Taking preferences seriously: A liberal theory of International
Politics, Andrew Moravcsik
•Liberal hypotheses stresses variation in state preferences play central role in liberal
Causal importance of state-society relation as shaped by domestic institution.
Ideas about national, political & socio-economic public goods provision.
•Author draws core assumptions for liberal theory: ideational, commercial & republican.
I) Core assumptions
•Assumption 1: Individuals & private groups are the primary actors.
These actors are rational & risk-averse.
Def. of interests is central & involve competition.
•Assumption 2: State’s officials define state preferences & act towards them
States = transmission belt of individuals’ preferences into policies.
Societal pressure may alter states’ preferences
•Assumption 3: States requires purpose to take a foreign policy action
The nature of these stakes drives policy.
Each has its distinctive preferences under constraints imposed by the preferences
of other states.
II) Liberal theory as systemic theory
•Wrong to say that liberalism ignores the international environment for 2 reasons:
1) States preferences may vary in response to a changing transnational social context.
2) The expected behavior of any single state (strategies & constraints) reflect its own
preferences & the configuration of pref. of all states linked by interdependence.
•Liberalism structural quality is that it offers explanation on outcomes of states interaction
& distinctive concept of political power.
•3 variants of liberal theory:
1. Ideational liberalism: focus on compatibility of social pref. across fundamental
collective goods like national unity, legitimate political institutions & socio-
o3 sources of ideational preferences: national identity, political identity &
2. Commercial liberalism: focus on incentives created by opportunities for trans-
border economic transaction.
oTrade = less costly of accumulating wealth than war bc of minimization
of collateral damages.
3. Republican liberalism: focus on nature of domestic representation & resulting
possibilities for rent-seeking behavior.
oAggressive behavior = most likely in undemocratic/in egalitarian policies
oDemocratic Peace = we have to have a law in intern. Relations.
oDemocratic states may provoke preventive war in response to
Ł 3 variants = stronger together than apart.
III) Paradigmatic restatement
•Need a paradigmatic restatement & its 4 criteria to demonstrate utility of these
1. Superior parsimony: assumptions should highlight unexplored conceptual
connections among previously unrelated liberal hypotheses.