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POLI 244 - ER Reading (Keohane's "After Hegemony")

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 244
Stephen Saideman

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Keohane – After Hegemony
Realist theories regard international relations as a state of anarchy, in which
states judge its own causes and carry out its own judgements.
Problem: system-wide patterns of cooperation (such as those observed in
finance, health, telecommunications) cannot be explained by realism
Institutionalist (liberal) theorists also predict that the increasing amount of
economic interdependence post WWII will create an atmosphere more conducive
for peace
Problem: erosion of international regimes alongside American power; signs
of decline in the extent to which powers cooperate leave dents in the most
optimistic of Institutionalist theories
Hegemony typically only results after a large-scale conflict; during peace times
weaker countries tend to gain on the hegemon. In the nuclear age, it is difficult to
presume that a country will emerge prosperous and with hegemonic power. As the
American hegemony erodes, it is therefore necessary to deal with preserving
world peace in the absence of a hegemon.
Coase Theorem
Absent a central authority, which would facilitate exchanges, actors can still
achieve mutually-benefiting agreements on their own via bargaining.
However, the Coase Theorem depends on three conditions
1) Legal framework establishing liability for actions
2) Perfect information
3) Zero transaction costs
None of these three exist in international politics -> opposite conclusion would
appear to be true
Coordination will often be thwarted by dilemmas of collective action.
Also, if 3) were to hold true, then the inherent instability of coalitions would result
in infinite reconstructions of agreements/alliances
1) Legal liability
International regimes, while not legally binding, nevertheless serve the purpose of
organizing actors along mutually beneficial lines.
These arrangements are similar to contracts or quasi-agreements; they're not
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