about the demise of the state notwithstanding, the independence of political communities, however defined, remains one of the most important values in contemporary civilization. The principles of self-rule and self-determination have a profound impact on the texture and practices of international politics. They are the Grndnorms of the United Nations and the basic component of that organization’s commitment to “international peace and security.” Realism posits independence of political communities as the ultimate moral good, the foundation Page 83 →of all national interests. This position is ineffectively challenged in the postmodern and other literatures. Yet it avoids any examination of alternative types of political communities. Realism is a normative theory relevant to settled societies, a guide to those communities that are committed to political independence and that value, tolerate, and acknowledge the independence of other political communities. But how does it deal with those societies that are committed to transforming others into their own image? In the late eighteenth century, Europeans and Americans were divided between those, like Burke, who saw the French Revolution as a threat to the continued independence and distinct political arrangements of states and others, like Thomas Paine, who regarded the state as a base for promoting revolution abroad. The Bolsheviks presented the same problem, and as we see in contemporary American foreign policy, the issue has not gone away. If realism is simply a fig leaf for American ideological proselytization and lack of tolerance for political diversity, then it can have no claim to universal validity. As a moral discourse, realism assumes a value in domestic diversity, selfdetermination, and self-rule. Hegemonic, imperial, and domineering practices are to be resisted through balancing. Yet many people today claim that the values or ideologies of democratization, human rights, and free markets are more important than political diversity and pluralism. Indeed, a whole tradition of thinking about, for example, American foreign policy has wavered between a tolerant, pragmatic approach that takes the world as it is and a missionary zeal to convert others to America’s own image. The roster of regimes toppled and statesmen assassinated or indirectly killed by the United States in its zeal for democratization includes Mosaddeq in Iran (1951), Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), Patrice Lumumba in the Congo (1961), Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam (1963), Salvador Allende in Chile (1973), the radical, unstable regime in Grenada (1983), Manuel Noriega in Panama (1989), and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua (1980s). Attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and Muammar al Qaddafi and to destroy Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic through bombing have failed. This record of
intolerance stands in stark contrast to realism’s cautionary prescriptions concerning prudence, the value of selfrule and self-determination, and the idea that a political community should enjoy the right to work out its political problems without external interference. On the other hand, realism also emphasizes the importance of protecting strategic interests, particularly those of the great powers. Realism has never really resolved Page 84 →the tension between these two types of political values when they come into conflict. Realists also acknowledge and examine other normative aspects of international politics. Hans Morgenthau in his famous text did not include chapters on international law, organization, and sovereignty just to strike them down as so many instrumental stratagems for advancing state interests. While not giving them a determinative role in international politics, Morgenthau and most “rationalists” of the so-called English School have always recognized that the human conduct we call international politics is ultimately a form of normative politics. It is an activity and discourse that involves notions of obligations, rights, legal status, and procedural and substantive norms that establish the limits of legitimate behavior. Structural realist analyses miss all of this, as do some of the cruder implicit and explicit scientific models of international politics. Earlier commentators on European diplomacy, such as Meinecke, von Gentz, Vattel, and others, have always understood that the game of international politics is a combination of self-interested and other-regarding activities. But in the last half of the twentieth century, particularly in the American academy, international law and international politics separated, much to the disadvantage of both. By divesting themselves of normative content, American versions of realism became mechanistic, deterministic, and hopelessly ahistorical.12
What Does This Leave? These comments have been highly critical of realism, perhaps leaving the impression that as a descriptive, diagnostic, and prescriptive enterprise it is empirically inadequate, logically inconsistent, and hopelessly vague. After all, the main ideas of realism were developed in Europe during the eighteenth century, and, it could be claimed, too much has changed in the texture of international life to warrant spending more time and money on elaboration or on extensive research programs. I cannot share this conclusion because some of the elements of realism help us understand the dynamics of some types of relationships in some areas of the world. We continue to have enduring rivalries, some states do experience significant security dilemmas, and the military dimension of interstate relations has not disappeared. There is no valid reason to abandon studies on crisis behavior, on the characteristics of rivalries, or on the theories of conflict resolution just because we have elements of globalism or Page 85 →the development of an increasingly networked global civil society. Despite the growing chorus of claims that we have a borderless world, that the days of the state are numbered, or that all military spending is a waste of resources, the relations between some states are still characterized by underlying fear, the compulsion to build protection by military means, and the search for outside support. Studies of alliances, the requirements of effective deterrence, or arms control, while commanding less attention in a world that seems more benign today than it did two decades ago, should not disappear, even if they should not hold the place in the field that they once did. Any course curriculum that emphasizes the latest fad to the exclusion of the realist tradition would be incomplete at best and intellectually irresponsible at worst. We know on the basis of relatively sound empirical research a great deal more (in the probabilistic sense) about the sources and dynamics of rivalries, arms races, threat perception, international crises, and war decisions than we did just one generation ago. Much of this valuable work was inspired by realist theories and hypotheses, as well as by the commanding problems and fears generated by the cold war.13 I conclude with the proposition that any understanding of past, contemporary, or future international politics is incomplete without the problem selection, the insights, the generalizations, and the explanations of realism. But any understanding of these based solely on realism will be insufficient and incomplete. In his famous analysis of world order, Hedley Bull insisted that at any given time the international system has simultaneously Hobbesian, Grotian, and Kantian characteristics.14 Realism is a perspective on politics, not the whole story. Even as a perspective, it suffers from serious descriptive, explanatory, and therefore prescriptive problems. But to pretend that it has nothing to tell us would be an immense error. In an age of academic fads, where it seems to be de rigueur to begin theoretical discourse by listing the sins and omissions of realism, and when many theorists have not even bothered to read the main texts carefully (and in some cases not read them at all), there is intellectual
peril in ignoring that which still has some important things to tell us. On the other hand, those who assume that realism is the only story in town and who insist that nothing has changed since 1756, 1914, or 1939 face the prospect of becoming sectarians rather than scientists. There are now important competitors in the field today, perhaps best expressed in the English School, in liberal institutionalism, and in constructivism. They also have important Page 86 →things to say, so our students need to study them. Dialogue between faiths or perspectives has been a characteristic of the field since its early days. Realism was in some periods a commanding perspective, but others always offered alternative visions and diagnoses. Today, the balance has shifted to those just because the texture of international politics has changed. Pessimists may look forward to the return of realist hegemony or pine for the good old days, but others, reflecting a greater mood of optimism at the turn of the millennium, hope that we have overcome at least part of the realist tradition and that the next task is to describe and explain the new textures of international politics.
Notes 1. For evidence, see K. J. Holsti, The State, War, and the State of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), esp. ch. 2. 2. A realist interpretation of Asian international politics is by no means the only valid approach. Liberal institutionalist and constructivist approaches help to assess and explain a good deal of the behavior that one sees in this area. For a comparative theoretical analysis of Asian security problems, see Thomas Berger, “Set for Stability? Prospects for Conflict and Cooperation in East Asia,” Review of International Studies 26, no. 3 (2000): 405–28. 3. Stephen Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999). 4. Cf. Ian Hurd, “Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics,” International Organization 53, no. 2 (1999): 379–408; and Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). 5. Fred Halliday, The Sixth Great Power: Revolution and International Relations (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999). 6. Robert Gilpin, War and Change in International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). 7. Important exceptions include Richard Rosecrance, Action and Reaction in World Politics: International Systems in Perspective (Boston: Little, Brown, 1963); and Stephen Walt, Revolution and War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). 8. Paul W. Schroeder, “The Nineteenth-Century System: Balance of Power or Political Equilibrium?” Review of International Studies 15, no. 2 (1989): 135–53. 9. Deutsch’s seminal work is in Political Community at the International Level: Problems of Definition and Measurement (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1954); and Karl Deutsch et al, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957). Page 87 →10. The costs of mutual assured destruction are estimated in Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1998). 11. See Robert Jackson, “Martin Wight, International Theory, and the Good Life,” Millennium 19, no. 2 (1990): 261–71. 12. This theme is elaborated at great length in Robert Jackson, The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 13. For an extended discussion about the connections between realist theory, the cold war, and empirical research, see K. J. Holsti, “Scholarship in an Era of Anxiety: The Study of International Politics during the Cold War,” in The Eighty Years’ Crisis: International Relations, 1919–1999, ed. Tim Dunne, Michael Cox, and Ken Booth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 17–46. 14. Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London: Macmillan, 1977).
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REALISM AND THE DEMOCRATIC PEACE The Primacy of State Security in New Democracies Manus I. Midlarsky For all of the now vast amount of research done on the democratic peace, there is still a chasm in that research that has only been very partially filled. Simply put, it is the virtual absence of the international security setting. This is all the more surprising because of the growth of international security as a field and the rather obvious concern that scholars in the field should have for the international in international relations. Perhaps it is a reaction to the emphasis on polarity during the long cold war period when structural relations dominated much of the thinking in international relations. More recent emphases on rational choice of course have reinforced this reaction,1 for typically the units of analysis have at most consisted of dyads. Indeed, the dyad as a unit of analysis has virtually supplanted larger units in the investigation of international conflict. The democratic peace also is a useful “laboratory” for investigating our failure to resolve key debates in international relations theory. The democratic peace is an extremely prominent theory drawn from the liberal tradition, one that has received considerable empirical validation, perhaps more than any other.2 Yet the level of explanation has not kept pace with the success of the empirical research program. Arguably, we know little more about the actual workings of the democratic peace now than we knew several years ago.3 I contend that one reason for that failure is the larger failure to resolve our theoretical debates through syncretism. Page 89 →Realism has a time-honored history; one has only to mention the names of Thucydides, E. H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Kenneth Waltz. Similarly, the long liberal tradition has deep roots in the writings of Immanuel Kant and other eighteenth-century European and American thinkers. Given this historical depth, there must be considerable merit in both intellectual traditions. When there is a failure to move forward either in resolving larger debates over the suitability of paradigms, or in furthering our understanding of major processes such as the democratic peace, there most likely is an absence of syncretism. Although the democratic peace emerges from liberal thought, I contend that realism has an important role to play in understanding the persistence of democracy, clearly the salient constituent element in the emergence of a widespread democratic peace. And the analysis goes further in indicating the primacy of geopolitical security in choices between national or state security on the one hand and highly desirable modes of governance such as democracy on the other. As a result of the analysis, the terms of the debate over which has temporal priority, peace or democracy, are shifted from an emphasis on peace in the facilitation of democracy to that of security. Following a graphical representation of the democratic peace and power transition theories in relation to realism and liberalism, an empirical test is carried out demonstrating the importance of security issues in the preservation of democracy. A variable suggested by the graphical representation, number of alliances, proves important in understanding the successes and failures of new democracies. A focus on realism and the international setting gives rise to the use of this variable; here the importance of the paradigm in selecting our variables is emphasized. Equally important is the realization that very few of our theories, if they are to be empirically valid over a significant domain,4 can be based solely on one paradigm and one setting, either domestic or international. There is another approach also suggesting that our heavy emphasis on domestic politics in matters pertaining to the democratic peace is, if not misguided, then at least incomplete. And as our theories of the peace between democracies (or republics) have found at least a partial foundation in the thinking of philosophers such as Page 90 →Immanuel Kant, the present emphasis on security can be found in the theoretical constructs of John Stuart Mill. As he put it, “The moral rules which forbid mankind to hurt one another (in which we must never forget to include wrongful interference with each other’s freedom) are more vital to human well-being than any maxims, however important, which only point out the best mode of managing some department of human affairs.”5 According to the
political philosopher John Gray, “For Mill, justice was a set of practices protecting the human interest in security, not a theory that prescribed the structure of society.” In other words, human security, or in the international realm, national or state security,6 comes first before any claims to procedural primacy. To be sure, Mill clearly understood the importance of protecting basic freedoms, but their protection was part of the security net. It is this philosophical tradition, along with realism, that informs the present analysis.
Realism and Liberalism as Continua A source of the fairly widespread de-emphasis on the international security setting is its tendency to be associated with realism.7 Systemic structures, polarity, and balance of power all are uniquely international theories concerned with security; at the same time they lie at the heart of realism.8 And certainly the place of realism as the reigning paradigm of international politics has been under attack for some time. Recent titles of articles published in prestigious journals tell the story best. Legro and Moravcsik ask, “Is Anybody Still a Realist?”, while Vasquez titles his article “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs.”9 Realists of various schools have felt obliged recently to define, modify, or defend their positions.10 Liberalism, on the other hand, has experienced a major florescence. The democratic peace has emerged as virtually emblematic of liberalism’s triumph in the debate with realism. Proceeding from Kantian liberal assumptions about human needs and desires, this research program has demonstrated a spectacular growth in recent years, eclipsing virtually all others.11 In its primary concern for the welfare of the individual, liberal democracy almost tautologically embodies the precepts of liberalism. Human wants, needs, and preferences are at the heart of liberalism.12 But then there also are instances when security for the state is paramount. I identify at least three such circumstances: (1) the decision Page 91 →to go to war; (2) making peace; and (3) alliance formation. The first can be seen as residing in the domain of balancing threat,13 the second in the domain of the balance of power, and the third, a mixture of the two. And it is in the last of these that we will see a role for realism in understanding the workings of the democratic peace. Alliance formation is a time-honored consequence of attempts to alter or restore a balance. The formation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the post–World War II era is a case in point, as are the Dual Alliance and Triple Entente following one upon the other in an earlier period. The contemporary Israeli-Turkish alliance, identifying Syria, Iraq, and Iran as potential common enemies, of course is another classic instance. When national survival is at stake, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a time-honored principle that even operated during World War II in the alliance between the Soviet Union and the West. Clearly, upon reviewing those scenarios, the international setting is the key variable driving the relevant decision makers. Earlier alliances influence the formation of later ones, as an emergent communist bloc in eastern Europe under Soviet rule led to a cohering Western one headed by the U.S. Realpolitik is very much driven by the structure of the international system as Waltz clearly saw.14 At the same time, liberalism, neglecting for the moment neoliberal institutions, is very much a property of domestic politics.15 The democratic peace is a centerpiece of liberal theory and theoretically emerges almost entirely from domestic political considerations. International and domestic sources of salient processes can be seen as falling on a continuum defined by the purely domestic at one end and the international at the other, with most important events falling somewhere between the two poles. Liberalism with its emphasis on individual need and realism with its focus on national security (these are my intended meanings here) also can be seen as occupying opposite poles on a continuum. One has at its core the welfare of the individual; the other concerns itself almost exclusively with the welfare of the collectivity, in most cases the state. Between the two poles can be found theories that are not exclusively based on one or the other paradigm but some mix of the two as we shall see shortly. Now one can plot these two axes that comprise what I call a theory space in figure 1. Theories of international politics can be located in this space, giving us a pictorial representation of our contemporary theoretical concerns. Further, controversies surrounding these theories also can be so mapped. Page 92 →
The Democratic Peace Consider the democratic peace. It follows from the basic tenets of liberalism and also is almost entirely domestic in its emphases. As the theory has been constituted for the most part, it relies on a particular regime, democratic in nature, not willing to wage war against another of a similar constitution. But there exists an emergent competing view that turns the theory on its head.16 According to the inverted democratic peace theory, instead of the internal political condition of democracy yielding peace between democracies, it is the condition of international peace that yields democracy. A long period of peace can effectively allow for democracy to be nurtured, essentially because of the absence of need for mobilizing leaders that eventually could institutionalize autocracies. How would a theory space help us locate these theories? Figure 1 plots the democracy→peace (D→P) and peace→democracy (P→D) theories. As can be seen, the former lies within the liberal-domestic quadrant whereas the latter is found in the realist-international quadrant. This reversal of positions is to be expected. Now consider another theory, the power transition that in its initial formulation emphasized politics internal to the state,17 but is principally in the realist camp in the sense that it is centered on national security. Economic development internal to the state was said to be the primary cause of major-power war in contrast to the emphasis on alliances and balancing of power among states in balance-of-power theory. The two theories with their differing emphases are plotted in figure 2. Despite being in the realist camp (although elements of the power transition have liberal roots, hence it is positioned slightly to the left in the figure),18 they are located in two separate quadrants as the result of their principal loci. But subsequent variants of the theory19 needed to include alliance formation to achieve a satisfactory fit between theory and data for major-power war. More recently, Kim’s treatment of power transitions between alliances even more explicitly introduces the element of alliance.20 In other words, the explicitly international element needed to be accounted for, leading to a shift in the theory’s emphasis from the domestic to some mix of the domestic and international. Figure 1. A theory space for democratic peace theories Page 93 →Figure 2. A theory space for power transition and balance-of-power theories Page 94 →Can the same be true for the democratic peace? Is our current near-total emphasis on domestic explanations of the democratic peace misguided to the extent that it does not include explicitly international factors? One of these emerges from the peace-democracy literature. It was hypothesized that the minimization of the threat of war is associated with democracy, under the expectation that the absence of necessity for a mobilizing leader21 to face the threat of war minimizes the probability of an emerging autocracy. Countries with more sea borders as a measure of the minimization of the threat of war were found to be associated with greater democracy using several measures of democracy in two studies.22 Now water barriers are not the only way that minimization of the threat of war can be achieved. Mountains as in the case of Switzerland or, more to the point here, alliances with apparent deterrent value also can serve that purpose. A more thorough understanding of the democratic peace may reside precisely in the way that alliances among democracies have minimized the threat of war thus making democracy more secure in democratizing states. In other words, peace itself may not be the variable necessary for democracy’s perpetuation, but the concept of security may be paramount. (Neither the War of 1812, the American Civil War, the Finnish Civil War of 1918, the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–20, nor the several Indo-Pakistani and Indo-Chinese conflicts were sufficient to end the relevant experiments in democracy.) The experience of success in war conducted by a democracy may be proof against future successful antidemocratic coups.23 Indeed, in some circumstances, when faced with an implacable and unrelenting foe (e.g., Nazi Germany), the only means of achieving state security is the defeat of the enemy in war. The threat of war and especially a threat of the loss of newly achieved sovereignty may be far more consequential for a democracy’s demise than the experience of war itself. Further, as we shall see in the “Conclusion,” democracies are especially vulnerable to a rechallenge after an earlier crisis. If the democracies are new and highly insecure because of prior military occupation, they may be especially susceptible to successful military coups. Introduction of an international security element, alliances, in both the democratic peace and power transition theories reduces the distance between competing variants as can be seen in figure 3. Security (S)
replaces peace (P) at the onset of the sequence, emphasizing the salience of national or state security instead of peace. Page 95 →Figure 3. Combined theories
The Role of Alliances The Fashoda Crisis, the Spanish-American War, and the U.S. Civil War suggest that this is a productive avenue of investigation. These cases represent the modern “near misses” of democratic peace theory. All three, as well as other candidates, such as the Anglo-American dispute over Venezuela in 1895–96, were not in any way muted by the existence of alliance bonds. These countries were free to engage in military confrontations without the presence of allies of either one or the other protagonist. The function of alliance among democracies may be to magnify the trust and habits of cooperation that initially, in a small way, characterize relations between democracies. In other words the initial, fairly small tendencies toward cooperation may become magnified over time, as the protective alliance umbrella allows both for the maturation of democracy within the allied societies and the habits of cooperation between them. The European Union even in its earlier incarnations operated in this fashion. The case of Greece, for example, is an outstanding illustration of the choice of an international framework, the European Economic Community (EEC), to provide a protective umbrella from Page 96 →an aggressive Turkey that had just invaded Cyprus in 1974 and was threatening Greece on other Aegean issues. The reversion to democracy immediately thereafter under conditions of military failure and the projected future failure to protect the state can only be understood within the context of the need to have a democratic government in order to join the EEC. (Greece’s application had been suspended during the 1967–74 period of military rule.) NATO already had been ruled out as a protective framework because of the deep divisions between the United States and Greece during this period. Thus, only the EEC could provide a bulwark against Turkey, and to join, Greece had to be a democracy as the most powerful military rulers themselves clearly saw, as they called for a return to civilian rule.24 Here, national security is a priority, with democracy chosen to maximize security. As one set of observers put it, “Another more pressing reason why Greece joined the community was the perceived Turkish threat especially following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Since neither NATO nor the US prevented the invasion, Greece had to seek a new framework for protecting itself from Turkey’s military aggressiveness.”25 This perspective on security emerging from realism helps explain certain anomalies from the cold war period. India’s perceived need for security to counter the direct Chinese threat as well as support for her arch rival Pakistan led to an ongoing informal alliance with the Soviet Union. Thus, an autocratic state was preferred as an ally to a democratic one such as the United States because of the U.S. “tilt” toward Pakistan. As an explanation of military dispute behavior, an affinity index based on UN voting, revelatory of preferences (security and otherwise), was superior in explanatory power to joint democracy.26 The affinity index likely includes security preferences as well as democratic affinities, thus providing a more complete explanation than joint democracy alone.
Democracy and Security: An Empirical Test Thus, alliance behavior is suggested by our theoretical concerns. But theoretically, it is the perception of security by alliance signatories that may be the critical variable relevant to the democratic peace. For based on substitutability criteria,27 alliances and other forms of security such as sea borders may be different expressions of national security. If one form is absent, another may be substituted for it. Here, the initial interpretation of sea borders minimizing the threat Page 97 →of war is expanded to encompass the concept of security. The threat of war brings with it the possibility of the loss of sovereignty in the extreme instance, especially for new states, or unfavorable boundary changes in less serious cases. In either event, national security is threatened. Geography can maximize such security, or in its absence, alliances can provide a substitute. Two specific propositions can now be investigated: (1) the greater the extent of perceived national security, the more likely the maintenance of democracy; and (2) the earlier the perceived threat to national security, the earlier the demise of democracy. Thus
the existence of democracy in the first proposition and the timing of democratic collapse are both seen as functions of perceived national security. Alliances and even surrounding water may provide an illusion of security, not its actuality. Nevertheless, given the human choices of democracy or autocracy in response to perceived threat, it is the perception that counts. In addition to the case of Greece noted earlier, can we examine other instances of the relationship between democracy and national security? The interwar period in Europe provides an excellent setting for this sort of analysis. As a result of the partial or complete breakup of empires, a number of new democracies came into existence at the end of World War I. Some survived as democracies, others failed. Hence, we have considerable variation in outcomes that allows for a comparative analysis. We also can investigate how variation in critical international conditions, namely national or state security, affected these outcomes in the success or failure of maintaining democracy. Although the term national security is commonly used, as it is in this essay, we will see later that a more precise referent is that of state security. How this conclusion is reached will itself be instructive. Table 1 presents all new European electoral democracies existing between 1918 and 1934 divided by success and failure. Only new states are chosen for analysis; those emanating directly from older polities without substantial boundary changes such as Germany are excluded. The focus here is on the first fifteen years or so of the new democracy’s existence. After that time, the habits of democracy and indeed its matured organizational ability to defend itself may have successfully weathered serious threats to its security. Hungary and Yugoslavia (politically, an expanded Serbia) are not eligible for inclusion. The two countries were never democracies during this time period. Hungary was a regency in the expectation of the reconstitution of monarchy, and Yugoslavia was a monarchy. The year 1934 is chosen as an end point because after this time, as Page 98 →Germany rapidly increases its force capabilities, the Nazi-driven European political scene is vastly different from the preceding post–World War I period.28 The first data column lists the number of sea borders (minimum 0, maximum 4) per country, followed by the number of borders with major powers in the second column. The sea borders variable is composed of approximate numbers based on a four-sided model, which distinguishes between countries that can be invaded easily from land and those with greater protection from water. Numbers of alliances generally, and specifically with major powers, follow. If relevant, the date of the democracy’s demise follows. Lastly, real product per capita is given as a basis for evaluating a competing explanation. Because of the small number of cases, large-N statistics are inappropriate as a form of inferential analysis. Nevertheless, inferences from a comparative analysis can be drawn as to the most important influences on the success of democracy during this period. These variables allow a preliminary test of the two propositions. It is immediately evident that among the successful democracies, a degree of substitutability is found. Ireland especially, and Finland somewhat less so, are blessed with sea borders that remove them at least partially from harm’s way. Czechoslovakia, with no sea borders, simultaneously has by far the largest number of alliances generally and with major powers in particular. Indeed the top half of table 1 reveals the inverse relationship between alliances and sea borders—the one substituting for the other—among the successful democracies, a relationship not found among the unsuccessful democracies in the bottom portion of the table. Landlocked Austria, and Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with only one sea border each, and Poland with two bordering major powers—Germany and the Soviet Union—appear to have less national security and at the same time do not compensate for that deficit with alliance behavior anywhere near comparable to that of Czechoslovakia. Estonia will be discussed later. Regarding the second proposition, the most threatened countries, Poland and Lithuania (threatened not only by Germany and the Soviet Union but also by Poland), experience the earliest failures of democracy, as can be seen on the right-hand side of the table. But these data, although generally confirmatory, do not especially allow for an analysis in depth. In order to find these propositions credible, we must also have narrative evidence consistent with these findings. In other words, to begin with, did Czechoslovakia consider her alliances to be a part of her security program, and, at the same time, was there an awareness of the possibility of the rise of an antidemocratic mobilizing leader to compensate for the absence of external security? Was there, in other words, an awareness of the implicit trade-off between external security in the form of alliances or geographical advantage on the one hand and the advantages for national
security (albeit perhaps temporary) of a mobilizing leader on the other? In the absence of the external sources of security, an internal one must be chosen. Page 99 →Table 1. Successful and Unsuccessful European New Democracies, 1918–34 a
Based on a scale of 0 to 4.
