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Cover International Relations Theories

5. Neoliberalism  

Jennifer Sterling-Folker

This chapter examines the neoliberalist argument that international institutions promote international cooperation. While neoliberalism acknowledges that cooperation can be difficult to achieve in anarchic conditions, it insists that institutions allow states to overcome a variety of collective action impediments. The central concern of neoliberal analysis is how institutions do so, and how they might be redesigned to more efficiently obtain cooperative outcomes. This chapter considers three questions that are relevant for understanding neoliberal contributions: How did neoliberalism emerge? What are the barriers to international cooperation? How does neoliberalism study international institutions? The chapter uses the World Trade Organization as a case study to illustrate the importance of institutional design for international free trade cooperation. Along the way, various concepts such as interdependence, hegemonic stability, hegemon, bargaining, defection, compliance, autonomy, and principal–agent theory are discussed, along with the game known as Prisoner’s Dilemma.


Cover Foreign Policy

2. Realism and foreign policy  

William C. Wohlforth

This chapter considers how familiarity with realist theory improves foreign policy analysis (FPA), focusing on two features of realism that are often in tension with each other: its firm grounding in centuries of real foreign policy practice, and its aspiration to create powerful general theories that help to simplify and explain the international setting in which foreign policy takes place. The chapter begins with a discussion of the main theoretical schools within realism, namely, classical realism, defensive realism, offensive realism, and neoclassical realism, as well as theories within realism: balance of power theory, balance of threat theory, hegemonic stability theory, and power transition theory. It also examines how realism is applied to the analysis and practice of foreign policy and highlights the main pitfalls in applying realist theories to FPA. Finally, it evaluates some guidelines for avoiding those pitfalls and using realist insights to sharpen the analysis of foreign policy.