Friday, 22 January 1999

From "Institutionalist Theory, Realist Challenge"

By Robert O. Keohane.

Consistently with realism -- and accounting for the fact that it is frequently denoted as "neorealist" -- institutionalist theory assumes that states are the principal actors in world politics and that they behave on the basis of their conceptions of their own self-interests. Relative capabilities -- realism's "distribution of power" -- remain important, and states must rely on themselves to assure themselves gains from cooperation. However, institutionalist theory also emphasizes the role of international institutions in changing conceptions of self-interest. Thus it draws on liberal thinking about the formation of interests. Institutionalist thinking has focused its critical fire on realism rather than on harmony-oriented versions of liberalism, since the latter have been discredited in Anglo-American international relations theory for half a century [...]

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