Major powers are Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union.
Until democracy’s end and inclusive of all formal alliances. The source is J. David Singer and Melvin Small, “National Alliance Commitments and War Involvement, 1818–1945,” in International Politics and Foreign Policy: A Reader in Research and Theory, ed. James N. Rosenau (New York: Free Press, 1969), 513–42, and crosschecked with the individual country histories. d
For the year 1929 in 1960 U.S. dollars and prices. The source is Paul Bairoch, “The Main Trends in National Economic Disparities since the Industrial Revolution,” in Disparities in Economic Development since the Industrial Revolution, ed. Paul Bairoch and Maurice Lévy-Levoyer (New York: St. Martin’s, 1981), 3–17. This year was chosen because it is the approximate median year of the coup period, 1926–34, and for a year when data were available from a reliable source. e
Sources are as follows: Austria—Eric Solsten and David E. McClave, Austria: A Country Study (Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1994); Fritz Fellner, “Introduction: The Genesis of the Austrian Republic,” in Modern Austria, ed. Kurt Steiner, Fritz Fellner, and Hubert Feichtlbauer (Palo Alto, Calif.: Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, 1981), 1–20. Estonia—J. Hampden Jackson, Estonia (London: Allen and Unwin, 1948); Toivo U. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1987). Latvia—Juris Dreifelds, Latvia in Transition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Visvaldis Mangulis, Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century (Princeton Junction, N.J.: Cognition Books, 1983). Lithuania—Alfonsas Eidintas et a I., cds., Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–1940 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); V. Stanley Vardys and Judith B. Sedaitis, Lithuania: The Rebel Nation (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1997). Poland—Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland, vol. 2, 1795 to the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982); Piotr S. Wandycz, Polish Diplomacy, 1914–1945: Aims and Achievements (London: Orbis Books for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 1988). f
Comparable data not available. See text.
Page 100 → Czechoslovakia It is clear that Thomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia who was fully committed to democracy,29 and the man who along with the first foreign minister, Edvard Beneš, set the pattern for Czechoslovak foreign policy, was indeed so aware. Regarding the latter concern about mobilizing leaders, Masaryk stated that “the early forms of society were largely fashioned by the despotic force of strong and capable leaders, so that States [sic] took on a military character and relied on the army.”30 In the context of the Czechoslovak legions of World War I that Masaryk led, he said that “the legionaries proclaimed me dictator, because in the rush of wartime it enables quick decisions to be made. The Romans always did the same. And I had the full confidence of my soldiers.”31 Masaryk understood the necessity for quick decisions in time of war or the threat of war. Such a threatening international environment can easily lead to demands for a mobilizing leader who could end a democracy. Indeed, an argument of this nature was used to end Estonia’s democracy in 1934 in favor of a relatively benign autocracy in order to stave off fascist-style military dictatorship,32 as we shall see shortly. Beneš, in his 1937 funeral oration for Masaryk, stated that his philosophy and practice “in strikingly expressive manner contrasted in all their historical greatness two great moral worlds that oppose one another: Jesus—not
Caesar.”33 Caesarism with its implications of war, if not perpetual war, is to be strongly opposed. To this end, the system of alliances listed in table 1 was constructed. The basic policy of Masaryk and Beneš was to support the League of Nations in the interests of collective security. Beneš was six times chairman of the League Council, and one time president of the Assembly.34 Collective security was to be a policy bulwark of a small landlocked state, yet in early recognizing the limitations of Page 101 →the League, appropriate alliances were eagerly sought. In 1924 a treaty with France was signed that provided for military cooperation; in 1925 it was elevated to a full defensive alliance.35 The same year, an entente was signed with Italy. Earlier, in 1922, although not an alliance, a treaty with the Soviet Union was signed, recognizing that country.36 The Little Entente uniting Czechoslovakia with Romania and Yugoslavia became a small-power bulwark to supplement the guarantees of great powers such as France, with its implications of ultimate British support. At Locarno in October 1925, the first signs of insecurity for the new democracies made themselves felt. The European great powers, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, guaranteed the borders of Germany with Belgium and France emanating from the Treaty of Versailles, but not the eastern ones, especially those with Poland and Czechoslovakia. As these boundaries were extremely unpopular within Germany because of the loss of formerly German territory to Poland and the large number of Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia, the insecurity of these two new democracies was greatly magnified. For the first time now, a threat was directed at the fledgling Czech democracy and from a formerly military, now fascist source. The chief of staff of the Czechoslovak army, General Rudolph Gajda, a commander of the Czechoslovak legion in Russia during World War I and the favorite of the extreme right, was scheduled to seize power in Prague in July of 1926. The “Falcon” (Sokol) gymnastic organization was expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people to the capital that summer. Alerted to the possibility of such a coup, Masaryk released Gajda from his duties on July 2, and the demise of Czech democracy was averted.37 Poland The other democracy threatened by Locarno was Poland, and here the outcome was very different. Instead of the continuation of democracy, there occurred on May 12–14, 1926, the seizure of power by Marshal Józef Pilsudski, the hero of the 1919–20 war with the Bolsheviks.38 His was a coup against the very system that he himself had initiated. To what can we ascribe these different outcomes in Czechoslovakia and Poland? Certainly, domestic political considerations played a role in both cases, but the differential effect of Locarno was paramount. The evidence is to be found in Pilsudski’s own statements and motivations. Page 102 →Initially Pilsudski had no intention of governing directly. To Krakow conservatives in the winter of 1914, he stated, “I leave politics to you, and I keep the sword.”39 Not only did Pilsudski not change his mind upon establishing the Polish state in 1920, but even after the coup of 1926, he took the office of prime minister only from October 1926 to June 1928 and again from August to December 1930; from the outset, he never relinquished control of the War Ministry.40“His [Pilsudski’s] main interests were in the army and in foreign policy.”41 To observers more interested in the domestic scene,42 it would appear as if the unstable coalitions and seeming powerlessness of the democratically elected government were sufficient to motivate the coup. But Pilsudski’s relative lack of interest in domestic politics would belie this conclusion. Only the incapacity to act in time of international threat would motivate Pilsudski, and in this respect, the coalition governments were not reassuring to him. The international setting is made even more salient by the Soviet-German Neutrality Pact of April 1926.43 Not only did Locarno give the Germans a virtual green light to seek changes in Germany’s eastern border with Poland, but the treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union now reinforced this possibility. With Soviet agreement, German troops were already training on Soviet soil in order to avoid the strict arms limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. One month later, Pilsudski staged his coup. After the coup, Pilsudski, in one of his few stated aims, indicated that the principle of “balance between east and west”44 was at the center of his foreign policy. By this he meant of course that Poland had to steer a course between the two great powers to avoid “the jaws of the two colossal powers which by closing them could destroy her.”45 Put another way, Pilsudski assumed the role of a mobilizing leader who left control over much of the political scene to civilian politicians but maintained control over virtually all important aspects of the armed
forces. Now we see the fundamental difference in geopolitical circumstances that led to these decidedly different outcomes. Beneš could describe the Locarno Pact as “a tremendous advance on anything that has as yet been accomplished”46 because despite the pact’s limitations, he believed that Franco-German reconciliation was beneficial for Czechoslovakia, especially as Britain was now part of the agreements. Possible German expansion appeared to threaten Poland, not Czechoslovakia, because, as yet, Germany had no irredentist claims Page 103 →against Czechoslovakia, only Poland. (The Sudetenland had been part of Austria-Hungary, not Germany.) Although not quite as secure as she had been prior to Locarno, Czechoslovakia still did not feel especially threatened; hence the perceived need for a mobilizing leader and support for a coup would be correspondingly less than that found in Poland, sharing two borders with cooperating major powers and holding the former territory claimed by one of them.47 Clearly the Polish international position was substantially more threatened than that of Czechoslovakia in the immediate post-Locarno and post–Soviet-German rapprochement periods. The Baltics and Finland Consider now the impact of these events on smaller neighboring countries. Lithuania, geographically closest to Poland, had seen her past and future capital, Vilnius, forcibly annexed to Poland, and could not remain unaffected. Very soon after the Polish coup of May 1926, Lithuania too experienced the overthrow of her democratically elected government in December 1926. From the perspective of aggrieved and tiny Lithuania, Poland was the equivalent of a great power, or at least she had acted like one in the military takeover of Vilnius. Lithuania’s other border was with the Soviet Union, which had troops fighting Lithuanian nationalists during the Russian Civil War period. A military government in Warsaw must have been seen as terribly threatening to Lithuania, and the response was identical to that of Poland when faced with a similar threat from Germany. A government capable of rapid mobilization in such a threatening environment was preferable to the continuation of a potentially weak and vacillating democracy. Security trumps democracy as we saw in the case of Poland and earlier in the instance of Greece. Both Eidintas and Vardys and Sedaitis acknowledge the importance of the Polish model for the Lithuanian coup.48 The remaining Baltic states present a somewhat different although still threatening scenario. Hitler’s rise to power had now distinctly made itself felt in eastern Europe, although his intentions were not yet clear. Instead of antagonizing Hitler, in January 1934 the Pilsudski government signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany. French, and by implication, British influence would be correspondingly diminished. Indeed, future cooperation between Germany and Poland could yield a corridor for German troops to Page 104 →once again invade and occupy the Baltic region, as they had during World War I. And Estonia had a model for a mobilizing response in the Lapua Movement in Finland. The origins of this Finnish threat to democracy are to be found in the appearance in the fall of 1929 of red-shirted and red-scarfed communist youth of the Young Communist League sporting Russian symbols in the town of Lapua. The extreme right-wing response to this local phenomenon is known as the Lapua Movement. Despite the reduction of the Soviet armed forces from a high of five million during the Russian Civil War to less than eight hundred thousand by 1922, Soviet Russia was still seen as a threat to Finnish independence, albeit the only such threat.49 Local reaction to this meeting of the Young Communist League was violent even to the point of nearly wrecking the building in which the meeting took place. Leaders of the anticommunist movement such as General Wallenius, Captain Kalsta, and several Lutheran pastors broadened their objectives to stamp out communism, secularism, atheism, and other “ungodly” faiths throughout Finland.50 In 1930, this organization was put on a firm footing, beginning now a virtual crusade against communism. Members of the government began to cooperate with the movement, perhaps largely because of substantial peasant support for the goals of the movement. Communist members of parliament were arrested by then President Svinhufvud, and legislation was contemplated to further limit civil liberties of the left. But it was only when the Lapua Movement began to organize military units headed by General Wallenius that the government reacted against the Lapua. In 1932, the government ordered disarmament of these units, and General Wallenius was placed under house arrest, thus ending the period of danger. Anatole Mazour, the esteemed historian of Russian as well as northern and eastern Europe, cites “the
influence of ‘the neighbor from the east’ in producing this sudden rash on the healthy body of the Finnish public.”51 But, in point of fact, as we know, the Soviet Union was not a threat to the Finns at this time. In addition to the drastic reduction in size of the Soviet armed forces, the Soviet Union was engaged in an effort to normalize relations with the noncommunist world, culminating in admission to the League of Nations in 1934. The 1932 nonaggression treaty between the Soviet Union and Finland is to be seen in this light. Thus from every realpolitik perspective, the Soviet Union could not be considered threatening at this time; it was this reality that allowed the government to move against elements of the military Page 105 →who at the moment were not necessary for national defense and at the same time might have initiated a military coup. The outcome for Estonia was different, principally as the result of the German threat. Whereas Finland had good relations with Germany partly as a consequence of German military intervention on behalf of the government against the Reds in the Finnish Civil War, Estonia had recent memories of German occupation forces on her soil during World War I, as well as the centuries-long domination of German landowners. There existed a very real fear of a renewed German occupation and potential colonization. The rise of an aggressive Nazi Germany in 1933 was very threatening indeed. The whole issue of irredentism could be raised again as it once was as early as the 1871 unification of Germany.52 The 1934 German-Polish treaty made such aggressive ventures more likely, in the Estonian view. Thus when a Lapua-like League of Veterans movement entered the political arena, the result was not a continuation of democracy as in Finland, but a jettisoning of Estonian democracy. After the veterans became increasingly powerful, the president, Konstantin Päts, declared a state of martial law on March 12, 1934, for the next six months and appointed a war hero, General Laidoner, as commander in chief of the armed forces. Päts shut down the League of Veterans organizations and arrested four hundred of their leading members. In this fashion, a fascist threat to the state was countered, but the “cumbersome” Estonian democracy was abandoned in favor of a dictatorship, which, although benevolent in many ways, was autocratic and militarized. As Raun put it, “With the rise of totalitarian powers—an expansionist Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—on either side of Estonia, it appears that much of the Estonian population countenanced a departure from democracy in order to insure domestic stability and ward off the threat of foreign intervention.”53 Soon after this coup, in May 1934 Latvia too experienced a coup stimulated by many of the same fears of Germany and perhaps a resuscitated Russia, as well as modeling after the Estonian prototype.54 As Kirby put it, “Whereas Finland lay on the periphery—albeit an important one—of the Russian security zone, the Baltic states were right in the centre, between Russia and Germany. Furthermore, the southernmost state, Lithuania, was in conflict with Poland over Vilna.”55 Here we see the critical distinction between Finland and the Baltic states. Moreover, in addition to this geopolitical disadvantage for the Baltics, an important difference between the successful democracies Page 106 →in table 1 and the unsuccessful ones is, with only one exception to be discussed later, that in all remaining cases, the latter countries had experienced invading or occupying German and Russian troops on their soil in recent years. Under these circumstances a newly aggressive Germany constituted an immediate and salient threat requiring some form of mobilized response. This condition is absent in all instances of the successful democracies. No other factor so clearly distinguishes between the successful and unsuccessful democracies in table 1. Ireland Turning now to a seemingly “easy” case, that of Ireland, the reality is more complex than it first appears. Despite the heritage of British parliamentarism, there were serious sources of autocratic government. The “hard men,” or those who had fought at the head of the most combat-hardened units, refused to countenance the peace treaty with Great Britain. According to Garvin, “The hard core of the old IRA had a strong collective loyalty and thought of themselves as sovereign. They had organised themselves and armed themselves and paid their own way. They saw themselves as having created the Republic, and none had the right to give it away, democratically or otherwise. The superiority of the brave guerrilla soldier over the average citizen was a key theme in anti-Treaty mentality.”56
Thus, strong antidemocratic sentiments pervaded the ranks of the best fighters, yet Irish democracy survived. Even more so than in Finland, we can see that geopolitical circumstances played a major role. Had there been the need for large-scale defense forces, the outcome might have been different. But “the underlying assumption of all these governments was that Ireland could not and need not defend itself, so that its army was a mere symbol of sovereignty. The threat from Britain was discounted, and Ireland’s geographical position ensured that no other power could threaten it.”57 As a consequence, there was never any need for a large military presence potentially dominated by the antidemocratic leaders of the old IRA. Even during World War II, when Ireland maintained a strict neutrality for fear of antagonizing Nazi Germany, she could still make use of the essentially good relations with Britain. Ireland was entirely dependent on her larger neighbor for air and sea defense; the extent of covert cooperation between the secret services of the two countries was considerable.58 In other words, the number of sea borders and presence Page 107 →of a protecting major power obviated the need for many alliances to protect the nascent democracy. Austria Let us now consider the one apparent exception, Austria, to the finding here of invading or occupying German and Russian troops in recent memory on the territories of the unsuccessful democracies. This exception will lead us now to the distinction between state and society in matters of national security. Indeed, the appropriate referent for this analysis may not be the nation as in national security, but the state as in state security. Although an electoral democracy since the breakup of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and the promulgation of its constitution in November 1918, by 1933 Austria was a dictatorship governed by Engelbert Dollfuss. This transition reveals the importance of the state. Initially, few German speakers within the territory soon to be the republic of Austria wanted to have a separate republic. Indeed, Article 2 of the 1918 constitution stated explicitly that German Austria is part of the German republic. “This declaration of loyalty to a German identity and to the union with the German republic was common to all political persuasions.”59 But the Allies at Versailles sought to limit German expansion not endorse it, and so they insisted on the permanence of the Austrian state despite the wishes of the vast majority of its population. The state-society discontinuity therefore was present from the outset. With the rise of Hitler, pan-Germanism received a new impetus. Nazi sentiment or at least the desire for the longdelayed union with Germany was increasing rapidly. Germany now constituted a major threat to the future existence of the Austrian state, although certainly not its society. Because of the virtual absence of societal support, an Austrian military mobilization in response to this threat was out of the question. But Dollfuss by seizing power in 1933 could play the international card by enlisting the support of at least one great power in preventing the impending Anschluss. Thus, in March 1934, an alliance between Austria and Italy was signed. Mussolini had shown an early hostility to Hitler that Dollfuss felt he could draw upon in support of his position. Of course, it was unsuccessful, but here we see once again, as in the case of Czechoslovakia, the use of alliances as a source of international security, but this time very late in the day, and in support of the state instead of the nation. In contrast Page 108 →to Czechoslovakia, only by seizing power and effectively denying the wishes of the national majority could Dollfuss hope to perpetuate the existence of the Austrian state in alliance with Italy.
