Video: 4:53 minutes / Pause for Thought Activity: 5-10 minutes
Transcript - Neo-Liberal institutionalist theory
Our second theory is neo-liberal institutionalism. The latter theory shares two fundamental assumptions with realism: the international system is anarchic and it is populated by state actors who behave as rational egoists. By the latter, we mean actors which only view others as means to achieving their own selfish ends. Nevertheless, neo-liberals argue that these two assumptions are not incompatible with durable patterns of cooperation.
For cooperation to occur, states have to privilege absolute gains over relative gains, e.g. the cake has to be growing for all, but the relative size of the slices is not considered important. By contrast, realism worries about relative gains; it matters if another party grows stronger relative to you, because realism fears this new strength might be used against you.
The other pre-requisite for cooperation for neo-liberals is that there is a strong assurance that others will not cheat or defect from cooperative arrangements. These assurances are provided by Institutions which are defined as shared habits and practices of cooperation. Institutions serve a key function: they provide increased information exchange, improved levels of transparency, and a forum for communication to promote mutual reassurance.
Pause for Thought
Select one of the following questions and make some notes:
- Does this theoretical approach change how you think about the stag-hunt? Has your decision to cooperate or defect in the stag-hunt been altered by this account?
- How persuasive do you find the more hopeful account of cooperation given by neo –liberal institutionalism?
- Can you apply neo-liberal institutionalism to episodes where international cooperation has succeeded?
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