Keohane “After Hegemony”
Realists often compare world politics to a state of war, a competition of units
fighting under anarchy. States must therefore rely on the means they can generate
and the arrangements they can make for themselves.
Conflict and wars arise because each state has a different interpretation on
the way in which they use force to secure their means.
If international politics is viewed as a state of war it would be hard to explain
institutionalized patterns of cooperation seeing as shared purposes and goals
would not exist amongst states except for the larger struggle for power
which causes conflict.
If we take this ultimate realist view, things like trade, financial relations,
environmental protection etc could not really exist even though they do.
On the other side of realism you have individuals arguing that economic cooperation
is essential and is therefore what sets up these institutions. Sophisticated
institutionalists don't expect cooperation to always prevail but they believe that
states are interdependent and therefore create interests in cooperation.
Realists: the world will be more peaceful because the USA will have dominance
Institutionalists: states motivated by economic order (similar to Liberal theory).
A functional Theory of International Regimes:
International regimes could be created and emphasized their value for
overcoming what could be called Political Market Failure. The question we
must ask ourselves is why do international regimes stick and continue to be
supported when the conditions that facilitated their creation disappear.
Political Market Failure:
World politics is categorized by institutional deficiencies that inhibit
In the realist self help system there is always conflict between actors.
In the international system there are no legal liability rules between actors.
The Coase theorem hopes to solve this problem and to therefore encourage
more mutual cooperation amongst states.
The theorum proposes:
o 1) A legal framework establishing legal liability (to be enforced by an
international power), with zero transaction costs and free
The system we have now is almost opposite to this. It has been shown on the basis
of game theory that, with more than two participants, the theorem cannot work.
Under certain conditions there will be no stable solution: o any coalition that forms will be inferior, there would be an endless
recontracting among the firms.
o Coase suggests that the best conditions for bargaining is having a
clear legal framework of property rights in existence and
secondly, the right to low cost information.
o If the information is at too much of a high cost no cooperation or
bargaining will take place, but if it is too low, an infinite series of
unstable coalitions would form. We must still remember that
without consciously designated institutions, these problems will
thwart attempts to cooperate in world politics even when actors’
interests are complimentary.
o International regimes can therefore be created insofar as they
perform the functions of establishing patterns of legal liability,
providing symmetrical information and arranging the costs of
o Examples of international regimes: NGO'S like the international
monetary fund, Bretton Woods Agreement, Kyoto protocol, the United
With these international regimes in place it makes it easier for states to mutually
attain agreements that they would not otherwise do.
States are usually very big on maintaining autonomy and it is usually
impossible to have institutions that exercise authority over states.
Therefore these international regimes pass something like Quasi-Agreements
technically they are legally unenforceable, but like contracts that help to form
mutual agreements, states sometimes conform just for the fact that other
states are conforming, but they are in no way any way of centralizing
agreements between nations.
Often it is not in the best interest in the state to violate regime principles
because regimes reduce the transaction costs of legitimate bargains and
increase them for illegitimate ones. (think of the