Competing Explanations Clearly, there are other possible sources of the difference in outcomes between the successful and unsuccessful democracies in table 1. Perhaps the most time-honored such explanation is that of economic development. Pioneered by scholars such as Lipset and Dahl,60 it has been found to be widely applicable, yet it does not provide as strong a distinction between successful and unsuccessful democracies as does state security. The values of real product per head given in table 1 are revealing. Austria, with the highest such value is an unsuccessful democracy, whereas Czechoslovakia and Finland, while successful, are substantially below Austria. Ireland demonstrates a value close to but below that of Austria. Despite the absence of comparable data for the Baltics in table 1, from different textual sources, Raun observes that “in 1927–1928, per capita income in Estonia lagged far behind Western Europe and much of Scandinavia, but the level was close to that in Finland and considerably higher than in Poland and Lithuania.”61 Specifically
targeting Latvia, Dreifelds tells us that “on the whole, Latvia’s achievements were on the level of those of Finland.”62 Thus economic development cannot differentiate between Finland’s success and two of the Baltic states that were unsuccessful democracies, while Austria, an unsuccessful democracy, had a higher per capita income than all three of the successful democracies. Even taking into account Przeworski and Limongi’s finding of the greater likelihood of democracy’s survival in wealthier states,63 it still does not explain the Austrian failure and the Finnish success in comparison with economic peer states. Neither does the worldwide depression help distinguish between the successful and unsuccessful democracies because it affected all European states.64 The civic culture or culture of democracy has been suggested by Putnam,65 among others, as a strong indicator of success in several areas, including democracy and economic development. Yet here too, countries with similar (although certainly not identical) democratic experiences have experienced different outcomes in retaining democracy. Austria, Czechoslovakia, and parts of Poland were all Page 109 →components of the AustroHungarian Empire with its tradition of elections to the Reichsrat, albeit under monarchic dominance. Austria itself actually had universal suffrage as of 1907. The Baltic states, Finland, and parts of Poland were components of the czarist empire with its then recent (1906) institution of the Duma, yet they also experienced different outcomes. In the case of Finland it may be argued that prior to the twentieth century and czarist attempts at Russification, Finland experienced considerable autonomy in the form of its Diet, but it was an archaic institution called “antiquated and unrepresentative,” and “more than two thirds of the Finnish people were without the vote at national or local level.”66 Moreover, when mass mobilization did begin in the first decade of the twentieth century, the fastest growing party was the Finnish Social Democrats, which had a distinctly revolutionary Marxist and antidemocratic tone.67 Indeed this party among others of the left provided a base for the Reds in their opposition to the Whites during the Finnish Civil War of 1918.68 During this civil war, the country was equally divided, and indeed the Reds could actually field a larger army than the Whites. The Red forces numbered one hundred thousand to one hundred forty thousand while the Whites mustered at most approximately seventy thousand. The death toll was about thirty thousand, or 1 percent of the population.69 This sort of polarization and civil strife is hardly the basis upon which to establish a stable democracy, but without a direct threat to its sovereignty for much of the interwar period, Finnish democracy could survive.70 Finally, we consider the role of identity conflicts in relation to democracy. As Horowitz suggests, democracy may suffer because of the existence of multiple identities within the polity.71 Yet here too, we see that such a potential rival explanation cuts across the successful and unsuccessful democracies. Austria was extremely homogeneous yet failed as a democracy, while Czechoslovakia was extraordinarily heterogeneous. Religion was a salient identity for largely Roman Catholic Ireland, but Ireland also had a significant Protestant minority. Heterogeneous Poland with large Ukrainian, Jewish, and German minorities failed as a democracy, but Finland with an 11 percent Swedish minority and Czechoslovakia with a 24 percent dissident German minority succeeded.72 Here too, then, the rival domestic explanation is not as compelling as the international security setting. Page 110 →
Conclusion Among the several possible causes of democracy’s success in Europe during the interwar period, the only one that consistently distinguishes between the successes and failures of new democracies is state security. From a realist perspective, this is not surprising, for security, as John Stuart Mill clearly saw, is primary. When democracies are threatened, especially if democracy has not yet been firmly embedded within the polity, it can be jettisoned in favor of a mobilizing leader. Why do these new democracies perceive themselves to be vulnerable? The answer appears to reside in the reality of their political environment. An especially disturbing element for these democracies is the tendency to be rechallenged after an initial crisis. As Grieco found, “controlling for a number of systemic-level factors, and regardless of how we operationalize those systemic factors, democratic defenders appear to be at a higher risk of being re-challenged after an initial crisis than nondemocratic defenders.”73 Although this pattern appeared more
strongly in the lower-intensity crises, it is still obviously a disturbing aspect of the environment of a new state. The number of new leaders or revolving door governments may be a particular source of that vulnerability.74 European new democracies during the interwar period were especially prone to that form of instability. Eliminating the potential source of that vulnerability, namely democracy, is a possible, even preferred, solution for states without long democratic experience. Thus, state security, a variable suggested by realist thought, is important in understanding the survival or demise of new democracies. A more complete understanding of the conditions surrounding the democratic peace, especially its perpetuation, depends very much on the international security setting of new democracies. And if a theory so emergent from liberalism and domestic politics can be subject to a realist analysis, then much of our theorizing in international relations should take into account the contributions of more than one paradigm as well as the domestic and international settings. Here is the syncretism necessary not only for understanding the workings of the democratic peace but also for the larger issue of resolving disputes over paradigm applicability. And if a syncretic approach can be successfully applied to a theory as important as the democratic peace, then it may be applicable to the larger issues of the “paradigm wars” as well. Page 111 →
Notes 1. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson, and Alastair Smith, “An Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace,” American Political Science Review 93 (December 1999): 791–807. 2. Manus I. Midlarsky, “Mature Theories, Second Order Properties, and Other Matters,” in What Do We Know about War? ed. John A. Vasquez (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), 329–34. 3. Robert Jervis, “Realism in the Study of World Politics,” International Organization 52 (autumn 1998): 972. 4. In an operational sense, a significant domain refers to a nontrivial percentage of the variance explained in a systematic quantitative analysis. But even more important can be the added inclusiveness and expansion of the theory achieved by incorporating elements of more than one paradigm and setting. 5. John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1861; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 103. 6. John Gray, “The Light of Other Minds,” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5054, February II, 2000, p. 12. It appears that Mill’s concern for human security is consistent with his overall desire to maximize happiness, as Kant’s peace between republics is consistent with his emphasis on rules, here expressed as rules of government. As a major moral philosopher put it, “Kant’s view of morality, then, is quite different from those of both Aristotle and Mill. Rather than basing it on the virtues, or on the maximization of happiness, Kant sees morality as constituted by certain rules.” Roger Crisp, editor’s introduction to Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill (1861; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 7; emphasis in original. 7. Although this certainly has been true in the development of international relations theory, analytically it does not have to be the case. A concern for security, a major property of realist thought, can emerge from the domestic environment. Armaments manufactured or procured by an autocratic government to maintain its security against domestic democratic opposition may trigger the security dilemma with neighboring countries that suspect the armaments are for international use. This problem would be especially severe in Third World environments where offensive and defensive weapons are not easily distinguishable from each other because of their relatively unsophisticated levels. To this extent, the two axes of realism-liberalism and domestic-international to be introduced in figures 1 through 3 can be considered to be orthogonal. 8. The place of national or state security at the heart of realism cannot be doubted. For developments of this concept in relation to realism see, for example, John H. Herz, “Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 2 (January 1950): 157–80; Robert Jervis, “Cooperation under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30 (January 1978): 167–213; Jack L. Snyder, “Perceptions of the Security
Dilemma in 1914,” in Psychology and Deterrence, ed. Robert Jervis, Richard N. Lebow, and Janice Gross Stein (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Page 112 →Press, 1985), 153–79; and Charles L. Glaser, “The Security Dilemma Revisited,” World Politics 50 (October 1997): 171–201. 9. Jeffrey W. Legro and Andrew Moravcsik, “Is Anybody Still a Realist?” International Security 24 (fall 1999): 5–55; John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 899–912. 10. Thomas J. Christensen and Jack L. Snyder, “Progressive Research on Degenerate Alliances,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 919–22; Colin Elman and Miriam F. Elman, “Lakatos and Neorealism: A Reply to Vasquez,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 923–26; Jervis, “Realism in the Study of World Politics”; John J. Mearsheimer, Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001); Randall L. Schweller, “New Realist Research on Alliances: Refining, Not Refuting, Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 927–30.; Stephen M. Walt, “The Progressive Power of Realism,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 931–35; and Kenneth N. Waltz, “Evaluating Theories,” American Political Science Review 91 (December 1997): 913–17. 11. Michael W. Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics,” American Political Science Review 80 (December 1986): 1151–69; Bruce M. Russett and Harvey Starr, “From Democratic Peace to Kantian Peace: Democracy and Conflict in the International System,” in Handbook of War Studies II, ed. Manus I. Midlarsky (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 93–128. 12. Joseph M. Grieco, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of Neoliberal Institutionalism,” International Organization 42 (summer 1988): 485–507; Ole R. Holsti, “Theories of International Relations and Foreign Policy: Realism and Its Challengers,” in Controversies in International Relations Theory: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge, ed. Charles W. Kegley Jr. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 35–65; Andrew Moravcsik, “Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics,” International Organization 51 (autumn 1997): 513–53. 13. Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987). 14. Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979). 15. Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). 16. Manus I. Midlarsky, “Environmental Influences on Democracy: Aridity, Warfare, and a Reversal of the Causal Arrow,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 39 (June 1995): 224–62; Joanne Gowa, “Democratic States and International Disputes,” International Organization 49 (summer 19951: 511–22; William R. Thompson, “Democracy and Peace: Putting the Cart Page 113 →before the Horse?” International Organization so (winter 1996): 141–74; Patrick James, Eric Solbert, and Murray Wolfson, “An Identified Systemic Model of the Democracy-Peace Nexus,” Defence and Peace Economics 10, no. 1 (1999): 1–37; Murray Wolfson, Patrick James, and Eric Solberg, “In a World of Cannibals Everyone Votes for War: Democracy and Peace Reconsidered,” in The Political Economy of War and Peace, ed. Murray Wolfson (Boston: Kluwer, 1998), 155–76. For debate on the precedence of democracy or peace, see John R. Oneal and Bruce Russett, “Comment: Why ‘An Identified Systemic Model of the Democracy-Peace Nexus’ Does Not Persuade,” Defence and Peace Economics 11, no. 2 (2000): 197–214; and Patrick James, Eric Solberg, and Murray Wolfson, “Democracy and Peace: Reply to Oneal and Russett,” Defence and Peace Economics 11, no. 2 (2000): 215–29. 17. A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Knopf, 1958). 18. Here we see a role for liberalism in understanding elements of the power transition; hence it is not positioned at the extreme right of the liberalism-realism continuum. It was economic liberalism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that was associated with the rise of industrialization, not initially as a base for the power transition but as a way of satisfying the human need for labor-saving devices and ultimately a more comfortable work environment. Only later when the industrialization process was well under way could there be the direct application to increasing force capability and the threats to other powers indicated in the power transition. Interestingly, the major challengers in the power transition have been challengers of the liberal economic order established by the British and French (challenger: Germany) and later by the United States and its allies (challenger: Soviet Union and perhaps now China). One may
interpret President Clinton’s policies toward China as efforts to incorporate China into that economic order as a means of avoiding another potential challenge. Although Kim found power transition theory to apply to alliances prior to the industrial period, this finding does not reflect on the domestic economic and political changes posited in the theory’s original formulation. See Kim Woosang, “Power Transitions and Great Power War from Westphalia to Waterloo,” World Politics 45 (October 1992): 153–72. 19. For example, A. F. K. Organski and Jacek Kugler, The War Ledger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). 20. Kim, “Power Transitions and Great Power War.” For a recent review of this literature, see Jacek Kugler and Douglas Lemke, “The Power Transition Research Program: Assessing Theoretical and Empirical Advances,” in Midlarsky, Handbook of War Studies II, 129–63. 21. A mobilizing leader here refers to a leader with the capacity for military mobilization, not social mobilization. Thus, present or former military leaders are probably the best candidates to usurp democratic authority. 22. Midlarsky, “Environmental Influences on Democracy”; Manus I. Midlarsky, “Democracy and Islam: Implications for Civilizational Conflict and the Democratic Peace,” International Studies Quarterly 42 (September 1998): 485–511; Manus I. Midlarsky, The Evolution of Inequality: War, Page 114 →State Survival, and Democracy in Comparative Perspective (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999). 23. The demise of Polish democracy in 1926 even after the victory over the Bolsheviks in 1920 might seem to belie this conclusion. Although it is a counterillustration, the Polish case suggests that if there is sufficient threat, as in two great powers simultaneously threatening Poland on her borders—Germany and the USSR—and with no strong allies in the vicinity, even prior success in war by a democracy may not be sufficient to prevent a military coup. For evidence on the positive effect of war on democratization, see Michael Mousseau and Yuhang Shi, “A Test for Reverse Causality in the Democratic Peace Relationship,” Journal of Peace Research 36 (November 1999): 639–63; and Sara M. Mitchell, Scott Gates, and Havard Hegre, “Evolution in Democracy–War Dynamics,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (December 1999): 771–92. 24. Richard Clogg, A Short History of Modern Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 179. 25. Yorgos A. Kourvetaris and Betty A. Dobratz, A Profile of Modem Greece in Search of Identity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), 112, emphasis added. 26. Erik Gartzke, “Kant We All Just Get Along? Opportunity, Willingness, and the Origins of the Democratic Peace,” American Journal of Political Science 42 (January 1998): 1–27; and Erik Gartzke, “Preferences and the Democratic Peace,” International Studies Quarterly 44 (June 2000): 191–212. 27. For comprehensive treatments of substitutability in foreign policy, see the special issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution 44 (February 2000) devoted to that subject. See also Benjamin A. Most and Harvey Starr, “International Relations Theory, Foreign Policy Substitutability, and ‘Nice’ Laws,” World Politics 36 (September 1984): 383–406. 28. The year 1934 was chosen because it is the last year prior to the recognition by the international community of Germany’s potentially growing military might. In 1935, for example, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed limiting German naval tonnage to 35 percent of the British, thus signaling efforts to contain and ultimately appease German expansionism. After this time, Germany’s military development proceeded apace leading to substantial changes in European and ultimately global international relations. Prior to this time, the European interstate system is without major discontinuities. See Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 5th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1973), 391. 29. For the domestic sources of Czechoslovak democracy, see Edward Táborsk, “The Roots of Czechoslovak Democracy,” in Czechoslovakia Past and Present, vol. 1, Political, International, Social, and Economic Aspects, ed. Miloslav Rechcigl Jr. (The Hague: Mouton, 1968), 117–23. 30. Thomas G. Masaryk, The Making of a State: Memories and Observations, 1914–1918 (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1927), 463. 31. Emil Ludwig, Defender of Democracy: Masaryk of Czechoslovakia (New York: McBride, 1936), 149. 32. Toivo U. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1987). Page 115 →33. Edvard Beneš,Masaryk’s Path and Legacy (New York: Arno Press and The New York
Times, 1971), 27, emphasis in original. 34. As Beneš stated, “On the one side, we were always at work in the interest of peace—ready to co-operate with our adversaries, to come to terms with them in a friendly manner and, where it was necessary, to make such concessions as occasion demanded to the defeated, so that they could be reconciled with the new international order. On the other side, we made all efforts to build up guarantees of collective security, and to strengthen the League of Nations, but at the same time, we prepared for defence in case of a conflict.” Edvard Beneš,Memoirs of Dr. Eduard Beneš: From Munich to New War and New Victory,trans. Godfrey Lias (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 3; See Piotr S. Wandycz, “Foreign Policy of Edvard Beneš, 1918–1938,” in A History of the Czechoslovak Republic: 1918–1948, ed. Victor S. Mamatey and Radomir Lua (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973), 216–38. 35. Ibid., 224. 36. Vra Olivová, The Doomed Democracy: Czechoslovakia in a Disrupted Europe, 1914–3 8, trans. George Theiner (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972), 145. 37. See Victor S. Mamatey, “The Development of Czechoslovak Democracy, 1920–193 8,” in Mamatey and Lua, A History of the Czechoslovak Republic, 9–166. One can ask why Czechoslovak democracy did not break down in 1938–39 when it was under extreme stress due to threats of German expansion. Two answers present themselves. First, the twenty-year period of democracy may have adequately socialized the Czechoslovak public in the democratic ethos. But likely far more important is the fact that Masaryk, the Czech president until 1935, had been the titular head of the Czech Legion in Siberia at the end of World War I that successfully fought its way across Russia against Bolshevik opposition. Further, later under Beneš, Czechoslovakia had two million men under arms. Its defense budget was more than one-third of the total government expenditure. Antonin Basch, “Economic and Financial Policy of Czechoslovakia, 1918–1938,” in Rechcigl Jr., Czechoslovakia Past and Present, vol. 1, 168. In other words, the democratic leadership had successfully mobilized the polity to face the eventuality of war. No replacement by an autocracy therefore was perceived to be necessary. 38. Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland, vol. 2,1795 to the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 421. 39. Piotr S. Wandycz, Polish Diplomacy, 1914–1945: Aims and Achievements (London: Orbis Books for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 1988), 8. 40. R. F. Leslie, Antony Polonsky, Jan M. Ciechanowski, and Z. A. Pelczynski, The History of Poland since 1863 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 161. 41. Ibid., 159. 42. For example, Davies, God’s Playground, 421. 43. Leslie et al., The History of Poland since 1863. 44. Wandycz, Polish Diplomacy, 1914–1945, 20. Also see Anna M. Cienciala and Titus Komarnicki, From Versailles to Locarno: Keys to Polish Page 116 →Foreign Policy, 1919–25 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984), 271. 45. Wandycz, Polish Diplomacy, 1914–1945, 18. 46. Quoted in Wandycz, “Foreign Policy of Edvard Beneš, 1918–1938,” 2,25. 47. Because of the 1921 Peace of Riga recognizing Polish borders, the Soviet Union had no formal claim on Polish territory. However, much of the territory in the East had Ukrainian majorities that had been conquered by Poland in the 1919–20 war with the Soviet Union. That territory was later incorporated into the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. 48. Alfonsas Eidintas, “The Nation Creates Its State,” in Lithuania in European Politics: The Years of the First Republic, 1918–1940, ed. Alfonsas Eidintas, Vytautas Zalys, Alfred E. Senn, and Edvardas Tuskenis (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), 53; and V. Stanley Vardys and Judith B. Sedaitis, Lithuania: The Rebel Nation (Boulder, Colo.: West-view, 1997), 36. 49. D. G. Kirby, Finland in the Twentieth Century (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979), 114. 50. Anatole G. Mazour, Finland: Between East and West (Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1956), 84. 51. Ibid., 87. 52. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians, 62. 53. Ibid., 123.
54. Juris Dreifelds, Latvia in Transition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 55. Kirby, Finland in the Twentieth Century, 111. 56. Tom Garvin, 1922: The Birth of Irish Democracy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 31. 57. Charles Townshend, “The First Peace Process,” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5049, January 7, 2000, p. 22. 58. Eunan O’Halpin, Defending Ireland: The Irish State and Its Enemies since 1922 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 59. Fritz Fellner, “Introduction: The Genesis of the Austrian Republic,” in Modern Austria, ed. Kurt Steiner, Fritz Fellner, and Hubert Feichtlbauer (Palo Alto, Calif.: Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, 1981), 9. Rendering a more contemporary view, “‘We convinced ourselves we’d won freedom by being the first victims,’ says Oscar Bronner, the publisher of Der Standard, a Vienna daily, ‘But we loved the German occupation. In fact, the real occupation here is widely seen as having ended in 1955, when the Allies left!’” Roger Cohen, “A Haider in Their Future,” New York Times Magazine, April 30, 2000, sec. 6, p. 57. 60. Seymour M. Lipset, “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review 53 (March 1959): 69–105; and Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971) 61. Raun, Estonia and the Estonians, 132. 62. Dreifelds, Latvia in Transition, 27. His source for this statement is broad-scale economic data (but not real product) for the Baltics and Finland. Page 117 →Juris Dreifelds, “Belorussia and the Baltic Republics,” in Economics of Soviet Regions, ed. I. S. Korpeckyj and Gertrude E. Schroeder (New York: Praeger, 1981), 364. 63. Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi, “Modernization: Theories and Facts,” World Politics 49 (October 1997): 155–83. 64. Other scholars also find the depression alone insufficient in explaining polity revival or collapse. See, for example, Ekkart Zimmermann and Thomas Saalfeld, “Economic and Political Reactions to the World Economic Crisis of the 1930s in Six European Countries,” International Studies Quarterly 32 (September 1988): 305–34. Czechoslovakia, an industrial state, was especially vulnerable to the great depression yet persisted as a democracy. Industrial exports, a key basis of economic productivity, were particularly hard hit by the slump in international trade. Zora P. Pryor, “Czechoslovak Economic Development in the Interwar Period,” in Mamatey and Lua, A History of the Czechoslovak Republic, 189, 204. 65. Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993). 66. Kirby, Finland in the Twentieth Century, 23. 67. Ibid., 19. 68. Eino Jutikkala, A History of Finland, trans. Paul Sjöblom (New York: Praeger, 1962). 69. Eric Solsten and Sandra W. Meditz, Finland: A Country Study (Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1990), 30. 70. As in the case of Czechoslovakia, one can ask why Finnish democracy survived the later threat of war that would ultimately become the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939–40. Here too, similar arguments are applicable, especially prior success in war as a democracy—the Finnish Civil War of 1918 involving Finnish nationalist Whites against Soviet-supported Reds. 71. Donald L. Horowitz, “Democracy in Divided Societies,” in Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Democracy, ed. Larry Diamond and Marc F. Planner (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 35–55. 72. John Coakley, “Independence Movements and National Minorities: Some Parallels in the European Experience,” European Journal for Political Research 8 (June 1980): 215–48. 73. Joseph M. Grieco, “Repetitive Military Challenges and Enduring Interstate Rivalries, 1918–1994” (paper presented at the annual convention of the International Studies Association, Los Angeles, Calif., March 2000), 19. 74. Ibid., 19.
This is a revised and expanded version of a paper prepared for the millennial reflections panel on realism held at the annual convention of the International Studies Association, Los Angeles, Calif., March 14–18, 2000. I am grateful to Joseph Grieco, Patrick fames, Jan Kubik, and James Ray for their insightful comments on the earlier version.
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SYSTEMISM AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Toward a Reassessment of Realism Patrick James I don’t think that anybody under the sun would deny the statement that if you could have a single theory that would comprehend both international and domestic, both political and economic matters, all in one theory, hey, that would be a lot better than a simple theory of international politics. However, nobody’s thought of how to do it. —Kenneth Waltz The vast majority of scholarship in international relations (and the social sciences for that matter) proceeds without conscious reflection on its philosophical bases or premises. —Thomas J. Bieisteker This essay introduces the important concept of systemism as an alternative to the extremes of holism and individualism as a point of departure for theorizing about international relations. Systemism means a commitment to understanding a system in terms of a comprehensive set of functional relationships. In the context of international relations, systemism allows for a full range of connections between and among international and domestic “matters” as articulated by Waltz in the first quotation at the outset of this essay.1 Thus the approach stands in opposition to either a “black box” or some form of reductionism, which result, respectively, from holism and individualism.2 As will become apparent from an assessment of realist theory, systemism also provides a coherent philosophical basis for scholarship, which gives it the potential to respond effectively Page 119 →to the problem identified by Biersteker in the second quotation from above.3 Why, it might be asked, is it appropriate to initiate yet another review of international relations by talking about realism? Perhaps further theorizing, whether grounded in systemism or anything else, ought to begin anew elsewhere. Realism, after all, is not without its ongoing problems. Recent reviews sum up realist theory as incomplete; lacking specificity, predictive power, and policy relevance; and out of touch with contemporary developments.4 These and other criticisms commonly are applied to both the system- and unit-oriented variants of realism, referring, respectively, to structural realism and “neotraditional” realism.5 While such critiques appear to be accurate at least to some degree, all have been put forward against, in the language of systemism, either holist or reductionist versions of realism. If systemism’s basic philosophical point is valid—namely, that a theory should be expressed in terms of a full range of linkages at the unit and system level—then realism is not at a stage where its potential can be evaluated with authority. In other words, until realism is articulated in a manner consistent with systemism, it remains premature to say that it should be discarded as a result of failings associated with one or more variants. Instead, the disappointing performance so far might be a product of individual theories being developed in either reductionist or holist terms as opposed to any fundamental problem with the realist worldview.6 Thus, summing things up to this point, realism is by far the most developed school of thought within international relations,7 so extraordinary “value added” may result from looking at its respective components through the new lens provided by systemism. Both theory and substantive insights could be recombined into a more effective foundation for further work. This analysis of realism and systemism, the two concepts fundamental to this essay, unfolds in several stages. The
first section provides a more detailed introduction to systemism. Second, implicit arguments for systemism are revealed within existing theoretical discussions of international relations. The third and fourth sections focus on the problems and prospects of structural realism and neotraditional realism, respectively, in the context of systemism. Fifth, some ideas are put forward for rearticulating and combining realist ideas within a systemist framework. The sixth and final section sums up the analysis. Page 120 →
Systemism, Theorizing, and Concept Formation Systemism is advocated by Bunge as a way of thinking about the world; in principle, it can be applied to any aspect of social life: The alternative to both individualism and holism is systemism, since it accounts for both individual and system and, in particular, for individual agency and social structure. Indeed, systemism postulates that everything is a system or a component of one. And it models every system as a triple (composition, environment, structure), or CES for short, so it encompasses the valid features of its rivals.8 From the standpoint of systemism, the choice between unit and system is, as Brecher might describe it, a “false dichotomy.”9 A useful theory must deal with both systems and units in some way. The question, of course, is how best to proceed. Figure 1 presents Bunge’s vision, based on systemism, of functional relations in a social system.10 It traces the full range of effects that might be encountered in any such system, which includes both macro- and microvariables. (Uppercase and lowercase letters refer to macro- and micro-level variables, respectively.) The logically possible connections are micro-micro (m-m), micro-macro (m-M), macro-macro (M-M), and macro-micro (M-m). The essence of systemism is to get away from holism, individualism, and other mind-sets that convey only part of the picture of a working system. Macrovariables may have impact upon each other, as in the case of X affecting Y, with the functional form—perhaps linear in some instances and more complex in others—represented by F. The same is true at the micro-level, as in the case of x affecting y through function ƒ. These linkages represent the limits of theorizing for holism and individualism, in that order. Systemism, by contrast, allows for both micro-micro and macro-macro connections. Furthermore, systemism recognizes that effects also can move across levels. Thus the macro-micro linkage of X to x through function g also appears in the figure, as does the micro-macro connection from y to Y on the basis of function h. Consider the incomplete pictures offered by individualism and holism in comparison with systemism. Individualism focuses on y = f(x), or microlevel processes. This specification is incomplete because it is possible for a causal chain to be traced further back and at a different level altogether. What about (a) the prior effect of X on x, expressed in terms of function g?; and (b) the direct impact of X on Y through function F? Each of these connections is left out of individualism, which cannot incorporate macrolevel processes into its unit-centered vision of the system.Page 121 → Figure 1. Functional relations in a social system. (From Mario Bunge, Finding Philosophy in Social Science [New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996). Holism, by contrast, begins at the macro level and stays there. It focuses on system properties alone and treats all else as a “black box.” The other processes already noted, which transmit effects from X to Y indirectly, are not incorporated into theorizing. Thus Y = F(X), a relationship based only on macrovariables, becomes the whole story. Systemism demands that a theory tell the full tale of units and systems. A theory that simply holds one type of linkage constant is inherently incomplete, unconvincing, and perhaps most important, unfalsifiable.11 Systemism
therefore provides guidance for ontology: the field of observation must include all four logically possible kinds of connections, from macro-macro at one extreme to micro-micro at the other.
Systemism and International Relations Arguments that favor movement toward systemism exist already, in implicit form, and have emerged from varying points of view about international relations. These are not explicit calls for systemism as a unifying approach or philosophical basis for international relations. Instead, some of the ideas put forward about both the shortcomings of existing theory and priorities for the future imply the value of various aspects included in systemism. Salient examples focus on (a) the need to theorize about both units and systems and (b) the range of linkages that must be explored to achieve a comprehensive understanding of international relations. Page 122 →Several recent studies, with diverse backgrounds in terms of subject matter and methods, reach the conclusion that more must be done to develop frameworks that include both units and systems. While more examples easily could be provided, those noted here are representative of current tendencies. Based on an assessment of great-power conflict and collaboration, Miller concludes that the unit level (i.e., states as actors) will be better at explaining outcomes that result from intended actions, while the system level (e.g., structure) will have the advantage in accounting for unintended outcomes.12 Examples of the latter include inadvertent wars in pre–World War I multipolarity, crisis patterns or tacit rules of the cold war era, and growing problems for crisis management in the current postbipolar era. In relatively encompassing terms, Freyberg-Inan calls for more actor-specific models to be incorporated in “general theories” of international relations,13 while Hall and Paul conclude that “order is both a systemic and a unit-level phenomenon.”14 And perhaps the most conspicuous assertion of this kind comes from Waltz, the creator of structural realism: “More needs to be said about the status and role of units in neorealist [i.e., structural realist] theory.”15 These and other recent discussions of units and systems fall short of citing systemism explicitly, but the preceding assertions are consistent with movement toward its frame of reference. Other studies take issue with holism and seem to approximate the language of systemism with regard to exploration of a wider range of linkages. Studies three decades apart can be used to introduce that point in more detail. Young deserves recognition for issuing a warning against “organismic analogies” in systemic analysis;16 in the language of systemism, this stands as a caution against assuming that any entity can be understood strictly in terms of macro-macro interactions. The point is made explicitly by Rosenau in summing up the contemporary international system: “It is not enough simply to assert that systemic processes at the macro level are sufficient to explain macro outcomes.”17 Thus, as Young and Rosenau point out, theorizing based exclusively on M-M connections cannot tell the whole story of international relations. Understanding of the need to consider hybrid connections also is evident; consider Solingen’s implicit endorsement of M-m linkages: “domestic politics are never removed from systemic incentives, and do respond to global restraints.”18 This way of thinking, in which factors from outside (inside) the state are seen as important to explaining Page 123 →what happens inside (outside) the state, is evident in recent treatments of globalization,19 management of security,20 and a wide range of other issues within the realm of international politics. Examples from each side of the macro-micro fence should be sufficient to reveal the negative implications of both individualism and holism for the development of international theory. Neotraditional and structural realism bring out two sides of the same fundamental problem. In each instance, it appears that only one of the four basic kinds of linkage—meaning M-M, m-m, M-m, and m-M—is developed in any systematic way. The others, if they appear at all, are relegated to passing references.
