Paul Bodnar bodnar fas harvard edu Reading Outline for by katiebelonga


									Paul Bodnar                                              

Reading Outline for IR Field Seminar, Week 2
Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political
Economy (Princeton, 1984), Chapter 1

Keohane fuses aspects of neorealism and institutionalism to show that cooperation can arise
among self-interest maximizing states in the anarchic international system even in the absence of
a hegemon. His argument is clearly prompted by historical factors specific to the time in which
he wrote the book (date of publication, 1984). His starting points are:
     The period of US hegemony has concluded with the rise of Japan and Europe as
       economic powers and the continuing military superpower status of the Soviet Union
     International cooperation peaked in the decades after World War II and is in general,
       though not uniform, decline.
     “Cooperation” defined as active attempts, derived from shared interests, to adjust policies
       to meet the demands of others
     Explanandum: under what conditions can independent countries cooperate in the world
       political economy in the absence of a hegemon?
     Examines only advanced market economies.
     Examines only situations where common interests are already given (formation of such
       interests is exogenous to his model).

Substantive points
    Hegemony  cooperation  interdependence  regime continuity even in the absence
      of hegemony.
    Thus hegemony can facilitate cooperation but is neither necessary nor sufficient
      condition (more important for initiating than maintaining cooperation). Institutions can
      be sticky. “Hegemony and international regimes can be complementary, or even to some
      extent substitute for each other: both serve to make agreements possible and to facilitate
      compliance with rules.” (15)
    But also: hegemony  cooperation  interdependence  rising state intervention in
      domestic economy  more points of friction and discord in international relations
    In more detail: One state-level reaction to shield citizens from effects of interdependence
      is to increase the degree of government intervention in domestic affairs (principally the
      economy). Both interdependence and intervention create more points of friction and
      vulnerability. Thus cooperation can lead to more discord in international politics, and
      there is a need to distinguish between harmony and cooperation.
    International regimes have formed for purposes beyond the balance of power, and their
      formation can be explained by egoist, rational choices of states in an anarchic system.
      Uses rudimentary game theory and theories of market failure and rational choice to show
      why cooperation through international institutions makes sense even if states make
      entirely self-interested decisions
    Institutions reduce transaction costs and uncertainty, limit information asymmetries, and
      “tie governments to the mast” by generating audience costs for reneging.
    Empirical examination of post-war period (through early 1984) and patterns of
      emergence and decay (or resilience) of international regimes for trade, energy, finance.

Situating the work in the theoretical landscape
Keohane’s theoretical perspective, in this and in other works, layers institutionalism on
neorealism. His starting point is Waltzean realism, accepting the anarchic nature of the
international system as well as its lack of inherent guiding ideals and values. But Keohane notes
that this view does not explain “system-wide patterns of cooperation that benefit many countries
Paul Bodnar                                               

without being tied to an alliance system directed against an adversary.” (7). Thus he moves to
incorporate the arguments of institutionalists who view international cooperation as an outcome
of rational states seeking to maximize their own interests through joint gains (though Keohane
disparages institutionalists who “incorporate in their theories excessively optimistic assumptions
about the role of ideas in world politics” (8). He sets out to disprove realists’ pessimistic
conclusions about the prospects for cooperation, using the realist framework itself as a starting
point. “Realist theories that seek to predict international behavior on the basis of interest and
power alone are important but insufficient for an understanding of world politics… [and] need to
be supplemented… by theories stressing the importance of international institutions.” (14) This
work offers an effective critique of hegemonic stability theory which had gained currency in the
late 1970s.

     An important synthesis of realism and institutionalism, helping shed light on why
       international regimes not strictly tied to balance of power politics form and persist even
       as underlying power dynamics shift in the international system
     At least in this introduction, does not address the distinction between absolute and
       relative gains. International regimes (e.g. trade agreements) may provide joint gains but in
       an anarchic system, units are also (principally?) concerned with the distributional
       consequences of those gains.
     A bold but hasty attempt to make generalized theoretical conclusions about international
       politics in a period of flux. Succumbs to the temptations of historical myopia: he gives
       undue weight to the last quarter century of events, assuming that a) the current
       configuration of the international system represents something new under the sun, and b)
       its essential characteristics will persist. That’s how he gets to the statement: “As long as
       the world political economy persists… its central political dilemma will be how to
       organize cooperation without a hegemon.” (10) Even ten years later, he would have seen
       the imprudence of building an argument on such assumptions.

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