Structural Realism Structural realism as articulated by Waltz illustrates the problem of holism.21 In Theory of International Politics, Waltz links the structure of the international system, defined in terms of the number of great powers under
anarchy, with the propensity toward highly destructive war. The main contrast is between international systems with two versus three or more great powers; the former is preferred to the latter for reasons that Waltz sees as permanent and compelling, such as the relative simplicity of conflict management through spheres of influence.22 Thus, for Waltz, the key macrovariables are Yw, the warlikeness of the system, and Xw, the number of great powers defined by the categories of bipolar and multipolar. Yw is expected to be an increasing function of Xw. Waltz explicitly eschews all but this and a few other macro-macro linkages, asserting that structural realism claims to be a theory of international politics rather than foreign policy. Thus it includes neither micro-micro nor hybrid linkages.23 Structural realism’s other basic hypotheses also take the form of macro-macro linkages. Waltz asserts that, among states under anarchy, power balancing will take place and wars will recur.24 These propositions focus on patterns at the level of the system itself and do not suggest a path toward linkages beyond the M-M variety. Thus the complaints about realism alluded to earlier, some of which focused on lack of specificity, predictive power, and relevance to policy, become easy to understand after reviewing its principal system-oriented variant. Progress along the preceding dimensions would require the ability to generate a full range of linkages that include the unit level.25 Page 124 →
Neotraditional Realism Neotraditional realism, also referred to as neoclassical realism, represents one reaction to the perceived excesses of Waltz’s structural theory.26 Other than this rejection of holism, adherents of neotraditional realism probably have little fully in common, but they do seem committed to opening up the unit level for consideration along several fronts. New and reconstituted directions include traditional realist notions of power balancing (articulated in terms of concerns about relative gains)27 but also other ideas about the focal point of interstate competition. Prominent examples include balance of threat28 and balance of interests.29 Thus neotraditional realism might, on the surface, appear to be on a more dynamic and promising path than structural realism. All, however, is not as it ‘might appear with neotraditional realism. In brilliant and authoritative reviews, Vasquez shows that the diverse set of ideas about balancing creates a basic problem, namely, a lack of falsifiability for the realist paradigm as a whole.30 Vasquez concludes that realism is unscientific because virtually all observed behavior of states, including “bandwagoning” with superior power, seems consistent with one or more variants of the theory.31 Examples of this problem continue to accumulate; consider the following seemingly positive assessment of realist explanations for some major events in the last decade: “After the Cold War, U.S. security and economic strategy have diverged. Security strategy has been more consistent with the predictions of balanceof-threat theory, while economic strategy has followed more closely the expectations of balance-of-power theory.”32 In sum, if power, threat, or interests being balanced all are acceptable as evidence in favor of realism, then, one might ask, “How can it lose?” Systemism can help to put the preceding difficulty into a wider context that facilitates an improved approach. Pursuit of a full set of linkages, beyond the recently near-standard m-m specification, would have the potential to push neotraditional realism in the direction of falsifiability. Consider, for example, Walt’s treatment of balance of threat.33 While Walt claims that states will balance against the most serious threats as opposed to the mere aggregation of power, he sees the latter as being relevant to threat assessment. This might be restated, clarified, and linked to other variants of realism through use of language provided by systemism: anarchy produces a concern among Page 125 →states for balancing against threat, understood in terms of the distribution of power and interests, that is, an M-m connection. Ironically, this formulation already exists in the form of expected utility theory.34 Furthermore, unlike Walt’s treatment, expected utility is explicit about functional form, which from the standpoint of systemism puts it another step ahead of balance-of-threat theory. While it would be beyond the scope of this essay to delve into
expected utility in much greater detail, a brief description of the components from its basic equation related to war should make the preceding point. In words rather than symbols, for ease of exposition: Expected Utility of War (for state i versus potential enemy j) = (utility or value of winning for i) × (i’s probability of winning) + (utility or value of losing for i) × (i’s probability of losing) The formulas in use today in applied work on expected utility theory go far beyond the preceding simple presentation.35 However, even the rudimentary expression from above is sufficient to show that neotraditional realism could be strengthened by consulting expected utility theory, which works with the same concepts but offers an explicit functional form to bring them together. To be more exact, the value of winning, or utility, is assessed in terms of the interests at issue between states i and j. The probabilities of winning and losing are based on relative power between i and j. The overall expression for expected utility might even be conceived of, in Walt’s terminology, as the degree of threat posed by i to j (or, by reversing the way the expression reads, from j to i). Note that in this form, the concepts that currently find favor among neotraditional realists—interests, power, and threat—come together in a coherent functional form that even can be linked to the system level. In other words, efforts to maximize expected utility would derive from system imperatives created by anarchy, that is, an M-m linkage. While expected utility is not the only potential source for enhanced rigor and system-level connections, neotraditional realism would do well to review its need to improve falsifiability within the preceding context. Neotraditional realism and structural realism end up looking like two sides of the same coin. Each is self-limiting at this stage of development. Systemism points toward a way out of that problem. For international relations the implications of the preceding series of Page 126 →arguments are crucial with respect to building theories: the standard metaphor of puzzle solving encourages an inappropriate approach toward understanding a complex social system. While the idea of treating international relations (and especially the central problem of the causes of war) as a puzzle to be solved finds wide and seemingly expanding support,36 it appears misplaced from a systemist’s point of view. The problems that arise from puzzle solving as a point of departure derive from the path-dependence of theorizing and the fundamental difference this makes in what ultimately can be achieved. When solving a jigsaw puzzle, the choice of strategy’ and tactics will not affect the ultimate result of putting the pieces together; instead, some approaches simply will yield faster results than others. Therefore, unless time is limited or some kind of competition is involved, it does not matter where work begins. Some will start off by selecting pieces of either a particular color or perhaps those along the border of the puzzle and go from there, putting together different sectors in varying orders. It also will not matter whether “dyads” or larger subsets are used in searching for pieces that fit together. The end result, regardless of strategy or tactics, is the same in each instance: a full picture that is identical to all others of its kind. Systemism raises serious doubts about whether starting points and overall strategies and tactics for the study of international relations are analogous to those of puzzle solving. From the standpoint of systemism, the point of entry matters a great deal. A holistic theory, which includes only macro-macro connections, seems unlikely to result in an accurate representation. The “dead end” seemingly reached by structural realism appears to confirm that point. It is possible and even probable that an individualist theory, consisting strictly of micro-micro linkages, also will produce an incomplete and even distorted picture of international relations. This appears to have been the result obtained so far by neotraditional realism, which arose in reaction to structural realism’s perceived lack of potential for further growth. By comparison, a point of departure based on systemism necessarily builds in the need to confront all four types of logical connections between and within the micro and macro levels. It encourages, from the very beginning, comparative analysis of potential linkages of all kinds rather than a “false dichotomy”37 that favors one level over another at the outset and discourages or even closes off development of a more comprehensive theory. At this point there is merit Page 127 →in moving on to an initial illustration of how systemism can promote both imagination and greater consistency in application of the realist worldview to international relations.
Systemism and Realism One way to start building up realist theory in the context of systemism is to take propositions of the respective kinds (e.g., M-M, etc.) that have been posited in isolation from each other and search for logically consistent connections between and among them. An illustration of that process will be provided here, through a combination of ideas about dyadic relations and subsystems. Figure 1 shows a network of effects based on realist propositions.38(Variables in uppercase characters refer to the macro level; those in lowercase to the micro level.) The intended contribution of the figure is to take disparate statements, each of which is consistent by intuition with realism as a worldview, and link them together in a logically consistent way. Striving for such connections at the macro and micro levels generally has been absent so far in the individualism of neotraditional realism and the holism of structural realism. One of the specific connections that appears in the figure is derived from a recent study and sets in motion what will turn out to be a proliferating set of ideas about how the international system operates. To begin, one of the Mm connections in the figure, SUBSYSTEM COMPETITION→dyadic cooperation, is derived from Grieco’s analysis of the Maastricht Treaty.39 He draws attention to potentially troubling behavior from a realist point of view, namely, German participation in the European Monetary Union (EMU), which for various reasons would tend to contradict realist predictions about pursuit of relative gains.40 This apparent anomaly is explained as a result of Germany accepting restrictions on its influence in Europe in order for the European Community to balance in monetary affairs against Japan. Convincing as it might be, this hypothesis is completely ad hoc and stands as a further illustration of the point made by Vasquez about the nonfalsifiability of realism.41 When, in particular, would a leading state within a subsystem (e.g., Germany within contemporary Europe) be expected to sacrifice individual gains in the interest of subsystem competitiveness? The M-m linkage in figure 2 calls for this differentiation to be made explicit: namely, when is dyadic cooperation to be expected in response to extrasystemic pressures? Figure 2. A network of effects based on realism Page 128 →Assuming that conditions for validity of the above-noted connection can be identified, it is possible to move back up to the system level with the m-M connection shown, namely, dyadic cooperation→SUBSYSTEM VIABILITY. This connection derives, indirectly, from an idea popularized by Axelrod, namely, that networks of cooperating actors will find advantage when faced with external competition.42 (This linkage would appear to be implicit in Grieco’s analysis of German behavior in relation to the EMU.) The preceding linkage, in turn, might suggest the further M-M connections noted in the figure: SUBSYSTEM VIABILITY→SUBSYSTEM COMPETITION→BALANCE OF POWER→ANARCHY. The inducement of subsystem competition makes sense and suggests, perhaps, a balance of power between and among regions. With that in place, reinforcement of anarchy would be expected through interregional competition as opposed to cooperation or even integration. The interesting thing about the preceding sequence is that it becomes so easy to think of these connections once the macro and micro levels are opened up to each other. Consider the next possible step, which is M-m in nature: ANARCHY→dyadic competition, a connection that is developed elsewhere in Grieco’s realist expositions on political economy and security.43 This last connection, however, would seem to create complications for all that has gone before; the return to the micro level raises questions about contradictory forces. When, in particular, will the macro inducement toward dyadic cooperation be greater, equal, or less than the macro imperative toward dyadic competition? Realism is silent on such questions precisely because it has not previously been cast in terms of systemism. While the connections that appear in the figure are speculative and would need to be developed further in terms of functional form and empirical testing, these linkages are sufficient to suggest (a) the range of hidden assumptions lurking within existing realist hypotheses that focus exclusively Page 129 →on the macro or micro level and (b) the great potential of realism to assemble and test M-M, M-m, m-M, and m-m linkages that previously have been examined either in isolation or not at all.
Conclusions and New Directions This essay has reviewed unit- and system-level variants of realism in the context of systemism, a potentially unifying approach and philosophical foundation for international relations. A reassessment of structural realism and neotraditional realism finds that each is subject to a fundamental flaw—holism on the one hand and individualism on the other. A preliminary attempt to reconsider just one realist hypothesis in the context of systemism shows that existing treatments are highly self-limiting and that realism may have a vast, untapped potential. Further research should continue to seek an expanded range of M-M, M-m, m-M, and m-m connections, logically consistent with each other, in order to derive a more compelling judgment of what realism may yet have to offer the field of international relations.
Notes 1. Kenneth Waltz, quoted in Fred Halliday and Justin Rosenberg, “Interview with Ken Waltz,” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 379, emphasis in the original. 2. Mario Bunge, Finding Philosophy in Social Science (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996). 3. Thomas J. Biersteker, “Critical Reflections on Post-Positivism in International Relations,” International Studies Quarterly 33 (1989): 265. 4. Charles W. Kegley Jr., “The Neoliberal Challenge to Realist Theories of World Politics: An Introduction, ” in Controversies in International Relations Theory: Realism and the Neoliberal Challenge, ed. Charles W. Kegley Jr. (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995), 5–7; Richard W. Mansbach, “Neo-This and Neo-That: Or, ‘Play It Sam’ (Again and Again),” Mershon International Studies Review 40 (1996): 95. 5. John A. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs: An Appraisal of Neotraditional Research on Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (1997): 899–912; John A. Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics, 2d ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1998). 6. This essay will not explore the nuances among concepts that focus on how ideas are put forward in the social sciences. A range of such concepts, from specific to general—including hypothesis, theory, paradigm, ontology, and worldview—is developed in Rosenau and refined in James. The present discussion instead will focus on theories and theorizing as Page 130 →these concepts have been used (often loosely) by exponents and critics of realism in one form or another. See James N. Rosenau, Along the Domestic-Foieign Frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997); and Patrick James, International Relations and Scientific Progress: Structural Realism Reconsidered (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002). 7. Kenneth W. Thompson, Masters of International Thought: Major Twentieth-Century Theorists and the World Crisis (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980); Kenneth W. Thompson, Fathers of International Thought: The Legacy of Political Theory (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994); Torbjórn L. Knutsen, A History of International Relations Theory, 2d ed. (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1997I; George Liska, In Search of Poetry in the Politics of Power: Perspectives on Expanding Realism (New York: Lexington Books, 1998); Jack Donnelly, “Realism: Roots and Renewal,” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 399–405; Michael Mastanduno and Ethan B. Kapstein, “Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War,” in Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War, ed. Ethan B. Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). 8. Bunge, Finding Philosophy in Social Science, 264. 9. Michael Brecher, “International Studies in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Flawed Dichotomies, Synthesis, Cumulation,” International Studies Quarterly 43 (1999): 213–64. 10. Bunge, Finding Philosophy in Social Science, 149. 11. James, International Relations and Scientific Progress. 12. Benjamin Miller, When Opponents Cooperate: Great Power Conflict and Collaboration in World Politics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), 3, 166. 13. Annette Freyberg-Inan, “Human Nature in International Relations Theory: An Analysis and Critique of
Realist Assumptions about Motivation” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Washington, D.C., 1999), 52. 14. John A. Hall and T. V. Paul, “The State and the Future of World Politics,” in International Order and the Future of World Politics, ed. T. V. Paul and John A. Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 406. 15. Kenneth N. Waltz, “Realist Thought and Neorealist Theory,” in Kegley Jr., Controversies in International Relations Theory, 81. 16. Oran R. Young, A Systemic Approach to International Politics, Center of International Studies, Research Monograph no. 33 (Princeton, N.J.: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 1968), 24. 17. Rosenau, Along the Domestic-Foreign Frontier, 279. 18. Etel Solingen, Regional Orders at Century’s Dawn: Global and Domestic Influences on Grand Strategy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998), 54. 19. Ian Clark, Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 6. Page 131 →20. Marc V. Simon and Harvey Starr, “Two-Level Security Management and the Prospects for New Democracies: A Simulation Analysis,” International Studies Quarterly 44 (2000): 391–422. 21. Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979), 161–93. This point is ironic because Waltz is most effective in pointing out the problems associated with individualism, the polar opposite of holism, as a type of reductionism. The theory of imperialism is used at length by Waltz in Theory of International Politics as an example of the harmful side effects of unbridled reductionism with respect to theory construction. See Kenneth N. Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Response to my Critics,” in Neorealism and Its Critics, ed. Robert Keohane (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). 22. Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Stability of a Bipolar World,” Daedalus 93 (1964): 881–909; Waltz, Theory of International Politics. 23. The use of the terms micro and macro in the present essay is different than that of Waltz and should be made clear for further reference. In Theory of International Politics Waltz claims that structural realism is analogous to a “microeconomic theory” that “shows how the actions and interactions of the units form and affect the market and how the market in turn affects them” (110). By contrast, a “macrotheory is a theory about the national economy built on supply, income, and demand as systemwide aggregates.” The position that will be taken here, however, is that Waltz’s structural realism should be regarded as a macrotheory (i.e., holistic) because the causal relations on which it focuses pertain to entities at the level of the international system itself, namely, structure and overall propensity toward destructive conflict. The point of origin for this theory—an application of the microeconomic explanation of behavior among firms in an oligopolistic market—is a different issue. 24. See Waltz, Theory of International Politics; Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics”; Kenneth N. Waltz, “Realist Thought and Neorealist Theory,” in The Evolution of Theory in International Relations: Essays in Honor of William T. R. Fox, ed. Robert L. Rothstein (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991); Kenneth N. Waltz, “Evaluating Theories,” American Political Science Review 91 (1997): 913–17 25. Richard Little and Barry Buzan, “Reconceptualizing Anarchy: Structural Realism Meets World History, ” European Journal of International Relations 2 ( 1996): 405; Randall L. Schweller and David Priess, “A Tale of Two Realisms: Expanding the Institutions Debate,” Mershon International Studies Review 41 (1997): 24; Stefano Guzzini, Realism in International Relations and International Political Economy: The Continuing Story of a Death Foretold (London: Routledge, 1998), 132; K. J. Holsti, “Scholarship in an Era of Anxiety: The Study of International Politics During the Cold War,” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 21. 26. Jeffrey Legro and Andrew Moravcsik, “Is Anybody Still a Realist?” (Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1998). Page 132 →27. Joseph M. Grieco, “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation,” Journal of Politics 50 (1988): 600–24. 28. Stephen M. Walt, “The Progressive Power of Realism,” American Political Science Review 91 (1997):
931–35. 29. Randall L. Schweller, “New Realist Research on Alliances: Refining, Not Refuting, Waltz’s Balancing Proposition,” American Political Science Review 91 (1997): 927–30. 30. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs”; and Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics. 31. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs”; and Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics. 32. Michael Mastanduno, “A Realist View: Three Images of the Coming International Order,” in Paul and Hall, International Order and the Future of World Politics, 168. 33. Walt, “The Progressive Power of Realism,” 933. 34. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, The War Trap (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981); Patrick James, Crisis and War (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press 1988); Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman, War and Reason (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992). 35. Examples of applied research on expected utility are legion and appear regularly in virtually all of the major journals in international relations. This work is not cited by Walt, “The Progressive Power of Realism.” 36. Dina A. Zinnes, “Three Puzzles in Search of a Researcher: Presidential Address,” International Studies Quarterly 24 (1980): 315–42; Dina A. Zinnes, “Why War? Evidence on the Outbreak of International Conflict,” in Handbook of Political Conflict: Theory and Research, ed. Ted Robert Gurr (New York: Free Press, 1980); John A. Vasquez, The War Puzzle (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Randolph M. Siverson, “Thinking about Puzzles in the Study of International War,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 15 (1996): 113–32. 37. Brecher, “International Studies in the Twentieth Century and Beyond.” 38. This preliminary treatment does not specify a functional form for any of the connections included in the figure. For purposes of simplification, at this point each is assumed to be monotonically increasing. 39. Joseph M. Grieco, “The Maastricht Treaty, Economic and Monetary Union, and the Neo-Realist Research Programme,” Review of International Studies 21 (1995): 21–40. 40. Grieco, “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation”; Joseph M. Grieco, Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990). 41. Vasquez, “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs”; Vasquez, The Power of Power Politics. 42. Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984). 43. Grieco, “Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation”; Grieco, Cooperation among Nations.
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PROGRESS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Beyond Paradigms in the Study of Institutions David A. Lake Progress is hard to measure, especially in one’s own era. There is certainly no consensus on the general meaning of the term, even less so when applied to scholarly inquiry. Moreover, the implications of new ideas or concepts can take generations to become apparent. It is doubtful that many of the early experimenters with electricity envisioned the role harnessing that force would eventually play in modern life. Nor did Adam Smith, writing against the mercantilist orthodoxy of his day, expect economic theory to develop its axiomatic form or become the new orthodoxy two centuries later. As a subject, progress is as elusive as it is in reality. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile periodically to take stock of where scholarly inquiry stands, where it appears to have succeeded, where it has failed, and which directions appear most promising at a particular juncture in space and time. Well aware of the pitfalls that await, I attempt such a stock taking in this essay. I organize my reflections into three general questions. What is the nature of our enterprise and what should our standards be? Where has there been significant progress in the field in meeting these standards, and why? Why hasn’t there been more progress? I address these questions, first, for international relations as a whole and, second, for the study of international institutions. Page 136 →
Standards of Inquiry Our purpose as scholars is to increase understanding of world affairs, to help ourselves and others understand better how the world “works.” Policies for improving the world may or may not follow directly from an improved understanding. Knowledge may suggest changes that enhance human welfare, but it might just as well reveal innate characteristics immune from the interventions of even the most enlightened social engineer. Our goal, then, is not necessarily to improve the world—although, I repeat, this can be an important and valuable by-product of scholarly understanding—but to improve our knowledge of the world we inhabit and, in part, construct. Progress, in turn, can thus be defined as improved understanding at one of two levels: general explanations that fit a variety of phenomena and cases more accurately and particular explanations that apply to a small number of phenomena or cases more fully. There are many ways of understanding, including religious and ideological beliefs, empiricism, and the relationalism of postmodern theories. My preferred approach is that of scientific realism, in general, and the deductive method, in particular. This approach rests upon the explication of basic assumptions, the logical derivation of propositions from those assumptions, the deduction of observable implications, and the testing of implications through carefully designed quasi-experiments. The scientific method is not perfect, to be sure. Scientists have no monopoly on understanding. But the clarity of its procedures and the opportunity to prove arguments wrong make the scientific method superior, in my view, to the major alternatives. Given costly information and the limits of cognitive capacity, no one scholar can produce a complete body of theory and evidence. Active debate and contestation are a necessary part of what is inherently a collective enterprise. Through competition and repeated inquiry, the scientific community probes, refines, and elaborates insights that lie beyond the skills and imagination of any individual. Having clear procedures and standards of evaluation is essential, in turn, to progress. Given sufficient time and resources, scholars employing the scientific method can determine with some degree of objectivity whether assumptions 1, 2, . . . n produce proposition P, whether P implies hypothesis X→Y, and whether the empirical record supports this inference. Over time, inquiry may even approximate the best explanation, as theory gets closer and closer to the real world (but of
Page 137 →course never mirroring the real world, as this would then be description). No other method possesses the same potential for “objective” evaluation or, at least, consensus among the scholarly community.1
Areas of Progress There have been significant areas of progress in international relations. At the risk of slighting others, I will focus on two. We have greatly improved our understanding of trade policy. Employing what is sometimes called open economy politics (OEP),2 we now see clearly how domestic groups define their material interests with regard to their positions within the international economy and how those interests are aggregated by political institutions into national policies or, through interstate bargaining, into international outcomes. Peter Gourevitch’s now classic study of the first great depression was dismissed as “Marxist claptrap” when it was first submitted for publication, most likely because it assumed that groups pursue their material interests.3 Yet it laid the modern foundation for OEP. These insights were integrated with the pure theory of international trade by Ronald Rogowski, building on the Heckscher-Ohlin model and Stolper-Samuelson theorem (collectively, the HOS model), and Jeff Frieden, drawing on the Ricardo-Viner or specific factors model.4 Although the HOS and specific factors models were treated as alternatives that could be reconciled only over different time scales, Michael Hiscox has recently made the level of factor mobility a variable rather than an assumption, and thus is able to identify when one or the other model ought to apply; in doing so, he significantly improves the fit between theory and evidence.5 We now have a clear, deductive, synthetic, and empirically supported theory that produces nontrivial insights into how economic opportunities structure society, who lobbies for protection, and when they are likely to receive it.6 Cynics can, of course, dismiss this progress by snorting that Schattschneider said it all sixty-five years ago, but the father of pluralism at best described a general and relatively constant process that produced an extreme result at a particular moment in time—the Smoot-Hawley Tariff passed in the opening days of the Great Depression.7 He lacked an explanation for variations in trade policy outcomes. More important, current progress is tempered by significant theoretical anomalies. If we accept that political rhetoric is not entirely Page 138 →instrumental, then a remarkably large number of political leaders and their followers continue to believe that national welfare is enhanced by pursuing principles of competitive advantage rather than comparative advantage. Nor does the wave of liberalization that began in the 1980s seem to be driven by the near simultaneous victory of free traders around the globe.8 National policy still appears to be more than the sum of particularistic interests. Despite these limitations, however, substantial progress is evident. A second area of progress is the so-called democratic peace. This topic first gained prominence as a mix of philosophical inquiry and empirical evidence,9 but it has since generated a cottage industry of theorists, who have refined and extended Kant’s propositions into normative and institutional variants, and empiricists, who have developed measures and challenged findings. The state of the art continues to evolve here, but my reading of the growing literature is that (a) the finding that democracies do not fight one another is well-established; but (b) may be overdetermined, as most democracies during the cold war were on the same side of the bipolar divide;10 (c) there is some support for a normative theory of the democratic peace;11 but (d) the institutionalists have a betterspecified and more robust theory; that (e) generates a surprisingly large number of additional predictions that are also empirically supported.12 Although each of these steps is still debated, we now know substantially more about how differences in regime type affect the chances for war than we did even a decade ago. These two areas of progress have much in common, and a bit of intuition and casual empiricism combine to suggest that those commonalities may have a lot to do with the relative success of these research programs. First, both are disciplined by a strong empirical foundation. They begin with a real-world phenomenon—trade protection and war, respectively—over which there is broad agreement on the historical contours. There are numerous disputes over how best to measure the phenomenon at issue—nominal tariffs versus residuals from a gravity model of trade, war versus crisis—but analysts generally concur on the broad outlines of the targets at which they are shooting. Second, there is an emphasis on deductive rigor. Scholarly debate has forced analysts to clarify the assumptions
they make, revealing strengths and limitations, and to state propositions in clear and falsifiable ways, thereby making hypotheses amenable to empirical test. By working within the standards of scientific inquiry, scholarly Page 139 →interactions and cumulative knowledge are facilitated. Both can be seen as exemplars of the power of the scientific method in world politics. Finally, both literatures have drawn upon and integrated their analyses into broader bodies of theory. In the case of OEP, theorists have grounded their analyses in the pure theory of international trade and theories of collective action. In the democratic peace, effective use has been made of general theories of war, especially those stressing problems of asymmetric information,13 and theories of domestic institutions. Analysts do not reinvent the wheel each time they sit down at their computers. Rather, they extend and tailor theories developed for other purposes to the specifics of the question they seek to answer. In short, they are engaged in what is often disparagingly called normal science.
Impediments to Progress In contrast, many areas of international studies have made relatively little progress. All too often, research has not led to increased understanding but only to more debate and greater confusion. Although not an exhaustive list, I see three general and recurring problems in current research practices. First, we debate assumptions, not implications. In international relations, arguments commonly focus not on assessing the empirical power of theories but on the truth status of the assumptions upon which they are built. The so-called relative gains debate epitomizes this tendency. Joseph Grieco originally charged that by assuming states maximize absolute rather than relative gains, neoliberal institutionalists overpredict the level of cooperation within the international system.14 Without any metric for assessing the level of cooperation or clear deductions of exactly how much cooperation to expect under what circumstances, this was an unanswerable accusation. The debate quickly sank into charges that neoliberals thought cooperation was “too easy” and realists thought it was “too hard,” and the argument became more a test of faith about the world than about the world itself.15 In two important papers, Robert Powell and Duncan Snidal subsequently demonstrated that each approach could be generated as a special case of the other.16 Starting from neoliberal assumptions, Powell showed that if the cost of using force were sufficiently low, states would behave “as if” they were concerned with relative gains. Page 140 →Conversely, building on neorealist assumptions, Snidal showed that as the number of players increased, concerns for relative gains would rapidly dissipate and that in large-N situations states could do no better in maximizing their relative gains than to maximize their absolute gains. Both Powell and Snidal needed to make extra assumptions or impose additional “structure” on the theories to produce these results—and this is controversial—but it reflects more the incompleteness of neorealism and neoliberalism than any particular “agenda” these authors had in this clash. As I read it, the debate was then resolved with Grieco, for the neorealists, and Robert Keohane, for the neoliberals, essentially agreeing that it is an empirical question as to which of the two approaches might apply in any particular situation.17 Revealingly, scholars then immediately dropped this line of inquiry. No research of which I am aware has tried to test the empirical predictions that come out of the Powell and Snidal models. No one has taken up the challenge of identifying empirically the conditions under which one or the other perspective is more appropriate. Once the argument was reframed as an empirical question rather than a debate over first principles, scholars simply lost interest. An important lesson emerges from here. Paradigmatic debates are helpful in highlighting and clarifying assumptions. Without the provocation of Grieco’s neorealist critique, an important foundation of neoliberal theory might have remained implicit. Criticism forces all of us to be more clear and precise in our theoretical formulations. But all too often debates dissolve into tests of the truth status of our assumptions rather than tests of their empirical implications. This adds little to our collective understanding.18 Second, we work on separate islands of theory. This is a well-known problem, pointed out by Benjamin Most and
Harvey Starr more than fifteen years ago.19 Despite the attention devoted to more synthetic topics like “grand strategy” in recent years, the criticism remains accurate. Economic sanctions and war are treated in separate literatures, for example, even though both are tools used to coerce other states and thereby influence their behavior. The failure to build bridges between these separate islands and to conceptualize adequately the relevant policy alternatives has hobbled inquiry. Choice theory presumes that actors assess any single policy against the next best options,20 but we typically develop and test our theories only in absolute terms. Thus, we study whether or not countries form alliances, for instance, as if this were a simple Page 141 →dichotomous choice rather than the selection of one option from a range of alternatives. At various times, unilateralism, imperialism, and unification have all been understood as appropriate responses to external threats, as have appeasement and undermining the enemy’s own state or empire.21 The real question we ought to be asking, then, is why states ally rather than appease, arm, build empires, form voluntary confederations, or undermine opponents. The failure to specify relevant alternatives, in turn, produces significant selection bias. If we truncate the set of policy alternatives that we are trying to explain—say, studying only alliances rather than a range of alternatives—we systematically (and unwittingly) underestimate the effects of our independent variables. Elements like power disparities that we expect to be associated with the creation of alliances, and which simple extension suggests might have an even greater impact on strategies like appeasement, will appear to be less important and less significant than they really are. Conversely, if we truncate the set of policy alternatives when trying to estimate their effect on something else, we produce highly uncertain results. For instance, if we were to array a variable of, say, deterrence success along the vertical axis and actions of increasing hostility along the horizontal axis, a study of military mobilizations or crises alone would produce a stack of points clustered far from the origin, as “lower”-level or less threatening interactions were intentionally excluded and vertically dispersed, reflecting “natural error.” Nearly any line drawn through this stack of “mobilization” points would be as good as any other. As this is the design commonly employed in studies that seek to discern whether deterrence “works,” we can easily see why reasonable scholars continue to disagree over how to interpret the evidence!22 Selection bias either distorts our results or renders them more uncertain. What we look at—on which island we choose to conduct research—significantly influences what we see. Failing to conceptualize alternatives adequately, even those that we rarely observe in practice, significantly impedes progress. Third, we fail to operationalize out variables, especially our dependent variables. The problems in measuring “cooperation” were alluded to above but provide a particularly clear example of this impediment to progress. Robert Keohane’s quite reasonable definition of cooperation as mutual adjustment in policy is now widely accepted.23 Nonetheless, the concept of “adjustment” remains ambiguous, and there is no metric against which change can be measured. Page 142 →We expect there to be “more cooperation” in dilemmas of collaboration rather than coordination,24 but this is a deduction rather than a confirmed empirical finding. How much cooperation occurs? How has the level evolved over time? How does it vary across issue areas? Without answering such basic questions, most theories of cooperation simply cannot be tested. We need to devote more time and resources to developing operational definitions and collecting systematic data. The Correlates of War Project was criticized in its early years for failing to produce important research findings. The payoff to this enterprise, however, is now abundantly clear in the study of the democratic peace. None of the work cited earlier would have been possible without the empirical foundation laid by J. David Singer and his colleagues. Much the same could be said for the Polity data set developed by Ted Robert Gurr and his associates, now generally accepted as an appropriate (if still not perfect) set of measures of “regime type.” Ideally, measures should follow theory, not the other way around. There is something arbitrary, it is easily admitted, about one thousand battle deaths as the definition of war. But we have to start someplace. Just as wars were eventually scaled into the larger class of militarized interstate disputes, so other seemingly arbitrary
operationalizations may generate follow-on data sets. Building more systematic measures is a necessary but greatly undervalued activity.
Progress in the Study of International Institutions The study of international institutions, in my view, has enjoyed mixed success. There has been enormous progress, especially over the last half century.25 Compared with the descriptive summaries of the activities of international organizations in the 1950s and the behavioral analyses of the 1960s, we now have strong theories that explain the formation and maintenance of international institutions, and we have detailed studies of how and where they “matter.”26 We are now seeing a new generation of innovative midlevel theories designed to account for variations in legalization and institutional design.27 Reflecting this progress, institutionalism is now generally regarded as one of the major, mainstream approaches to the study of international politics. The sources of this success are two. First introduced by John Ruggie, extended by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, and the subject of a special issue of International Organization edited by Stephen Krasner, Page 143 →the concept of regime extended the range of what is regarded as an international institution, creating both a larger phenomenon to study and greater variation in the dependent variable used by scholars.28 This progressive “problem shift” in the study of international institutions mitigated—but, as I shall explain below, did not wholly eliminate—the second impediment discussed previously. In addition, international relationists productively drew upon emerging work elsewhere in the social sciences on the sources and roles of institutions, including that by economists Douglass North and Oliver Williamson and sociologist John Meyer.29 By doing so, international relationists were able to identify pitfalls, benefit from clear lines of debate in cognate fields, and move quickly up the learning curve. At the same time, institutionalism has failed to achieve the successes of OEP or the democratic peace, and it suffers in greater or lesser degree from nearly all of the impediments to progress noted previously. After a flowering in the early 1980s, institutionalism has not developed at the same pace, and it has failed to meet the high expectations of many of its proponents. Institutionalism is not, I want to emphasize, a failed research program. Far from it. But there remain grounds for considerable improvement. First, institutionalism lacks a ready operationalization of its key variable, whether regime or institution. Despite a seemingly clear consensus definition,30 one that most of us can recite in our sleep, there is no consistent agreement on what practically and empirically constitutes a regime. Most agree that formal organizations or agreements constitute regimes, but there is no agreement on how to “count” or “code” organizations. Is the World Trade Organization (WTO) one overarching regime on goods and services or is it a series of smaller and still incomplete regimes on tariffs, property rights, investment, and so on? Even though the concept was explicitly formulated to include informal agreements and persistent practices, the problem of operationalization is magnified for tacit regimes. Is the “nuclear taboo” a regime or not?31 Is there an “atrocities” regime?32 How would we know? The concept of institution—sometimes understood to be broader, the same, or narrower than a regime—suffers from the same ambiguities. More than any other factor, this lack of a clear, operational definition stymies further progress. Second, following from the problem of operationalization, institutionalism lacks an accepted empirical pattern or puzzle that motivates inquiry. By this, I do not mean that institutionalism lacks Page 144 →empirical content. There are many fine studies of how institutions arise, operate, and evolve. Rather, what I mean is that, absent an identified pattern of institutions across issue areas, time, regions, or some other relevant dimension, analysts do not know what it is they are seeking to explain. To date, institutionalists have concentrated on demonstrating that contrary to realism, institutions exist and play an influential role even within an anarchic and perhaps inhospitable international system. Given the intellectual hegemony of realism, this was an important and possibly necessary first step. But to demonstrate that institutions matter does not cumulate naturally into institutional variation that then needs to be explained. Scholars must still impose some analytic dimension on the set of cases and identify some consistent pattern, perhaps by issue area (are institutions more prevalent in trade than monetary affairs, economic than security relations?) or by type of institution (are some institutions “stronger,” more hierarchical,
more legalized than others?). In contrast, OEP largely agrees on its dimension of variation, openness to goods and factor movements across national borders, and on certain observable facts, especially variations in openness over time (more countries were more open in 1910 than in 1935, in 2000 than in 1960). The democratic peace is motivated by a single (if still contested) fact, namely that democracies do not fight each other. No similar empirical puzzle exists for institutionalism. We are just now beginning to see work that does pose dimensions of variation,33 but operationalization remains poor and patterns ambiguous. For further progress, it is essential that scholars agree on the relevant dimensions of institutional variation, develop operational indicators that capture this variation, and establish a pattern that they can then seek either to explain or to use to explain other phenomena. Third, although institutionalists have drawn productively on other literatures, as already noted, they have not expanded their horizons far enough, and in so doing have fallen into what Keohane and Martin call the “endogeneity trap.”34 Missing from the literature are the institutionalist models so prevalent in American politics and, to a lesser extent, in comparative politics.35 Institutionalism has revolutionized the study of American politics, shifting the emphasis from public opinion and the “imperial presidency,” on the one hand, to Congress and bureaucratic oversight, on the other.36 In highly simplified form, this approach assumes that politics is prone to cycling (whether due to collective preference intransitivities or multiple dimensions) and tends to produce Page 145 →multiple equilibria. Institutions, in turn, structure choice and “induce” one equilibrium from the many possible—in essence, determining which outcome we actually observe.37 In this way, institutions do most of the heavy lifting in explaining policy outcomes. William Riker famously criticized institutionalists for not recognizing that any instability in preferences would immediately translate into cycling over institutions.38 As institutions are endogenous, he pointed out, they cannot “solve” the problem of cycling. Institutionalists responded, quite correctly in my view, that institutions are embedded into larger social structures and reinforced by “vested interests” created by past polity choices. Thus, for many issues and policies, institutions can reasonably be treated as exogenous and theorists can proceed to examine how and why they influence politics without falling prey to the question that so bedevils international relationists—“do institutions matter?”39 International relationists have avoided this line of reasoning, I believe, because we too readily assume that institutions are weak, transient, and therefore part of the “game.” If institutions are always both a product and producer of political choices, it will be difficult—perhaps impossible—to show that they exert an independent effect, which was exactly Riker’s point. International relationists fail to take the next step, however, and examine the degree to which institutions are embedded in larger social structures and therefore are more “fixed.” After fifty years, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization rules and norms have had a tremendous effect on the pattern of private investment in economies around the world. As tariffs have fallen and markets opened, uncompetitive industries have been purged, export sectors have grown, and multinational corporations dependent upon the free movement of goods, services, and capital have flourished. Thousands of private investment decisions are made every day premised on the belief that trade will remain open. These decisions, in turn, create and reinforce “vested interests” in the preservation of this international institution. The situation here is not substantially different than that in other, highly constitutionalized areas of politics. The way out of the endogeneity trap is not by searching for the independent effects of institutions but by demonstrating how deeply embedded they are in the social structure of world politics. Finally, international relationists have adopted an overnarrow conception of institutions. Focusing only on “anarchic” institutions composed of sovereign states and based on the principle of sovereign Page 146 →equality, like NATO or the United Nations, they have ignored the broader range of institutions that have existed historically and, as I have tried to show elsewhere,40 continue to exist today. In anticipation of the Versailles peace conference and the difficult problems of constructing new states in Eastern Europe and dividing Germany’s overseas empire among the victors, President Woodrow Wilson impaneled a study group known as The Inquiry to prepare background papers on many topics. One volume, a comprehensive study of Types of Restricted Sovereignty and of Colonial Autonomy, identified ten categories of polities ranging from semisovereign states to administered provinces.41 Covering several hundred years of international history, this volume describes a range of increasingly hierarchical international institutions—a set now virtually forgotten in studies of international relations. Similar
forms persist today, although norms of formal sovereignty make it politically incorrect to call such hierarchies by their traditional names—as witnessed by the unwillingness of the Western powers to acknowledge the de facto mandate they exercise over Kosovo. But from the United States’ de jure protectorate over Micronesia to its de facto protectorate over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Russia’s protectorates and informal colonies in the former Soviet Union, hierarchies abound in international politics.42 This variance in institutional form could and should be profitably exploited. The failure to allow for and examine more hierarchical institutions not only ignores important dimensions of real world politics but—as highlighted previously—creates selection bias in our studies of institutions. As with alliances, truncating the variation in institutions as a dependent variable underestimates the effect of independent or causal variables, implying that those factors that affect international institutions are more significant than past studies have revealed. Transaction costs, informational asymmetries, the need for credibility, and other variables that institutionalists have used to explain institutions may be more important than they themselves recognize.43 Limiting variation in institutions as an independent variable, in turn, makes our estimate of their effects more uncertain. Implicit in most studies is a comparison of anarchic institutions, which may be common internationally, and hierarchic institutions, which are often presumed to characterize domestic political systems.44 The real question for international relationists is not whether international institutions matter in an absolute sense but how much and in what Page 147 →ways they matter relative to the supposedly more established and effective institutions of domestic politics. As with the case of deterrence failures, if one were to plot points for institutions of increasing hierarchy on the x-axis, thereby capturing this comparison, and “effectiveness” on the y-axis, the research design most commonly employed in international relations would produce a stack of points near the “anarchic” origin, with some vertical dispersion reflecting natural variation in effectiveness; with no further observations at other values of the x-axis, almost any regression line drawn through this stack of points would be just as valid as any other, thus preventing us from determining whether international institutions matter a little, a lot, or not at all. Given this research design, it is not surprising that reasonable scholars have been able to read the record of institutional effectiveness very differently.45 In short, by truncating variation in institutions, international relationists forfeit much-needed leverage over their subject. By extending the continuum of institutions to include hierarchies we gain a better understanding of institutions both as products of political choices and as producers of political outcomes.
The Way Forward The study of international institutions needs to become the study of governance. Governance is a generic problem of all polities and can be defined as the design, construction, and maintenance of mechanisms to reach collective decisions and to enforce agreed-upon bargains.46 The WTO, International Monetary Fund, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are all “anarchic” institutions that govern relations between states, just as protectorates, confederations (like the European Union), and even the state itself are hierarchic institutions that govern relations between polities. The conceptual shift from institution—a human product that we often seek to explain—to governance, the function that institutions are designed to fulfill, naturally enlarges the purview of international relations and shifts attention to the question of why certain institutions and not others are chosen under what circumstances. Focusing on governance is no guarantee against artificially truncating the range of variations in institutions, but it makes unintentional selection bias less likely. Perhaps more important, a focus on governance endogenizes the state—that primordial institution of modern politics. The nature of Page 148 →the state, its forms and functions, its size and shape, all become properly part of the study of international institutions. Moreover, the question of why some governance functions are assigned to or appropriated by states while others are either settled cooperatively by mutual agreements between states or allocated to private actors—like nongovernmental organizations or multinational corporations—or supranational organizations becomes a central concern. By making the shift to governance, the study of institutions will be
Conclusion International relations has a long history of paradigmatic contests. Indeed, much of the history of our field can be defined in terms of its “great debates.”47 As I suggested, these contests have performed a useful role. But they also produce or at least exacerbate the problems just identified. Paradigm warriors are particularly prone to argue about the truth status of assumptions, to defend islands at the core of their approach rather than build bridges to those occupied by others, and to neglect research design in hopes of scoring debating points. In the continuing debate with neorealists on whether institutions “matter,” institutionalists have continued in this not-so-grand tradition. We are stuck in a convention trap, where however much we may individually abhor some of the standards and practices in our field we are nonetheless compelled to perpetuate them for our own success and that of our graduate students.48 Who hasn’t sniffed at the work of a colleague as being merely “normal science”? Who hasn’t reviewed an article and concluded that it is quite solid but not sufficiently innovative to warrant publication in a top journal? Who hasn’t counseled a promising graduate student to be bold and provocative rather than solid and empirical? And yes, despite the complaints developed in this paper, I teach the introductory graduate course in international relations as a series of paradigmatic clashes, spending a week or more on each of the various “isms” that populate our field. A necessary step in changing conventions is to expose the insidious side effects of current practices. Evidence of a possible realignment of priorities is already under way in the nature of the “training” we now expect advanced graduate students to receive. But more needs to be done. We must insist that scholars ask interesting empirical Page 149 →questions. We must ensure that normal science has a prominent place in our journals. We must encourage scholars who seek only to debunk received wisdom or to add incrementally to our understanding of world affairs. We must reward scholars who contribute the years necessary to define concepts systematically, code cases, and build data sets. And we should continuously ask paradigm warriors the important question “What have you helped us understand lately?”
Notes 1. A colleague once asked a postmodern theorist of international relations how he would evaluate two works on the same topic. If he had to decide which was better, how would he choose? After a brief pause, the theorist replied that he would prefer the one that revealed the most hidden power. My colleague was too polite to ask the obvious follow-up: how would he know this result? 2. The label is from Robert H. Bates, Open-Economy Politics: The Political Economy of the World Coffee Trade (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997). 3. Peter A. Gourevitch, “International Trade, Domestic Coalitions, and Liberty: Comparative Responses to the Crisis of 1876-1896,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 8, no. 2 (1977): 281–313. Personal communication, summarizing the reviews received when the paper was submitted to a leading journal of international political economy. 4. Ronald Rogowski, Commerce and Coalitions: How Trade Affects Domestic Political Alignments (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989); Jeffry A. Frieden, Debt, Development, and Democracy: Modern Political Economy and Latin America, 1965–1985 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991). Work parallel to that of Gourevitch, Rogowski, and Frieden was occurring in economics under the heading of “endogenous tariff theory.” See Stephen P. Magee, William A. Brock, and Leslie Young, Black Hole Tariffs and Endogenous Policy Theory: Political Economy in General Equilibrium (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 5. Michael Hiscox, “Class versus Industry Cleavages: Inter-Industry Factor Mobility and the Politics of Trade,” International Organization 55, no. 1 (2001): 1–46. 6. OEP has also proven superior to the next best alternative. Although I think the theory of hegemonic stability was dismissed prematurely (see David A. Lake, “Leadership, Hegemony, and the International
Economy: Naked Emperor or Tattered Monarch with Potential?” International Studies Quarterly 37, no. 4 [1993): 459–89), I admit that OEP clearly provides a better explanation for the cross-sectional pattern of protection we observe than this systemic alternative. Even on comparative grounds, OEP constitutes a better theory. Page 150 →7. E. E. Schattschneider, Politics, Pressures, and the Tariff (New York: Prentice Hall, 1935). 8. Beth Simmons and Zachery Elkins, “Globalization and Policy Diffusion: Explaining Three Decades of Liberalization” (paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 2000). 9. Michael W. Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics,” American Political Science Review 80, no. 4 (1986): 1161–69. 10. Henry S. Farber and Joanne Gowa, “Politics and Peace,” International Security 20, no. 2 (1995): 147–84. 11. Zeev Maoz and Bruce Russett, “Normative and Structural Causes of Peace, 1946–1986,” American Political Science Review 87, no. 3 (1993): 624–38. 12. See Bruce Bueno de Mesquita et al., “An Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace,” American Political Science Review 94, no. 4 (1999): 791; and Kenneth A. Schultz, “Do Democratic Institutions Constrain or Inform? Contrasting Two Institutional Perspectives on Democracy and War,” International Organization 53, no. 2 (1999): 233–66. 13. James D. Fearon, “Rational Approaches for War,” International Organization 49, no. 3 (1995): 379–414. 14. Joseph M. Grieco, “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism,” International Organization 42, no. 3 (1988): 485–507. 15. John Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19, no. 3 (1994–95): esp. 19–20. 16. Robert Powell, “Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory,” American Political Science Review 85, no. 4 (1991): 1303–20; Duncan Snidal, “Relative Gains and the Pattern of International Cooperation,” American Political Science Review 85, no. 3 (1991): 701–26. 17. Joseph M. Grieco, “Understanding the Problem of International Cooperation: The Limits of Neoliberal Institutionalism and the Future of Realist Theory,” in Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate, ed. David A. Baldwin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993); Robert O. Keohane, “Institutional Theory and the Realist Challenge after the Cold War,” in ibid. 18. There is, of course, a postmodern critique that our discourse itself shapes the world in which we live, but this raises a deeper set of issues than I want to dwell on in this essay. 19. Benjamin A. Most and Harvey Starr, “International Relations Theory, Foreign Policy Substitutability, and ‘Nice’ Laws,” World Politics 36, no. 3 U984): 383–406. 20. David A. Baldwin, Economic Statecraft (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985). 21. See David A. Lake, Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in its Century (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999); Robert P. Hager Jr. and David A. Lake, “Balancing Empires: Competitive Decolonization in International Politics,” Security Studies 9, no. 3 (2000): 108–48. Page 151 →22. Christopher H. Achen and Duncan Snidal, “Rational Deterrence Theory and Comparative Case Studies,” World Politics 41, no 2 (1989): 143–69. 23. Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), 51–54. 24. Arthur A. Stein, “Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World,” in International Regimes, ed. Stephen D. Krasner (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983). 25. Lisa L. Martin and Beth Simmons, “Theories and Empirical Studies of International Institutions,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (1998): 729–57. 26. For the former see Keohane, After Hegemony. For the latter see Lisa L. Martin, Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992); Ronald Mitchell, Intentional Oil Pollution at Sea: Environmental Pollution and Treaty Compliance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994). 27. For the former see Judith Goldstein et al., Legalization and World Politics, special issue of International Organization 54, no. 3 (2000). For the latter see Barbara Koremenos, Charles Lipson, and Duncan Snidal,
The Rational Design of International Institutions, special issue of International Organization 55, no. 4 (2001). 28. John G. Ruggie, “International Responses to Technology: Concepts and Trends,” International Organization 29, no. 3 (1975): 557–83; Robert O. Keohane and Joseph P. Nye Jr., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977); Krasner, International Regimes. 29. Douglass C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History (New York: Norton, 1981); Oliver E. Williamson, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism (New York: Free Press, 1985); John W. Meyer, “The World Polity and the Authority of the Nation-State,” in Studies of the Modern World-System, ed. A. Bergesen (New York: Academic Press, 1980). 30. Krasner, International Regimes, 2. 31. Nina Tannenwald, “The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of Nuclear NonUse,” International Organization 53, no. 3 (1999): 433–68. 32. Christopher Rudolph, “Constructing an Atrocities Regime,” International Organization 55, no. 3 (2001): 655–91. 33. Goldstein et al., Legalization and World Politics; Koremenos, Lipson, and Snidal, The Rational Design of International Institutions. 34. Robert O. Keohane and Lisa L. Martin, “Institutional Theory as a Research Program,” in Progress in International Relations Theory: A Critical Assessment and Application of Imre Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programs, ed. Colin and Miriam Elman (forthcoming). 35. An important exception is Lisa L. Martin, Democratic Commitments: Legislatures and International Cooperation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000). 36. See Gary W. Cox and Mathew D. McCubbins, Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House (Berkeley: University of California Press, Page 152 →1993) and D. Roderick Kiewiet and Mathew D. McCubbins, The Logic of Delegation: Congressional Parties and the Appropriations Process (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991) for examples. 37. Kenneth Shepsle, “Institutional Arrangements and Equilibrium in Multidimensional Voting Models,” American Journal of Political Science 23, no. 1 (1979): 27–59. 38. William H. Riker, “Implications from the Disequilibrium of Majority Rule for the Study of Institutions,” American Political Science Review 74, no. 2 (1980): 432–46. 39. On endogenizing institutions in international relations, see Peter A. Gourevitch, “The Governance Problem in International Relations,” in Strategic Choice and International Relations, ed. David A. Lake and Robert Powell (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999). 40. Lake, Entangling Relations. 41. W. W. Willoughby and C. G. Fenwick, The Inquiry Handbooks, vol. 16 (originally published as Types of Restricted Sovereignty and of Colonial Autonomy, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1919; reprint, Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1974). 42. For the former see Lake, Entangling Relations, 147–48 and ch. 6. For the latter see Kathleen Hancock, “Specific Assets and White Knights: Explaining Ukraine’s Success in Escaping Russia’s Grasp” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Slavic Studies, Denver, Colo., November 2000). 43. Most importantly, this selection bias has led analysts to largely ignore what I have elsewhere called “governance costs.” See Lake, Entangling Relations. 44. Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979), 81–93; alternatively Helen Milner, “The Assumption of Anarchy in International Relations Theory: A Critique,” Review of International Studies 17, no. 1 (1991): 67–85. 45. Although the “problem” of institutional effectiveness has not previously been formulated in precisely this manner, recognizing it helps explain the focus of many institutionalists on the European Union. As the most hierarchical of the contemporary and voluntarily negotiated institutions, it provides crucial analytic leverage on the question of institutional effectiveness. Yet it is only one additional data point, and it may well be an outlier on which we would be well advised not to place much credence. 46. Miles Kahler and David A. Lake, “Globalization and Governance” (paper presented to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 2000).
47. Peter A. Katzenstein, Robert O. Keohane, and Stephen D. Krasner, “International Organization and the Study of World Politics,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (1998): 645–85. 48. For examples of such convention traps, see Gerry Mackie’s chilling discussion of footbinding and infibulation. Gerry Mackie, “Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account,” American Sociological Review 61, no. 6 (1996): 999–1017.
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INSTITUTIONAL THEORY IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Robert O. Keohane Joseph S. Nye has discussed our joint work on “transnational relations and interdependence” in his paper for this volume. We accordingly agreed that I would focus on my own work on institutional theory and cooperation, exemplified most clearly in my After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy,1 and subsequent work by myself and others. These lines of work are closely related. Our joint analysis of asymmetrical interdependence and power, and “complex interdependence,” describes the context of contemporary world politics within which my institutional theory is set. Furthermore, some of the key elements of that institutional theory appear in our book Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition, especially in chapter 3.2 Indeed, our jointly developed “international organization model of regime change” provided the basis for my subsequent analysis of institutions. In this model, “networks, norms and institutions are independent factors for explaining regime change.”3 Like Joseph Nye, I have long been dissatisfied with realism but unwilling simply to jettison its insights, particularly the powerful understanding of international structure and its constraining effects developed by Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics.4 The institutional theory that I have played a role in creating shares with realism that it takes actors and preferences over outcomes as given. It is therefore, as both students of comparative foreign policy and constructivists Page 154 →have emphasized, incomplete. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic that after the battles between institutional theory and realism of the 1980s and 1990s, they now seem to have much in common—particularly this limitation of beginning with already-constituted actors, having exogenously determined preferences over outcomes. It is important to note that although preferences over outcomes are exogenously determined, strategies are not. One of the key claims of neorealism is that strategies depend on the distribution of power. Institutional theory accepts this point but adds that strategies are also affected by the institutional configuration, which affects transaction costs of collective action, and by information conditions. I find it useful to think of long end-means chains. At the base are fundamental preferences—“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or maybe happiness itself. Strategies that are means to more fundamental goals are themselves ends with respect to strategies meant to achieve them. National power, for instance, is not an end in itself, except for megalomaniacs, but a means to other goals. If we define what we mean by national power, we can speak coherently of it as a goal or interest; but we need to be aware that it is not, properly speaking, a preference over an outcome. In this short paper, I will sketch what I view as some of the accomplishments of institutional theory and some of the challenges that it faces. Many of my points reflect joint work—notably with Joe Nye and Lisa Martin.5 My criteria for evaluation of theoretical insights are essentially an adaptation from the insights of Imre Lakatos,6 although I recognize that his work does not provide precise guidelines. Really good new explanatory theories predict “new facts” either previously unrecognized or at least not seen as relevant to the issues on which the theory focuses. Examples include the orbit of Mercury for Einstein; iridium in the earth’s crust for the dinosaur extinction theory of Alvarez and Alvarez; and underproduction of collective goods for Mancur Olson’s theory of collective action. Descriptive interpretations (sometimes called “theories”) identify new phenomena and put them into a coherent context of what Clifford Geertz referred to as “thick description.”7 When the phenomena are important and the interpretation illuminating, such thick description is an important contribution, even when explanation is lacking. Institutional theory accepts three basic realist assumptions: (1) states are the primary actors in world politics; (2) they can be analyzed as if they were rational; and (3) they are not altruistic but, Page 155 →rather, are broadly “self-interested.” However, neorealism assumes that information, although important, is a constant: information is
scarce and of low quality, forcing states to lean toward worst-case scenarios in selecting strategies. In stark contrast, institutional theory treats information as a variable that can be affected by human actions and that is embedded in institutions. Furthermore, states have interests in creating and using institutions to improve the quality of information—both what they receive and the credibility of what they send. States therefore construct institutions in an attempt not only to reduce transaction costs but to improve the information environment, thus enabling them to overcome some of the dilemmas and defensive stances identified by realism. Let me say here that I never claimed that institutions were “efficient.” “Egoism” and “empathy” appear in the index to After Hegemony, but “efficiency” does not. Institutional theory argues that the members of an international regime seek gains for themselves, which they can often only achieve through agreements with others. But it emphatically does not claim that institutions will be efficient, in either of two senses: 1. Even for members of an institution, informational asymmetries and transaction costs will keep participants away from the Pareto frontier. 2. Even if the members were to build institutions that were efficient for themselves, there is no reason to believe that those institutions would be socially efficient. Indeed, if other potential members were excluded, there is every reason to believe that they might suffer as a result of the institutions. This theory made some correct predictions, notably that international organizations should engage heavily in monitoring state behavior. Enforcement should remain decentralized, as realism expects, while monitoring, through more or less elaborate procedures, should be extensive. These predictions seemed to hold up not only in areas of international political economy, for which they were first devised, but also for environmental issues and even with respect to security institutions.8 The application of institutional theory to real situations has helped to illuminate how international regimes operate: there has been real progress in the subfield. We have done rather well at extending institutional theory to other issue areas (trade, environment, Page 156 →human rights). The field has been pretty good at recognizing new trends—“complex interdependence,” increases in nongovernmental organizations and their networks, transgovernmental relations, the information revolution, globalization—which Joe Nye discusses in his paper. We have developed new categories and taxonomies to make sense of the otherwise bewildering changes that we observe. We think about Nye’s “soft power”9 as well as “hard power,” and we are alert to how institutions can change information and strategies; the field is certainly not trapped in the old realists’ limited frame. Indeed, it seems to me that students of world politics have been pretty good at keeping what is helpful about realism and discarding some of the encrusted doctrine. These accomplishments have been significant and on the whole independent of the “great debates” involving realism, various forms of liberalism, and constructivism. These macroperspectives are not mutually incompatible in any case: the issue is how to use them to promote good analysis of world politics, not to score points or to trumpet the triumph of one paradigm over others. Yet there are good reasons to be self-critical. The most general point is that we have been better at extending our descriptions to new issue areas, and incorporating new trends into them, than we have been at improving the explanatory power of our theories. That is, our record is better at description, and even descriptive inference, than at explanation. The irony here is that institutional theory’s much-criticized limitations should have been a source of scientific strength. Having eschewed the study of the origin of state preferences, institutional theory has sought to use game theory and other techniques to understand strategy and bargaining within international institutions, particularly among states. Admittedly, we have too often been distracted into defending these self-imposed limitations against other macroapproaches—in the “interparadigm debates.” Yet even when we focus on the stripped-down essentials, deliberately ignoring the sources of “state preferences,” our progress has been slow. Let me list a few salient problems: 1. Distributive issues have been recognized as important, but institutional theory has been slow to integrate them into its analysis. Recent progress has been made here,10 but it has taken the form of identifying the issues more
clearly and has not yet yielded a conditional theory specifying the effects of distributive conflict on cooperation. Page 157 →2. We have been slow to develop systematic databases of institutions, which could be used for sophisticated quantitative work. Oran Young and his colleagues, and recently Ronald Mitchell, have started projects designed to construct such databases. It is difficult work, since so many of the relevant questions require extensive knowledge and sound judgment to answer; this is not a matter simply of extracting data from statistical volumes or tapes. 3. Methodologically, we face the usual problem of strategic interaction: rarely are there unique equilibrium solutions. Since international institutions are characterized by multiple actors and audiences, the range of possible outcomes is enormous. Interactions and feedback effects are pervasive, so the simple logic of explanatory and dependent variables only takes us a small part of the way. Even if we had better data, therefore, it would be quite difficult to go beyond identifying causal mechanisms and describing the frequency of different patterns to a genuinely conditional analysis of strategies. 4. In particular, there is a serious problem of endogeneity embedded in institutional theory itself. Institutional theory acknowledges that institutional configurations reflect underlying power structures—Nye and I made this point in chapter 3 of Power and Interdependence. Yet we institutionalists also believe that institutions have an independent impact on strategies and outcomes. Theoretically, one response to this “endogeneity critique” is to show that theories of agency and delegation are consistent with both horns of the dilemma: that structural conditions matter, but so do the actions of agents.11 Methodologically, however, the issue is more difficult: it is very tricky to disentangle the effects of underlying structure from the effects of institutions. We cannot control for structure while varying institutions, given that institutions are endogenous to structure. This, it seems to me, is a crucial problem that needs to be solved—I expect, through a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches—before we will be able scientifically to establish the effects of international institutions on world politics. I suspect that we will make progress on these issues during the next decades only if we are tolerant both of separation and synthesis. Separation of specific tasks from broader theoretical questions is essential for scientific progress: disciplines from physics to paleontology, from biology to economics, have shown that decomposing problems into subparts (even artificially) is essential to scientific progress. It is quite conceivable that solutions to issues of strategic interaction or endogeneity in institutional theory will come from Page 158 →basic scientific discoveries in other fields that seem at first esoteric and irrelevant. Game theory, agent-based simulations, mathematical explorations of path-dependence, and high-powered quantitative methodology may all come to our rescue, someday, in ways that we cannot now imagine. Original innovations in these areas should be encouraged even by those of us who barely understand them—at least as long as their proponents (if not their theoretical innovators) seek to show how they could be relevant to real-world institutional issues. It would, however, be mistaken to aim so exclusively for science that we fail at our task of interpretation and description. Change in world politics is coming rapidly, from many directions. Journalists, activists, and officials often lack even basic social scientific skills of qualitative inference. Many of them know very little history and are not very reflective by nature. Even if they are, they do not have time for extensive reflection. Describing contemporary world politics in a coherent way is too important to be left to the journalists and the advocates. Our students expect it of us; and the public needs it, whether it knows it or not. Scientists making basic discoveries in game theory or methodology do not supply this essential interpretative discussion. The aspiring scientists among us—those most ambitious for the development of cumulative bodies of intersubjectively testable knowledge—should be made humble by recognizing that during the last several decades, they have had less impact on how decision makers see events, or how they have acted, than their colleagues who employ looser forms of interpretation. Neither intellectual quality nor relevance lies only on one side of the ledger. Intellectual progress requires both arrogance and humility. One has to be somewhat arrogant to believe one can make an original contribution in a field so complex, riddled with uncertainty, and littered with the remains of failed theories and research programs. But to get very far, we need also to be humble—to recognize our own
limitations, the strengths of other perspectives, and the need for synthesis as well as separation. We are better at being arrogant than being humble, so it is more important to work at the latter!
Notes 1. Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). Page 159 →2. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition, 3d ed. (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 2000). 3. Ibid., 54. 4. Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979). 5. Robert O. Keohane and Lisa L. Martin, “Institutional Theory as a Research Program” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta, August 1999). 6. Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs,” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970). 7. Clifford Geertz, An Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973). 8. Helga Haftendorn, Robert O. Keohane, and Celeste A. Wallander, Imperfect Unions: Security Institutions over Time and Space (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 9. Joseph S. Nye Jr., Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 1990). 10. James D. Fearon, “Bargaining, Enforcement, and International Cooperation,” International Organization 52, no. 2 (1998): 269–306. 11. Keohane and Martin, “Institutional Theory as a Research Program.”
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TRANSNATIONAL RELATIONS, INTERDEPENDENCE, AND GLOBALIZATION Joseph S. Nye Jr. When I was a graduate student, I took a course taught by Hans J. Morgenthau. I was impressed by the power of the realist model and remain so. When I was in a policy position and responsible for reconstructing American alliance relations in East Asia, I relied heavily on realism.1 In my textbook Understanding International Conflicts, I insist that students begin by understanding the realist model before they turn to liberal and constructivist theories.2 But even in the early 1960s, I was equally impressed by the notion that realism captured only part of what was important in world politics. Ideas, institutions, and economic interdependence were left out, and I wanted to know more about them. As I pursued fieldwork on my thesis on Pan-Africanism and East African integration, I found the theoretical work of Ernst Haas enormously helpful.3 While the regional integration theory that was developed by Haas, Deutsch, Lindberg, Puchala, Scheingold, Schmitter, and others over the course of a decade outstripped the realities of regional integration,4 it was a healthy antidote to the single-mindedness of the realist model, and it laid the basis for future work on transnational relations, interdependence, and many of the themes now stressed by constructivist writers. Haas has been unduly harsh in his evaluation of his legacy.5 In the early 1960s, International Organization, the premier journal in the field of international institutions, tended to have a restricted and traditional view of the field. Toward the end of the decade, Page 161 →the board of editors decided that it needed to add younger members with a new perspective, among whom Robert O. Keohane and I were included. At our first board meeting, we joined forces to plead for more attention to transnational relations and interdependence, and in 1971 we produced a special issue of the journal devoted to those topics.6 Subsequently, Keohane became editor and I became chair of the board, and the journal began to develop the broader approach to international institutions (which we sometimes called “small i, small o”) that characterizes it today. Keohane and I also began collaboration on a number of articles and our book Power and Interdependence, published in 1977. Much of the basic work was done while we were both at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, where we benefited enormously from colleagues such as Stanley Hoffmann, Samuel Huntington, Stephen Krasner, and other critics. Above all, we profited from the stimulus provided by Raymond Vernon, whose book on the multinational corporation, Sovereignty at Bay, was a pioneering work.7 We began working on the ideas in our book at a time when economic interdependence was gaining prominence. Events such as the collapse of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system and the Arab oil embargo made daily headlines. Even a classic realist like Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, began to include interdependence in his speeches. Hans Morgenthau called the transfer of wealth to OPEC historically unprecedented. Some enthusiasts proclaimed the end of the nation-state; others predicted a new international economic order of many OPECs dominated by the rising South of the globe. The hyperbole did not help the cause of analysis of interdependence, and although we pointed that out at the time, many readers categorized our work as a rejection of realism. As headlines and foundation grants shifted back to traditional security concerns in the 1980s, many realists breathed a sigh of relief. In 1989, in the preface to the second edition of our book, Keohane and I observed how theories of international relations are susceptible to the influence of current events. We noted the revival of realism during the 1980s “little cold war,” and how different the political climate was from the decade in which the book was written. Nonetheless, we argued that the perspectives on interdependence were still relevant. At the beginning of a new century and millennium, many aspects of world politics resemble the politics of the 1970s more than those of the 1980s, but it would be as much a mistake to discard the insights of realism today as it was to ignore insights of Page 162 →liberalism in the 1980s. The consistent theme of our argument has been to combine the two great theoretical traditions.
In the 1980s, my work focused on ethical and policy problems that grew out of my experience managing nuclear nonproliferation policy in the Carter administration. Later, I turned my attention to the fallacies of the popular declinist theories and tried to provide a framework for understanding the future of America’s hard and soft power. Keohane focused his work on developing a neoliberal case for institutions based on the rational actor framework that neorealists themselves use, and that is the subject of his reflection paper in this symposium.8 The 1980s debate between neorealists and neoliberals greatly increased the simplicity and elegance of theory, but in my view it did so at the cost of discarding much of the rich complexity of the classic theories. Although their approach lacks theoretical elegance, I welcome the corrective provided by constructivists. I tend to agree with Miles Kahler that “by the end of the 1980s, the theoretical contest that might have been was reduced to relatively narrow disagreements within one state-centric rationalist model of international relations.”9 In that context, and with globalization becoming a new buzzword, Keohane and I began working on a third edition of Power and Interdependence. Of course, the world today bears only a superficial resemblance to that of the 1970s. An information revolution is strongly affecting the relations of states, economies, and civil societies in the world. Rapid technological advances in computers, communications, and the Internet have led to dramatic decreases in the cost of information. It is generally agreed that we are still in the early stages of the information revolution. Nonetheless, the effects of the information revolution are already significant. Nongovernmental actors can organize transnationally around various issues at very low transaction costs, blurring the distinction between domestic and international politics. Many of these new organizations are more like networks than bureaucratic hierarchies.10 If one envisions social space comprising markets, governments, and civil societies, all three sectors are affected, as well as the relations between them. Markets are becoming more global and corporate structures more like networks. In civil societies, new forms of transnational community and identity are developing that cut across traditional geographical jurisdictions. At the same time, the form and functions of government are changing in relation to the economy and society, resulting in less centralized states. While the Westphalian Page 163 →system of sovereign states is still the dominant pattern in international relations, one can begin to discern a pattern of cross-cutting communities and governance that bears some resemblance to the situation before 1648. Of course the information revolution is not the only powerful trend undermining the Westphalian system. Globalization and marketization also have powerful effects. Both are related to the information revolution, but they also have independent roots. Globalism is networks of interdependence at multicontinental distances.11 It is not new, and its economic dimensions grew greatly in the nineteenth century before being disrupted by World War I and the Great Depression. The recent wave of globalization goes back to American strategy after World War II and the desire to create an open international economy to forestall another depression and to contain communism. The institutional framework and political pressures for opening markets were a product of American policy, but they were reinforced by developments in the technology of transportation and communications that made it increasingly costly for states to turn away from global market forces. With the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolizing the demise of the bipolar political barriers, the pace of globalization has accelerated. Marketization is related to globalization but also has independent roots in shifting domestic political coalitions in leading capitalist states, the inflation that followed the oil crises of the 1970s, the failure of the planned economies, and the development of new financial instruments. Power has diffused from governments to markets in such critical functions as maintaining the value of the currency, choosing the form of the economy, taxation, providing infrastructure, countercyclical policy, and protection from crime.12 In the United States, the growth of government’s share of gross national product has tapered off at roughly a third. Even in Western Europe, where government accounts for nearly half of GNP in many countries, market forces have become more powerful and many public corporations have been privatized. In Eastern Europe and less developed countries—sometimes categorized as emerging markets—the change has been even more dramatic. Like globalization, the development of markets was also strongly affected by the information revolution. At a macro level, the failure of the Soviet planned economy to respond adequately to the information revolution led to the collapse of Soviet power and the end of bipolarity. At the micro level, information is central to effective markets, Page 164 →and the growth and diffusion of information has lowered transaction costs and made all types
of contracting much easier. Thus the information revolution is not the sole cause of the current changes in international relations, but it has accentuated other causes as well as produced its own independent effects. Some of these changes were already discernible when we wrote Power and Interdependence. As we said then, “Jet aircraft have brought Asia and America within a day’s journey from each other. Synchronous orbit satellites have brought the costs of intercontinental phone calls into the same range as intercity calls. Picture-phone transmission and intercontinental computer communications promise to continue to shrink many of the costly barriers imposed by distance.” And we described the views of those we called “modernists,” who “see telecommunications and jet travel as creating a ‘global village’” and believe that “the territorial state, which has been dominant in world politics for the four centuries since feudal times ended, is being eclipsed by nonterritorial actors such as multinational corporations, transnational social movements, and international organizations.” We were careful, however, not to associate ourselves solely with the modernists. Instead, we sought to integrate the new dimensions of interdependence with the traditional realist model based on the distribution of power among states. We showed how asymmetrical interdependence, particularly in trade, provided a form of power that states could use in very traditional ways. However, we also invented an ideal type of politics that we called “complex interdependence” that would result from reversing the assumptions of the traditional realist model. Contrary to the expectations of some theorists, the information revolution has not greatly decentralized or equalized power among states.13 If anything, thus far it has had the opposite effect. But what about reducing the role of governments and the power of all states? Here the changes are more interesting. In the second chapter of Power and Interdependence, we asked what the world would look like if one reversed the three critical assumptions of the realist model that had previously dominated most portrayals of international politics. Doing so led us to posit an ideal type called complex interdependence with three conditions: (1) a minor role for military force, (2) absence of hierarchy among issues, and (3) multiple channels of contact among societies. To what extent has the world moved in a direction that approximates those conditions? Page 165 →There was great variation among regions and across issues that we studied in the 1970s. Force and hierarchy of issues were of minor significance in the relations between the United States and Canada, or between France and Germany, but of crucial significance in the U.S.-Soviet relationship or among the states of the Middle East. The biggest change since the 1970s has been the end of the cold war and of the Soviet Union. With the demise of the bipolar world, the structure of world power has become like a three-dimensional chess game, with a military board marked by unipolarity, an economic board that is multipolar, and a transnational board that has a dispersed structure of power. It would be a mistake to argue that the world has changed from geopolitics to geoeconomics as did some commentators in the early 1990s. The end of the cold war removed one set of military-related tensions but left some in place, as in the Middle East, and allowed others to emerge in the domestic violence of failed states in the Balkans and Africa. Even in East Asia, the scene of rapid economic growth, pre-cold war rivalries maintain the relevance of military force. It is interesting (and consistent with what we wrote about the indirect role of force in reducing insecurity) that contrary to early post–cold war predictions, NATO remains popular in Western and Central Europe, and the American military presence is welcome in most of East Asia. All markets occur within a political framework. To ignore the role of military security in an era of economic growth is like forgetting the importance of oxygen to our breathing. Even in some areas of high economic wealth, realist assumptions about the importance of military force still have considerable relevance. If the approximation of complex interdependence is less than some have predicted in regard to the realist assumptions about the role of military force and hierarchy of issues, it is certainly much greater in the third assumption relating to multiple channels of contact among societies. Here is the real change, and it brings us back to our work on transnational and transgovernmental politics. We see an order of magnitude shift as a result of the Internet. When we wrote in the 1970s, transnational contacts were growing, but the people involved were relatively small numbers of elites involved in multinational corporations, scientific groups, and academic institutions.14 Now the Internet is creating low costs of transnational communications for many millions of
people. The number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) increased from six thousand to twenty-six thousand in the 1990s, and some fifteen hundred NGOs used the Page 166 →Internet to coordinate their Seattle protest in 1999.15 Mixed coalitions of NGOs, some governments, and celebrity figures successfully pressed for a treaty banning landmines. Not only is there a great increase in the number of transnational and transgovernmental contacts compared with what we described two decades ago, but there has been a change in type. Earlier transnational flows were heavily controlled by large bureaucratic organizations, like multinational corporations or the Catholic Church, that could profit from economies of scale. Such organizations remain important, but the lower costs have now opened the field to loosely structured network organizations and even to individuals. These NGOs and networks are particularly effective in penetrating states without regard to borders and using domestic constituencies for agenda setting.16 Interactivity at low cost allows for the development of new virtual communities. While still in their infancy, transnational virtual communities are likely to grow and more complex identities and loyalties to develop. Whatever the future effects of interactivity and virtual communities, one political effect of increased information flows through multiple channels is already clear: states have lost much of their control over information about their own societies. Geographical communities still matter most, but governments will lose some of the “nontariff barriers” to information flow that protected officials from outside scrutiny. Rather than constituting an irrelevant ideal type, one of the assumptions of complex interdependence is rapidly becoming realistic enough to affect power resources that even hard-nosed realists must take into account (though many won’t). This unlocks a rich agenda for research on globalization and governance. Contrary to some prophetic views, the nation-state is not about to be replaced as the primary instrument of domestic and global governance. There is an extensive literature on the effects of globalism on domestic governance that reaches more nuanced conclusions.17 Instead, the nation-state is being supplemented by other actors—private and third sector—in a more complex geography. The nation-state is the most important actor on the stage of global politics, but it is not the only important actor. If one divides the three sectors of social and political space in terms of three levels of activity, one obtains a nine-cell matrix, pictured in table 1. More governance activities will occur outside the box represented by national capitals of nation-states. James Rosenau’s essay in the related Millennial Reflections volume on “Critical Perspectives in International Studies” makes a similar point. Page 167 →Table 1. The Diffusion of Governance in the Twentyfirst Century Private Governmental Third Sector Transnational Intergovernmental Nongovernmental Supranational corporations organizations organizations Central (national National Firms Nonprofits capitals) Subnational Local Local Local Not only is the geography of governance more complex, but so are its modalities at all three levels. As Lawrence Lessig argues, governance can be accomplished by law, norms, markets, and architecture.18 Taking a local example, one can slow traffic through a neighborhood by enforcing speed limits, posting “children at play” signs, charging for access, or building speed bumps in the roads. Lessig describes an Internet world in which governance is shifting from law made by governments to architecture created by companies. “Effective regulation then shifts from lawmakers to code writers.”19 At the same time, private firms press governments for favorable legal regimes both domestically and internationally, as do actors from the third sector. The result is not the obsolescence of the nation-state but its transformation and the creation of politics in new contested spaces. Many writers in discussing the governance of globalism use what Hedley Bull referred to as the “domestic analogy.”20 It is commonplace for people to think of global governance as global government, because the
domestic analogy is so familiar. Just as the nationalization of the American economy in the nineteenth century led to the nationalization of American government in the Progressive era, so globalization of the world economy should lead to world government. But the structure of federalism already existed in the United States, and it rested on a common language and political culture. (And even that did not prevent a bloody civil war in the middle of the century.) Another example is the United Nations World Development Report, which portrays global governance in terms of strengthening UN institutions. It calls, for example, for a bicameral General Assembly, an investment trust that will redistribute the proceeds of taxes on global transactions, and a global central bank.21 But it is state structures, and the loyalty of people to particular states, that enable states Page 168 →to create connections among themselves, handle issues of interdependence, and resist amalgamation, even if it might seem justified on purely functional grounds. Hence, world government seems highly unlikely, at least in the absence of an overwhelming global threat that could only be dealt with in a unified way. In the absence of such a threat, it seems highly unlikely that peoples in some two hundred states will be willing to act on the domestic analogy for well into this century. Although world government seems unfeasible, one cannot be complacent about the effects of globalization without some coherent means of governance. Karl Polanyi made a powerful argument that the inability of polities to cope with the disruptive effects of nineteenth-century globalization helped cause the great disturbances of the twentieth century—communism and fascism.22 Without regulation—or what was traditionally known as “protection”—personal insecurity for many individuals can become intolerable. As Polanyi put it, “to allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment . . . would result in the demolition of society.”23 If world government is not feasible and laissez-faire is a recipe for a backlash, scholars of international institutions need to search for an intermediate solution: a set of practices for governance that improve coordination and create safety valves for political and social pressures, consistent with the maintenance of nation-states as the fundamental form of political organization. Such arrangements will involve a heterogeneous array of agents—from the private sector and the third sector as well as from governments. And the governmental agents will not necessarily be operating on orders from the “top levels” of governments. The efficacy of these agents will depend on the networks in which they are embedded and their positions in those networks. And no hierarchy is likely to be acceptable or effective in governing networks. Keohane and I refer very generally to the governance structures we envisage as “networked democracies.” Networked—because globalism is best characterized as networked rather than as a set of hierarchies. Democracies—because governance at the global level will be legitimate only if it does not supersede democratic national governance and if its intrusions into the autonomy of states and communities are clearly justified in terms of cooperative results. To speak of “networked democracies” is, of course, not to solve the problems of global governance but merely to point toward a generic Page 169 →response to them. In particular, such a phrase begs the question of accountability, which is crucial to democratic legitimacy. Democracy is government by the people. In simplified form, this has meant the majority of the people (albeit with protections for individuals and minorities in liberal democracies). Historically, democracy has meant government by the majority of the people who regard themselves as a political community. The key question for global governance is who are “we the people” when there is no sense of political identity and community, and the political world is organized largely around a system of unequal states. In thinking about legitimacy, it may be helpful to separate the inputs and outputs of democratic government. On the input side, elections determine ruling majorities. But what are the boundaries of the relevant electoral constituencies in which votes are held? If the moral claim for democracy rests on the worth and equality of individuals, then a basic rule is one person, one vote. One state, one vote is not democratic because a Maldive Islander would have one thousand times the voting power of a citizen of China. A cosmopolitan view, however, that treats the globe as one constituency implies the existence of a political community in which citizens of 198
states would be willing to be continually outvoted by a billion Chinese and a billion Indians. As Pippa Norris has shown, there is no evidence that national identities are changing in a manner that would make that feasible for a long time to come.24 In the absence of such a community, the extension of domestic voting practices to the world scale would make little normative sense, even if it were feasible. Most meaningful voting, and associated democratic political activities, occurs within the boundaries of nation-states that have democratic constitutions and processes. Minorities are willing to acquiesce to a majority in which they may not participate directly because they feel they participate in some larger community. This is clearly absent at the global level and creates severe normative as well as practical problems for the input side of global democracy.25 At the same time, voting is not the only feature of the input side of democratic government. Many democratic theorists would argue that people should have a voice on issues that have important effects on their lives, and that voice is raised frequently in the long intervals between elections. The mechanisms stretch from polls to protests. The boundaries for this type of input are less clearly defined than in electoral constituencies. Page 170 →In a well-functioning domestic democracy, popular politics and the organization of interest groups lead directly to legislation and to the implementation of such legislation. These connections are lacking at the international level. Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) that make binding rules often lack the democratic legitimacy that comes from having transparent procedures, institutional arrangements that facilitate accountability, and activities by politicians seeking reelection by appealing to publics. At the same time, the private and NGO sectors that agitate political issues internationally do not have any greater claim to democratic legitimacy. Despite their claims to represent civil society, they tend to be self-selected and often unrepresentative elites. The disjunction between international arrangements facilitating such public involvement and multilateral cooperation on binding decisions leads to disputes over legitimacy and dangers of stalemate in intergovernmental institutions. This suggests the need for a more appropriate measure for judging democratic legitimacy than the so-called democratic deficit based on the domestic analogy. The development of appropriate normative theory for judging global institutions will be an important part of the agenda for scholars in this field.26 It is unlikely that the literature based on the European Union with its close links to the domestic analogy is appropriate for global institutions for reasons already given. Nor will new theories based on the potential for direct voting in cyberdemocracy be sufficient. One can imagine technology enabling the world to engage in frequent plebiscites that collect the votes of vast numbers of people interested in an issue. But it is more difficult to envisage the effective processes of deliberation in the absence of community that would make such voting meaningful in a normative sense. With time, such obstacles may be overcome and practices gradually develop, but that is not imminent. In the interim it will be important to develop more modest normative principles and practices to enhance transparency and accountability not only of IGOs but of corporations and NGOs that constitute global governance today. For example, increased transparency is important to accountability, but transparency need not be instantaneous or complete—witness the delayed release of Federal Reserve Board hearings or the details of Supreme Court deliberations. Similarly, accountability has many dimensions, only one of which is reporting up the chain of delegation to elected leaders. Markets aggregate the preferences (albeit unequally) of large numbers Page 171 →of people, and both governments and transnational corporations are accountable to them. Professional associations create and maintain transnational norms to which IGOs, NGOs, and government officials can be judged accountable. The practice of “naming and shaming” of transnational corporations with valuable brand names by NGOs and the press also provides a sort of accountability. Similarly, the naming and shaming of governments engaged in corrupt practices helps create a type of accountability. While trisectoral cooperation and mixed coalitions are to be welcomed, competition among sectors and among mixed coalitions is useful for transparency and accountability. I cannot pretend to predict the information revolution’s and globalization’s future directions or their effects on international institutions. They may take unpredictable turns: some aspects may be reversed by historical surprises, as has happened in the past. World war is unlikely but not impossible, and it is worth rereading Polanyi on the failures of politics in the last century to cope with the effects of economic globalization.27 My argument is
that the tools and concepts that Keohane and I developed to understand transnational relations and interdependence three decades ago still help us to understand something about the new world politics. And contrary to the view that nothing is cumulative in research in this area, some scholars are using those tools. Maybe we were right before our time, or maybe like a stopped clock that is right twice a day, we are just back at a lucky phase of a cycle. In any case, we have enjoyed the ride.
Notes 1. Joseph S. Nye Jr., “East Asian Security: The Case for Deep Engagement,” Foreign Affairs 74 (July–August 1995). 2. Joseph S. Nye Jr., Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History, 3d ed.(New York: Longman, 2000), ch. 1. 3. Ernst B. Haas, Beyond the Nation-State: Functionalism and International Organization (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1964). 4. See Leon N. Lindberg and Stuart A. Scheingold, eds., Regional Integration: Theory and Research (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971) ; as well as Joseph S. Nye Jr., Peace in Parts: Integration and Conflict in Regional Organization (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971). 5. Ernst B. Haas, “Turbulent Fields and the Theory of Regional Integration,” International Organization 30 (spring 1976): 173–212. 6. Transnational Relations and World Politics, special issue of International Organization 25 (summer 1971). Page 172 →7. Raymond Vernon, Sovereignty at Bay: The Multinational Spread of U. S. Enterprises (New York: Basic Books, 1971). 8. Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). 9. Miles Kahler, “Inventing International Relations: International Relations Theory after 1945,” in New Thinking in International Relations Theory, ed. Michael W. Doyle and G. John Ikenberry (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1997), 38. 10. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Power and Interdependence in the Information Age,” Foreign Affairs 77 (fall 1998): 81–94. 11. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Globalization: What’s New? What’s Not? (And So What?),” Foreign Policy, no. 118 (spring 2000): 104–19; David Held et al., Global Transformations: Politics, Economics, and Culture (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999); James N. Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990). 12. Susan Strange, States and Markets, 2d ed. (New York: Pinter, 1994), 14, 73; Linda Weiss, The Myth of the Powerless State (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998); Richard Rosecrance, The Rise of the Virtual State: Wealth and Power in the Coming Century (New York: Basic Books, 1999). 13. See for example the breathless account in Frances Cairncross, The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997). 14. See Kjell Skjelsbaek, “The Growth of International Nongovernmental Organization in the Twentieth Century,” in Transnational Relations and World Politics, ed. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972). 15. ”A Semi-Integrated World,” The Economist, December 11, 1999, p. 42. 16. Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998). 17. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr., introduction to Governance in a Globalizing World, ed. Joseph S. Nye Jr. and John Donahue (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2000). 18. Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 88. 19. Ibid., 207. 20. Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 46.
21. United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report, 1999 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 22. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (New York: Rinehart, 1944). See also John G. Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” in International Regimes, ed. Stephen Krasner (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983); as well as Dani Rodrik, Has Globalization Gone Page 173 →Too Far? (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1997). 23. Polanyi, The Great Transformation, 73. 24. Pippa Norris, “Global Governance and Cosmopolitan Citizens,” in Nye and Donahue, Governance in a Globalizing World. 25. Robert A. Dahl, “Can International Organizations Be Democratic? A Skeptic’s View,” in Democracy’s Edges, ed. Ian Shapiro and Casiano Hacker (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 26. Karl Kaiser raised this issue in our volume on transnational relations. See his essay “Transnational Relations as a Threat to the Democratic Process,” in Keohane and Nye, Transnational Relations and World Politics. 27. Polanyi, The Great Transformation; Rodrik, Has Globalization Gone Too Far?
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ARE INSTITUTIONS INTERVENING VARIABLES OR BASIC CAUSAL FORCES? Causal Clusters versus Causal Chains in International Society Or an R. Young How should we think about the roles that institutions play as determinants of the content of collective outcomes in international society? Many mainstream analysts, whether they embrace the precepts of neorealism or lean toward the tenets of neoliberalism, assume (often implicitly) that we can understand these outcomes by envisioning causal chains in which institutions emerge as proximate forces coming into play only in the later stages of specific chains. They conclude, on the basis of this perspective, that institutions should be treated as intervening variables in contrast to basic causal forces.1 But this is by no means the only way to think about the role of institutions in international society, and some alternative approaches assign a more fundamental role to institutions. Taking a fresh look at this issue, I argue that the question articulated in the title of this essay obscures some of the more important features of causation in international society and, for that matter, in most other social settings. To fill the gap left by this conclusion, I provide an initial sketch of an approach to causation in international society that highlights causal clusters or sets of interactive driving forces in contrast to causal chains. Because my own substantive work deals with issues relating to natural resources and the environment, I turn to this realm repeatedly for illustrations of the theoretical arguments under consideration. Specifically, I refer regularly to issues pertaining to large atmospheric, Page 175 →marine, and terrestrial ecosystems in which growing anthropogenic impacts have given rise to human-dominated ecosystems.2 But the question about the roles that institutions play as determinants of collective outcomes is generic. It arises with respect to the full range of issues involving security, economics, and human rights as well as natural resources and the environment.
Mainstream Perspectives Most students of international relations adopt an instrumental perspective in which the development of institutions or, to be more specific, the creation of issue-specific regimes constitutes a—more or less successful—response human actors can and often do make to the emergence of collective-action problems. Resource regimes, on this account, are mechanisms for overcoming problems like the tendency of appropriators to overexploit living resources as a consequence of the dynamic widely known as the tragedy of the commons.3 Trade and monetary regimes are designed to avoid or overcome problems like trade wars arising from competing impositions of tariffs and other trade barriers in interactive situations. Arms control regimes are mechanisms created to avoid arms races in which participants invest large quantities of scarce resources without improving their security. Farsighted actors may anticipate the occurrence of such problems and take steps to create effective regimes before fish stocks become depleted, trade wars get under way, or arms races escalate. But that does not alter the logic underlying this view of the role of institutions in international society. The basic causal forces are factors such as power, interests, and knowledge, and the role of institutions is to intervene between these forces and collective outcomes in such a way as to prevent the occurrence of joint losses or to secure the achievement of joint gains.4 Starting from this instrumental perspective, individual analysts adopt varying attitudes toward the role of international regimes based on their assessment of the capacity of institutions to influence or channel the impact of the basic causal forces. In principle, this can give rise to a full spectrum of views, ranging from the perspective of those who believe that institutions have little capacity to influence the content of collective outcomes to the views of those who see institutions as effective mechanisms for solving, or at least alleviating, a wide range of collective-action problems.5 In practice, Page 176 →however, it is possible to identify a few clusters of positions that contain most of the mainstream perspectives on this issue.
One major cluster includes neorealists such as Susan Strange and John Mearsheimer who regard institutions as epiphenomena that have little or no independent impact on the content of collective outcomes. As Strange famously put it, regimes in international society are surface phenomena that reflect underlying bargains among states and other actors that wield the power to determine collective outcomes; they will experience more or less fundamental changes when the allocation of power among key actors shifts or these actors renegotiate the bargains on which regimes rest.6 As a result, according to Strange, “the study of regimes is, for the most part, a fad, one of those shifts of fashion not too difficult to explain as a temporary reaction to events in the real world but in itself making little in the way of a long-term contribution to knowledge.”7 Encapsulating this view, Mearsheimer has emphasized what he calls the “false promise of international institutions.”8 This relatively extreme view is captured graphically in panel a of figure 1 in which the causal arrow goes directly from basic forces like power to collective outcomes, and institutions are products of the operation of the basic forces that have little or no independent effect on the character of these outcomes. Yet not all those who adhere to the precepts of neorealism adopt such an extreme view regarding the role of institutions in international society. Those who focus on states as unitary and self-interested actors and who think predominantly in utilitarian terms, in particular, are apt to highlight the importance of collective-action problems9 and to see regimes as mechanisms that states can and sometimes do create to avoid or alleviate these problems.10 These analysts typically speak of the demand for regimes, direct attention to institutional bargaining, and make a concerted effort to understand the conditions under which regime members can be expected to comply with institutional rules and other obligations they assume under the provisions of specific regimes. Because international society lacks a public authority of the sort we would ordinarily think of as a government, compliance emerges as a critical issue for this cluster of analysts. Although they do not dismiss the relevance of decentralized compliance mechanisms altogether, these analysts expect the problem of compliance to become increasingly severe as the depth of cooperative arrangements embedded in regimes increases.11 This perspective is captured in panel b of figure 1a-b in which the width of the causal arrows indicates the relative importance of institutions and basic causal forces as determinants of the content of collective outcomes.Page 177 → Figure 1. a-b Causal chains For their part, neoliberals assign greater causal significance to institutions, even though they, too, adopt an instrumental perspective on the roles that institutions play. Members of this cluster expect the impact of issuespecific regimes to go beyond what can be deduced from conventional utilitarian premises. Partly, this is a matter of the role of the logic of appropriateness in contrast to the logic of consequences.12 Regime members frequently comply with rules or the results of institutionalized decision-making procedures because they regard these arrangements as legitimate and because they see compliance as a matter of proper conduct. In part, neoliberals treat regimes as sticky arrangements in which members participate through the force of habit or the operation of standard operating procedures and which, therefore, often remain in place even in the wake of power shifts or changes in the bargaining positions of key members. This does not mean that institutions are fixed and unchanging or that individual actors have no capacity to break out of the confines of specific regimes at the international level. But as panel c of figure 1 suggests, this way of thinking assigns substantially greater weight to the causal arrows running through institutions than either of the neorealist perspectives. Page 178 →Figure 1. c-d Causal chains Some students of international relations go a step further, drawing a distinction between the provisions of individual regimes and the deeper, more encompassing constitutive features of international society. On this account, international society itself is an institution encompassing constitutive rules governing membership and interactions among members, quite apart from the provisions of issue-specific regimes. It follows that collective outcomes are doubly affected by the force of institutions. The constitutive rules of international society shape issue-specific regimes that in turn influence the content of specific collective outcomes. Panel d of figure 1 portrays this causal picture by adding international society as a basic causal force, while maintaining the place of issue-specific regimes Page 179 →as intervening variables. Here, the instrumental role of institutions remains prominent. But now questions begin to arise about the persuasiveness of assigning institutions exclusively to the category of intervening variables in contrast to that of basic causal forces. Accordingly, this is a good point at
which to turn to alternative perspectives on the roles that institutions play as determinants of collective outcomes in international society.
Alternative Perspectives The appeal of treating institutions as instrumental arrangements is not hard to understand. Unlike many other forces, institutions are subject to conscious design or manipulation on the part of human actors endeavoring to solve collective-action problems or, for that matter, seeking to promote any number of individualistic goals. Even if the operation of institutions accounts for only a modest proportion of the variance in collective outcomes, therefore, there is much to be said for a strategy of paying particular attention to matters of institutional design. Better to concentrate, in other words, on forces that human actors have some capacity to control than on causal forces that are important but generally beyond the reach of human control. But this is not the only way to think about the roles that institutions play in international society. In this section, I explore the view that institutions often emerge as basic causal forces in their own right, shaping the roles of a range of other factors treated as basic causal forces in most mainstream accounts. Consider first the well-known formula I = PAT devised to explain the impact of human actions on ecosystems ranging from small-scale local systems to global systems.13 According to this formula, we can explain the impacts (1) of humans on ecosystems as products of population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T). The perspective embedded in this formula is appealing; most accounts of the growing impact of human action on specific ecosystems point to some combination of population pressures, economic growth, and the introduction of powerful new technologies. But where do institutions fit into this causal model? At first glance, it appears that the model treats institutions as irrelevant or inconsequential when it comes to explaining the impacts of human actions on ecosystems. But a little more thought leads to the conclusion that this may not be the case at all. In fact, institutions often emerge as basic causal forces that play important roles in determining the values or shaping the operation of P, A, and T. Page 180 →The size, rates of growth, and distribution of human populations are all influenced, to a greater or lesser degree, by the character of prevailing institutions. One of the more striking determinants of human fertility across both space and time, for example, is the status of women. In systems where prevailing institutions accord women a full complement of rights, fertility rates are strikingly lower than in situations where the rights of women are sharply limited. The incentives of people to have children of their own are closely tied to the (non)existence of institutional arrangements under which states provide a range of services addressing health, education, and welfare needs. Movements of people from one place to another and especially across national borders, whether as guest workers, immigrants, or refugees, are subject to more or less elaborate rules articulated by national governments in most parts of the world. It is true, of course, that numerous individuals succeed in violating or evading these rules. But governments regularly invest substantial resources in efforts to enforce the rules, and debates over rules governing immigration are frequent and intense in the political discourses of most members of international society. Similar observations are in order regarding the institutional roots of affluence. Affluence in the I = PAT formula is essentially a measure of the role of economic growth as a driver of human impacts on ecosystems. It is not necessary to look far for convincing evidence of the roles that institutions play as determinants of economic performance. The new economic historians, for instance, have argued persuasively that institutional innovations involving property rights, contractual arrangements, and credit systems played an essential role in the rise of the Western world in the period from A.D. 900 to 1700.14 But there is no need to reach so far back in time for evidence of the roles that institutions play as determinants of economic performance. There is little doubt, for example, that many of the most severe problems the Russian Federation has encountered in making the transition from socialism to capitalism are attributable to the absence or underdeveloped character of a range of institutional arrangements that are necessary to the operation of market mechanisms but that are often taken for granted in societies that have well-developed market systems.15 At the international level, moreover, most analysts would agree that the introduction of a set of interlocking regimes (e.g., the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) explains a significant proportion of the variance in international Page 181 →economic relations between the first
half of the twentieth century, which was marked by trade wars, and the second half of the century, which became an era of remarkable growth in world trade. The case of technology is equally if not more dramatic. There is little doubt, as prominent observers like Barry Commoner have argued,16 that the introduction of new and more powerful technologies has played an important role as a driver of the impact of human actions on ecosystems. The growth of farming and fishing power, advanced transportation systems, and urban population centers attest to that. But note that both the development and the diffusion of technology are influenced—often dramatically—by the rules of the game relating to such matters as patents and other mechanisms for protecting intellectual property, product liability, and responsibility for the consequences of externalities. Not only would the incentives of developers be sharply limited in the absence of an effective patent system, but also corporations facing strict rules regarding product liability are likely to be markedly more cautious about bringing new products on stream than those who do not face such rules. In recent years, courts have begun to award punitive damages to those whose health has been severely impaired by the use of specific products (e.g., cigarettes). Imagine what would happen if chemical companies were held liable for the damages to large atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems arising from the development, production, and consumption of ozone-depleting substances or a wide range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). And as the negotiation of international agreements regarding these matters in recent years makes clear, there are good reasons to believe that the rules of the game regarding the development and diffusion of such technologies are now undergoing important changes. Lest the discussion of I = PAT seem esoteric to readers steeped in the traditional concerns of international relations, let me turn now to a consideration of the institutional roots of power, interests, and knowledge, factors that figure in one fashion or another as basic causal forces in most work in this field. There is no reason to deny that various combinations of power, interests, and knowledge loom large as causal forces in international society. Yet each of these forces is affected in turn by underlying institutional arrangements. Even power in the material sense is allocated and protected by the constitutive rules of international society dealing with matters like sovereignty and jurisdiction. Of course, great powers can and sometimes Page 182 →do ignore these rules, intervening in the domestic affairs of weaker states in ways that affect the distribution of power in the material sense. For the most part, however, the constitutive rules regarding such matters are simply taken for granted; great powers respect the jurisdiction of lesser powers not because they lack the capacity to intervene but rather because the rules of the game mandate such respect. Moreover, changes in the rules of the game can have far-reaching consequences for the distribution of material power in international society. The creation of exclusive economic zones during the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, allowed coastal states to assume control over about 11 percent of the world ocean and approximately 95 percent of the world’s marine living resources.17 Nor is it any accident that states fight hard over rules governing access to resources like deep seabed minerals and the electromagnetic spectrum. Beyond these material concerns, it is worth noting as well that the rules of the game frequently affect the bargaining power of those who participate in institutionalized activities at the international level.18 Permanent membership coupled with the veto power in the UN Security Council is a dramatic case in point, particularly when we consider that permanent membership no longer correlates well with the distribution of power in the material sense in international society. But other interesting cases abound, including the rules governing weighted voting in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the composition of the executive body of the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund, and the complex decision-making procedure employed by the Global Environment Facility. What is true of the institutional roots of power is all the more true of interests and knowledge. Those who have adopted a constructivist perspective and written about the agent-structure problem take the view that the identities of the actors in international society are determined, at least in part, by the character of the institutional settings in which they operate.19 On this account, the interests of individual actors, which are derived from their identities, are shaped in large part by the nature of international society treated as a set of constitutive institutional arrangements. But it is not necessary to adopt this strong constructivist perspective to see that issue-specific regimes can have substantial impacts on the ways in which actors think about and operationalize their interests.
Interests are tied to the roles that actors play, and roles are affected by the rules of the game within which actors pursue their interests. The creation of exclusive economic zones, for instance, has given coastal states a proprietary interest in Page 183 →the use and management of large sections of the world ocean that actors previously regarded as open-to-entry resources to be exploited on a competitive and unrestricted basis. Similarly, the creation of the ozone regime has given actors a clear-cut interest in the development of permissible alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and a number of related ozone-depleting substances. As this example suggests, the impacts of regimes on actor interests may affect a variety of non-state actors as well as the member states themselves. Thus, creation of the ozone regime has significantly affected the interests of major producers like DuPont as well as those of the governments of member states. But the basic message is clear. Actor interests are not exogenously determined and immutable. Changes in the rules of the game can and often do give actors incentives not only to frame new interests but also to redefine preexisting interests. Somewhat similar remarks are in order regarding the relationships between institutions and knowledge. Without doubt, the causal arrows run in both directions in this connection. Issue-specific regimes frequently reflect and embed both discourses that serve to structure thinking about the issues at stake in a general way and relatively well-defined models that provide the rationale underlying the rules and decision-making procedures of specific regimes.20 Consider the neoclassical economic models underlying the regime governing international trade and the logistics models that provide the foundation for many regimes dealing with living resources as cases in point.21 But issue-specific regimes also serve to legitimize and empower knowledge claims as well as to guide efforts to broaden and deepen knowledge in the relevant issue areas.22 Thus, the trade regime is not only based on neoclassical economic models—its existence and capacity to bestow legitimacy has also served to protect and strengthen those models from those who think in terms of dependency theory or models emphasizing the social and cultural destruction arising from the set of processes known as globalization. What makes the confrontation between the global regime dealing with biological diversity and many regional regimes addressing the conservation of living resources particularly significant is that the biodiversity regime calls for ecosystems management in which the welfare of all species is valued, while the conservation regimes typically focus on the goal of achieving maximum sustainable yields from commercially valuable and individually targeted species. It is not difficult to see both that the policy implications of these arrangements will often diverge and that the two sets of arrangements are Page 184 →likely to encourage and reward the production of different models and knowledge claims. Over time, successful regimes can have profound impacts on the ways in which we think about relevant issues and on the policies we adopt to solve or alleviate the problems that lead to the creation of issue-specific regimes.
Initial Implications What should we make of the argument set forth in the preceding section? Does it provide a compelling reason for proponents of mainstream perspectives to conclude that institutions are basic causal forces and revise their thinking accordingly? My sense is that most neorealists and, for that matter, neoliberals are likely to resist pressure to alter their views regarding the roles that institutions play as determinants of collective outcomes and for reasons that are perfectly understandable. But I also hope to show that the resultant interplay of ideas sets the stage for the introduction of an alternative view of causation that will improve our understanding of collective outcomes in international society and many other social settings as well. The obvious rejoinder for mainstream analysts to the argument of the preceding section is to reemphasize the idea of the causal chain and to insist that basic causal forces, such as power, underlie each institutional link in the chain. If I say that changes in the rules of the game (e.g., the creation of exclusive economic zones) have led to a reallocation of power in the material sense, for example, those who see power as a basic causal force can respond by saying ‘yes,’ but the changes in the rules themselves are best explained as the outcome of an exercise of power on the part of the dominant actors in the relevant setting. Similarly, if I assert that the decision rules used by bodies like the UN Security Council serve to strengthen the bargaining power of certain actors, those who emphasize the explanatory significance of power can say ‘yes,’ but the provisions of the UN Charter dealing with the decision-making procedures of the Security Council were dictated by the outlooks and preferences of the victors in World War II. In short, behind every institutional determinant of power, on this account, lies an
antecedent exercise of power on the part of key players in the system. Similar responses are available to those who prefer to think in terms of interests and knowledge as driving forces in international society. If the creation of exclusive economic zones has redefined Page 185 →the role of coastal states and provided those states with new interests, for example, those who espouse interest-based explanations of collective outcomes in international society can argue that the motive force behind the creation of exclusive economic zones was the interests of coastal states that worked hard in the institutional bargaining surrounding the adaptation of the law of the sea to ensure that their preferences would be accommodated in the provisions set forth in part V of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.23 For their part, analysts who emphasize the role of knowledge—or ideas more generally—are apt to see institutions as governance systems that grow out of and reflect developments in our understanding of the problems at stake. The creation of the ozone regime, on this account, owes a great deal to a shift in the discourse surrounding this issue that made efforts to control the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances a legitimate activity, even before the specific biogeochemical mechanisms involved in ozone depletion were fully understood.24 The lack of consensus regarding a number of major aspects of climate change, by contrast, is often mentioned as a factor that impedes efforts to devise an effective regime dealing with emissions of greenhouse gases. How should those who see institutions as basic causal forces respond to these arguments? Should they concede to the mainstream perspectives regarding the distinction between basic causal forces, like power, interests, and knowledge, and intervening variables, like institutions? I can see no reason why they should. Naturally, all causal chains become more complex and difficult to comprehend the further we seek to follow them away from the phenomena to be explained. But those who emphasize the importance of institutions can respond to the arguments of those who favor explanations focusing on power, interests, and ideas in the same way that their counterparts do, proceeding further along the causal chain to suggest that each of these factors is shaped by the impact of institutional arrangements located at some antecedent stage in the chain. They need only point to the fact that the bargaining power of those who worked hard to bring exclusive economic zones into existence was molded in significant measure by the institutional substructure of international society. Similarly, they can take the view that the growth of knowledge that ultimately produced the paradigm shift required to understand and take seriously the problem of stratospheric ozone depletion was shaped by the institutional setting within which large-scale atmospheric investigations are conducted. Page 186 →My objective in describing this rejoinder is not to demonstrate that the perspective of those who see institutions as basic causal forces is correct. Rather, the basic message I derive from this discussion is that neither side has a compelling case for the distinction it seeks to establish between basic causal forces and intervening variables.
What Is to Be Done? The obvious insight arising from this discussion is that efforts to answer the title question in terms of the idea of causal chains trigger a regress that has no natural stopping point. Those who see power as the basic driver will invariably find a way to explain institutional arrangements as surface phenomena that reflect underlying relations of power. But those who prefer to think of institutions as driving forces will inevitably counter with arguments that show how relations of power reflect underlying institutional arrangements. And the same goes for parallel arguments relating to forces such as interests and knowledge. What should we conclude from a recognition of this problem? My answer is that the title question assumes a model of causation in international society that has serious drawbacks, a conclusion that suggests it will be more productive to reexamine our thinking regarding the nature of causation in this realm than to devote more time to sorting out the merits of claims regarding basic causal forces and intervening variables. How should we proceed in light of this conclusion? The approach I propose and seek to support in the following paragraphs centers on the development of multivariate analyses in which collective outcomes in international society are treated as products of clusters of variables that operate more or less simultaneously rather than forming causal chains. To explore the implications of this proposal, I would begin by focusing on a set of empirically tractable dependent variables, such as trends in global carbon dioxide emissions, the volume of international trade, or expenditures on arms and armed forces. This would provide a clear-cut target for analysis along with a
reasonable prospect for efforts to produce quantitative measures of changes in dependent variables thought to be associated with any of a number of independent variables. Initially, this perspective suggests that we should seek to move forward by identifying a suite of independent variables and devising procedures for determining the relative weights of individual members of the suite or, in other words, the proportion of the variance in Page 187 →the dependent variable of interest that can be accounted for in a convincing manner by reference to specific independent variables. Panel a of figure 2 captures this perspective in graphic terms. In my own field, this approach has the attractive feature of allowing us to ask questions about the relative importance of anthropogenic forces (e.g., fishing effort) and nonanthropogenic drivers (e.g., changes in water temperature) in accounting for dramatic changes in large marine and terrestrial ecosystems (e.g., major shifts in species composition). But the method obviously allows us to ask about the relative weights of a range of social variables, such as power, interests, knowledge, technology, and institutions, as well. Anyone familiar with the basic ideas underlying statistical inference will realize immediately that this approach resembles a form of statistical analysis known as regression. This technique, widely used in both the social sciences and the natural sciences, provides a method for sorting out the effects of a number of variables that operate simultaneously as determinants of measurable outcomes in a variety of systems. In some respects, this is a satisfying conclusion in the context of the present discussion of approaches to causation in international society. But it takes only a little reflection to see that there are major problems with this line of thinking, even in cases where the dependent variable is empirically tractable. One problem arises from the well-known fact that universes of cases, at least in international society, are notoriously small and heterogeneous. In dealing with resource depletions, trade wars, and arms races, for example, we are seldom in a position to make use of the procedures of statistical inference in any quantitatively rigorous and analytically satisfactory manner. This problem is obviously serious. But it is not necessarily fatal. In some cases, there are opportunities to expand the universe of cases under consideration,25 and many commentators have suggested proceeding in a manner that corresponds as closely as possible to the logic of statistical inference, even in the analysis of qualitative data or case studies.26 Figure 2. Causal clusters Page 188 →Yet this line of thinking leads to a second and in some respects more fundamental problem with associating the model of causation I have proposed with the idea of regression analysis. As panel b in figure 2 suggests, we regularly find ourselves dealing with situations in which there are more or less complex and influential interactions between and among the members of the cluster of driving forces. In fact, the discussion in the preceding sections has already anticipated this observation. Not only do factors like power and institutions interact with one another, but also there are extensive interactions between and among forces like power, interests, and knowledge. To take some simple examples, it is easy to see that bargaining power is often a function of the location of an actor in a particular distribution or configuration of interests, and there is much to be said for the view that the possession or control of knowledge can be translated into power under a variety of conditions. Under the circumstances, it seems clear that a simple conception based on the logic of regression analysis will not solve the problem of devising an appropriate model of causation to serve as an analytic foundation for the efforts of those seeking to understand collective outcomes in international society. In my judgment, two other procedures for thinking about causation can help us to move beyond this impasse. One centers on what philosophers of science often describe as genetic explanations or tendency-finding analyses.27 In contrast to measures of association, which dominate statistical or variation-finding analyses, tendency finding Page 189 →procedures seek to determine what combination of forces or factors, operating together, have brought about or produced a given outcome (e.g., rising levels of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions). The goal here is to build up explanations that can account for specific occurrences in a satisfactory manner rather than to develop and test generalizations of the sort we associate with scientific laws (e.g., statements of necessary and sufficient conditions) or, for that matter, probabilistic measures of association of the sort flowing from statistical inference. On this account, the general effects of individual causal factors may be much the same across a wide range of circumstances. Uncertainty regarding the nature of environmental problems, for instance, can be expected to have similar consequences with respect to efforts to solve many specific problems. But the particular combinations of
forces that come together to produce collective outcomes in individual cases may be uncommon or, in extreme situations, unique. The challenge associated with this way of thinking is to isolate clusters of independent variables and to show how they work together to produce particular outcomes of interest to the analyst. Another procedure that is worthy of serious consideration in this context is dynamic systems modeling. As those who have developed general circulation models to explore the dynamics of Earth’s climate system have noted, this procedure makes it possible to simulate and, therefore, to explore the dynamics of systems in which a number of drivers operate simultaneously and usually interactively to determine the content of outcomes at the macro level. It is important to recognize that simulations of this type do not lead to predictions about the character of collective outcomes in specific real-world systems.28 But they do make it possible to explore different combinations of drivers and different values for key drivers in a systematic fashion. What makes this procedure attractive in the context of the current discussion is the prospect that we can use dynamic systems modeling to think systematically about interactions between institutions and other causal forces, including power, interests, and knowledge, as determinants of the content of collective outcomes in international society. The objective here is not to assign weights to individual variables in the interests of making statements about their relative importance as determinants of collective outcomes. Rather, this mode of analysis directs attention to the identification of causal mechanisms in which several variables interact with one another in a fashion that determines the content of outcomes Page 190 →that are systemic in character (e.g., overall levels of carbon dioxide emissions or trends in the total volume of trade at the international level). It is perfectly possible that the use of these procedures on the part of students of international relations will lead to the accumulation of a growing collection of explanation sketches or, to use a more elegant phrase, analytic narratives in which there are few patterns.29 But this need not be the case. It is entirely possible that we will discover a number of distinct patterns involving clusters or combinations of interactive driving forces that occur on a more or less regular basis. My own recent effort to shed light on the effectiveness of international environmental regimes certainly points in this direction.30 Again and again, I am finding that clusters of factors pertaining to the character of the problem, the nature of the actors, and the state of the social setting combined with various attributes of the regimes themselves can provide us with a convincing account of outcomes arising in specific issue areas (e.g., the production and consumption of CFCs, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, losses of biological diversity).31 Needless to say, it will take time and sustained programs of research to justify any strong conclusions about the existence and prevalence of these patterns. But I can see no reason to be pessimistic at this stage about the prospects for success in efforts to identify recurrent patterns of this sort.
Conclusion My response to the question posed in the title of this essay, then, is that this is the wrong question to ask. This question makes sense only in the context of a model of causation in which the focus is on causal chains and the challenge is to determine the points in these chains at which different variables or types of variables come into play. If the argument I have presented in this essay is correct, this way of thinking about causation is not likely to get us far, at least as an approach to understanding the content of collective outcomes in international society. As an alternative, I suggest a model in which clusters or combinations of interactive variables operate together to determine the content of collective outcomes. The challenge here is not to assign weights to individual variables in an effort to determine which causal forces are the more important ones. On the contrary, we should be thinking about the various ways in which interactive clusters of variables lead to causal mechanisms that leave us with Page 191 →the feeling that we have a satisfactory and satisfying understanding of the reasons why collective outcomes in international society take specific forms. Finally, let me emphasize that nothing in this account precludes the adoption of an instrumental approach to the design and operation of international regimes. Although institutional factors usually constitute only a single element in clusters of driving forces, it is nonetheless true that they are the factors that are most conducive to conscious control or manipulation on the part of human actors. No doubt, power relations, interests, and knowledge claims all change in more or less significant ways over time. But it is hard to think of effective
methods to control or channel these changes in the interests of solving common problems or promoting the common good. It is perfectly possible, by contrast, to launch concerted efforts to design and create new institutions or to redesign existing institutions. In the realm of environmental affairs, the last several decades have witnessed a steady stream of efforts to form new regimes and to reform existing regimes. In this connection, it is essential to bear in mind not only that institutional design is a political process featuring bargaining rather than social engineering but also and especially that institutions always affect the content of collective outcomes as elements in clusters of driving forces. As a result, a regime that performs well in dealing with one problem may prove far less successful or even fail completely as a response to other problems. This makes it easy to understand why one size does not fit all problems even in a single issue area and why it is essential to design institutions that fit well with a range of other forces at work in connection with specific problems. It follows that a cookbook approach to regime formation will produce poor results and that we should be extremely cautious in adopting arrangements that prove successful in one setting (e.g., ozone depletion) in the construction of regimes to deal with problems arising in other settings (e.g., climate change).32 Yet nothing in these remarks suggests that there is anything inappropriate about the current interest in the formation of issue-specific regimes as a means of addressing a variety of important problems in international society.
Notes 1. Stephen D. Krasner, “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables,” in International Regimes, ed. Stephen D. Krasner (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983). Page 192 →2. Peter Vitousek, Harold Mooney, Jane Lubchenko, and Jerry Melillo, “Human Domination of the Earth’s Ecosystems,” Science 277 (1997): 494–99. 3. Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (1968): 1343–48. 4. Krasner, “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences.” 5. David A. Baldwin, ed., Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). 6. Susan Strange, “Cave! Hic drangones: A Critique of Regime Analysis,” in Krasner, International Regimes, 337–54. 7. Ibid., 337. 8. John Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19 (1994–95): 5–49. 9. Russell Hardin, Collective Action (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). 10. Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). 11. George W. Downs, David M. Rocke, and Peter N. Barsoom, “Is the Good News about Compliance Good News about Cooperation?” International Organization 50 1996): 379–406. 12. James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, “The Institutional Dynamics of International Political Orders,” International Organization 52 (1998): 943–69. 13. Paul R. Ehrlich and John P. Holdren, “Impact of Population Growth,” Science 171 (1971): 1212–17. 14. Douglass C. North and Robert Paul Thomas, The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). 15. Mancur Olson, Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and Capitalist Dictatorships (New York: Basic Books, 2000). 16. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle (New York: Bantam Books, T972). 17. Alf Hakon Hoel, “Performance of Exclusive Economic Zones” (scoping report prepared for the Project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., 2000). 18. Oran R. Young, International Governance: Protecting the Environment in a Stateless Society (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994). 19. Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
20. Karen T. Litfin, Ozone Discourses: Science and Politics in Global Environmental Cooperation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). 21. John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” in Krasner, International Regimes; J. A. Gulland, The Management of Marine Fisheries (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974). 22. Virginia Walsh, Background Knowledge in World Politics (forthcoming). Page 193 →23. James K. Sebenius, Negotiating the Law of the Sea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984). 24. Litfin, Ozone Discourses. 25. Ronald B. Mitchell, “Quantitative Analysis in International Environmental Politics: Toward a Theory of Relative Effectiveness,” in Regime Consequences: Methodological Challenges and Regime Strategies, ed. Arild Underal and Oran R. Young (forthcoming). 26. Gary King, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994). 27. Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanations (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1961); David Dessler, “The Architecture of Causal Analysis” (paper presented at the Harvard Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1992). 28. Bert Bolin, “Scientific Assessment of Climate Change,” in International Politics of Climate Change: Key Issues and Critical Actors, ed. Gunnar Fermann (Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian University Press, 1997), 83–109. 29. Robert H. Bates, Avner Greif, Margaret Levi, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and Barry R. Weingast, Analytic Narratives (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998). 30. Oran R. Young, ed., The Effectiveness of International Environmental Regimes: Causal Connections and Behavioral Mechanisms (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999). 31. Oran R. Young, Governance in World Affairs (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999). 32. Lawrence E. Susskind, Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS Michael Brecher Michael Brecher is the R. B. Angus Professor of Political Science at McGill University. Educated at McGill and Yale (Ph.D., 1953), he is the author or coauthor of eighteen books and eighty-five articles on India–South Asia, international systems, foreign policy theory and analysis, international crises, conflict and war, and the IndoPakistani and Arab-Israel protracted conflicts. Since 1975, he has been director of the International Crisis Behavior Project. His most recent books are Crises in World Politics (1993) and A Study of Crisis (1997, 2000, with Jonathan Wilkenfeld). He has received two book awards: the Watumull Prize of the American Historical Association in 1960 for Nehru: A Political Biography (1959) and the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association in 1973 for The Foreign Policy System of Israel: Setting, Images, Process (1972). Among his other awards are the Fieldhouse Award for Distinguished Teaching, McGill (1986); the Distinguished Scholar Award of the International Studies Association (1995); the Leon-Gerin Prix du Québec for the human sciences (2000); and the Award for High Distinction in Research, McGill (2000). He has been a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1976 and has held fellowships from the Nuffield, Rockefeller, and John Simon Guggenheim foundations. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of California, Page 196 →Berkeley, and Stanford University. In 1999–2000 he served as president of the International Studies Association.
Joseph M. Grieco Joseph M. Grieco is a professor of political science at Duke University. He is the author of Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade (1990) and Between Dependency and Autonomy: India’s Experience with the International Computer Industry (1984). Articles and notes by him have appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Security Studies, Review of International Studies, American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Politics, and World Politics. His teaching interests include theories of international relations, issues of international political economy, international business-government relations, the relationship between international economics and international security, and the rise of the European nation-state. During the summer of 1994 he was the Karl W. Deutsch Visiting Professor at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, and since May 1996 he has been a visiting professor at the Post-Graduate School of Economics and International Relations at the Catholic University of Milan.
Frank P. Harvey Frank P. Harvey is director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. He is also a professor of political science at Dalhousie. His current research interests include ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia, NATO military strategy and peacekeeping, and national missile defense. His books include The Future’s Back: Nuclear Rivalry, Deterrence Theory, and Crisis Stability after the Cold War (1997); Conflict in World Politics: Advances in the Study of Crisis, War, and Peace (1998, coedited with Ben Mor); and Using Force to Prevent Ethnic Violence: An Evaluation of Theory and Evidence (2000, with David Carment). He has published widely on nuclear and conventional deterrence, coercive diplomacy, crisis decision making, and protracted ethnic conflict in such periodicals as International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Politics, International Journal, Security Studies, International Political Science Review, Conflict Management and Peace Science, Canadian Journal of Political Science, and several others. Professor Harvey is currently Page 197 →working on his next book, Coercive Diplomacy and the Management of Intrastate Ethnic Conflict.
Kal J. Holsti Kal J. Holsti is Killam Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He is presently a research associate with the Institute of International Relations at the same university. He is the author of seven books in the field, including The State, War, and the State of War (1996). He has contributed regularly to scholarly periodicals and has chapters in twenty-two edited volumes. He has been a visiting professor in the United States, Australia, Israel, and Japan. He is a past editor of International Studies Quarterly and the Canadian Journal of Political Science. In 1984–85, he was president of the Canadian Political Science Association and, two years later, was president of the International Studies Association. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1983.
Patrick James Patrick James is a professor of political science at the University of Missouri. He is the author of eight books and more than eighty other scholarly publications. Among his honors and awards are the Louise Dyer Peace Fellowship of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Milton R. Merrill Chair in Political Science at Utah State University, the Lady Davis Professorship in the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Thomas O. Enders Professorship in Canadian Studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary, and a listing among the “2000 Outstanding Scholars of the 21st Century” produced by the International Biographic Centre in Cambridge, England. James currently serves as editor of International Studies Quarterly and is on the governing councils of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States and the International Studies Association.
Roberto. Keohane Robert O. Keohane received a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the James B. Duke Professor of Political Science at Duke University. Page 198 →He has taught at Swarthmore College, Stanford University, Brandeis University, and Harvard University, where he was the Stanfield Professor of International Peace. He is the author of After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (1984), for which he was awarded the second annual Grawemeyer Award in 1989 for Ideas Improving World Order. He is also the author of International Institutions and State Power: Essays in International Relations Theory (1989); coauthor of Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (1977, 1988, with Joseph S. Nye Jr.); and coauthor of Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (1994, with Gary King and Sidney Verba). He is editor or coeditor of, and contributor to, nine other books. Between 1974 and 1980 he was editor of International Organization. He was president of the International Studies Association in 1988–89. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the National Humanities Center.
David A. Lake David A. Lake (Ph.D., Cornell University, 1984) is a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, chair of the department, and a coeditor of the journal International Organization. He taught at UCLA from 1983 to 1992. From 1992 to 1996, he served as research director for international relations at the UC-wide Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Lake’s areas of interest include international political economy, conflict studies, American foreign policy, and global governance. He has published widely in the field of international relations, including Power, Protection, and Free Trade: International Sources of U.S. Commercial Strategy, 1887–1939 (1988) and Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century (1999). He is also editor or coeditor of International Political Economy: Contending Perspectives on Global Power and Wealth (four editions); The State and American Foreign Economic Policy (1988); The International Political Economy of Trade (1993); Regional Orders: Building Security in a New World (1997); The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion, and Escalation (1998); and Strategic Choice and International Relations (1999). His current research focuses Page 199 →on democracy and its policy
consequences within and between states.
John Mearsheimer John Mearsheimer teaches at the University of Chicago. He received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1980. He specializes in international relations theory, national security policy, war and international systems, and deterrence theory. He is the author of Conventional Deterrence (1983) and Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (1989). He is the director of the Workshop on International Security Policy.
Manus I. Midlarsky Manus I. Midlarsky is the Moses and Annuta Back Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at Rutgers University. His most recent book is The Evolution of Inequality: War, State Survival, and Democracy in Comparative Perspective (1999), and he recently edited the volumes Inequality, Democracy, and Economic Development (1997) and Handbook of War Studies II (2000). His most recent articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Journal of Peace Research. Currently he is working on a book-length analysis of genocide titled The Killing Trap: Genocides and Other Mass Murders of the Twentieth Century.
Joseph S. Nye Jr. Joseph S. Nye Jr., the Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy, is dean of the Kennedy School. He returned to Harvard in December 1995 after serving as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, where he won two Distinguished Service Medals, and as chair of the National Intelligence Council. Nye joined the Harvard faculty in 1964, where he has served as director of the Center for International Affairs and associate dean of arts and sciences. From 1977 to 1979, Nye was deputy to the undersecretary of state for security assistance, science, and technology and chaired the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A member of the editorial boards of Foreign Policy and International Security, he is the author of numerous books and more than a hundred articles in professional and policy journals. His most recent Page 200 →books are Understanding International Conflicts, 3d ed. (2000); the third edition of his classic study cowritten with Robert O. Keohane, Power and Interdependence (2000); and a coedited volume, Governance in a Globalizing World (2000). Nye received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1958. He did postgraduate work at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship and earned a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard.
John Vasquez John Vasquez is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on conflict studies. Current publications include What Do We Know about War? (2000); The Power of Power Politics: From Classical Realism to Neotraditionalism (1998); Classics of International Relations, 3d ed. (1996, editor); Beyond Confrontation: Learning Conflict Resolution in the Post-Cold War Era (1995); “Uncovering the Dangerous Alliances, 1495–1980,” International Studies Quarterly (1998, with Douglas M. Gibier); “War Endings: What Science and Constructivism Can Tell Us,” Millennium (1997); “The Realist Paradigm and Degenerative versus Progressive Research Programs,” American Political Science Review (1997).
Oran Young Oran Young is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books and numerous scholarly articles. Dr. Young is a professor of environmental studies, director of the Institute of Arctic Studies, and director of the Institute on International Environmental Governance at Dartmouth College. He is also an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Troms0 in Norway.
Dr. Young served for six years as the founding chair of the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States and is now chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the international project on the Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC) under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change. In addition, he served for six years as vice president of the International Arctic Science Committee and is currently a leader in the development of a decentralized University of the Arctic. Page 201 →Dr. Young’s scientific work encompasses both basic research focusing on collective choice and social institutions and applied research dealing with issues pertaining to international environmental governance and to the Arctic as an international region. Among his recent books are Governance in World Affairs (1999); Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance (1998); International Governance: Protecting the Environment in a Stateless Society (1994); Arctic Politics: Conflict and Cooperation in the Circumpolar North (1992); and International Cooperation: Building Regimes for Natural Resources and the Environment (1989).