Anarchy and Order


Anarchyand Order


  • Introduction: provides an highlight of the topic Neoliberal institutionalism and the related fundamental arguments.

  • Neoliberal institutionalism: overview of Neoliberal institutionalism paradigm and neo-realism, their origin and their fundamental arguments

  • Features of neoliberal institutionalism paradigm: The four features of neoliberal institutionalism paradigm form the basis for arguments between the two theories. These include:

  • Non-State Actors in World Politics

  • Varieties of Power in World Politics

  • Interdependence

  • Cooperation in world politics

  • Constructivist approach: brings more light to the debate on the fundamental arguments between neoliberal institutionalism and neo-realism, as well looking back to the ideas held by classical realists.

  • Similarities: discusses the points of consensus between neoliberal institutionalism, neo-realism and classical realism.

  • Conclusion: Brings the highlight of major issues of contention among the theories of international politics and the points of agreement.

Internationalorganizations are critical in ensuring harmony and stability ismaintained in the world. These institutions ensure that the relevantparties act within the interests of the international community.International organizations are expected to have a higher level ofcontrol, transparency and regulation so as clearly to represent theinterests of the states they represent as well as the interest of theentire international community. In attempts to comprehendinternational organizations, different theories have been developedto give explanations. The emergence of neoliberal institutionalismwas a counter argument for classical liberalism and its laterdevelopment to neo-realism. This paper examines the relationshipbetween neoliberal institutionalism and neo-realism based on the fourfeatures of neoliberal institutionalism.


Theneoliberal institutionalism paradigm is the concept in internationalrelations that emerged in the late 1970s. The neoliberalinstitutionalism paradigm has four main features. These features haveevolved over time in the literature of international relations. Thesefeatures include a stress on non-state actors such as internationalinstitutions other forms of power besides threats and militaryforce independence alongside anarchy in interstate system andcooperation in the face of conflict in international politics (Carr2001). The features offered by neoliberal institutionalism tend tohave sharp contrast to neo-realism.

Non-StateActors in World Politics

Basedon the systemic-level theory, neoliberal institutionalism accepts thedecentralized nature of the states. In addition, it acknowledges theexistence and the role played by other non-state actors suchinternational institutions, multinational organizations andNon-Governmental Institutions (NGOs). However, much focus is given toregimes and international institutions. International institutionsare more like organizations, but they serve a bigger capacity thantypical organizations. Neoliberal institutionalism looks at theseactors broadly with the aim of providing common explicit and implicitprinciples, rules, norms and procedures for decision making, whereall these actors can converge. The existence of institutions providesa common ground where rules and principles are laid down, guiding thebehavior and actions of an individual state.

Internationalinstitutions and organizations are found in every region of theworld, and every country of the world is a member of certaininternational institution. In recent years, many internationalinstitutions have multiplied. Some have grown to reach all regions ofthe world. Some institutions such IMF and World Bank have all nationsof the world as members. Other institutions such as the World TradeOrganization are largely expanding to meet all the regions of theworld. The European Union has recently expanded and reached someareas that were considered so domestic. The growth of internationalinstitutions leaves a mark that cannot be ignored in world politics(Kegley 1995).

Thereis a strong diversion between neoliberal institutionalism andneo-realism in the explanation of the institutional change. Forexample, several international institutions, including the WorldBank, UN, IMF, NATO, the ICC and WTO are under pressure to reform.They have received much criticism for their failure to accomplishtheir mandate (Carr 2001 p92). According to neo-realism, institutionschange following a change in the fundamental balance of power amongthe states. This causal relationship implies that the internationalinstitutions are dependent on state power. A change in state powercan subsequently affect the stability of the internationalinstitutions. On the other hand, neoliberal institutionalism explainsthat institutions on change partly as a result of the level ofsuccess or failure in performance of the tasks it was designed toaccomplish.

Varietiesof Power in World Politics

Neoliberalinstitutionalism pays attention to other forms of power exceptmilitary force and threats. On the other hand, the neo-realists holdonto military force as the main ingredient of national power.According to Waltz (1979), the force applied in internationalpolitics is constant and acts as Ultima ratio. Realists claim thatresources can be used as the basis for listing the nations in thepower hierarchy, with the countries with more resources perceived tobe better in military power. Neoliberal institutionalism shares adifferent outlook on global politics.

Keohane&amp Nye (1985) assert that the acknowledgment of the logic that isapplied in different issue areas, this paradigm emphasizes onvariation and the importance of issue areas. Power resources thatinfluence the negotiations in international trade include varied fromthose related to nuclear nonproliferation to those concerning climatechange. The concept of ranking states in terms of power resources iscontroversial. There are a varying capacity and influence of outcomeof power resources among the countries. For example, Japan is verypowerful in terms of international trade or whaling, but has verylittle power in terms of nuclear proliferation and oil. The conceptof the resources that can be regarded as power resources is broaderin neoliberal institutionalism than in neo-realists (Carr, 2001).


Anotherimportant feature for neoliberal institutionalism is the explanationof the international system as representing both interdependence andanarchy. Neoliberal institutionalism agrees on decentralization ofthe system that relies on self-implementation behavior, but disagreeson domination of anarchy in the system. However, it agrees that thenthere is a likelihood of high centralization in state relations andin particular issue areas. According to neoliberal institutionalism,countries relations stand to be highly centralized even withoutdefining patterns. The flow of raw materials, manufactured goods,capital and people across the countries’ borders have directbenefits to the countries involved and are very crucial to economicdevelopment of those countries. Interfering with the flow of theeconomic factors can result to a serious economic and politicaldamage to the countries involved (Humpreys 2013). Thus,interdependence involves mutual dependence and all the partiesinvolved tend to benefit directly from this interdependence.

Complexinterdependence means there is a stronger relationship that is beyondeconomic interdependence. There are three features that characterizethe world. First, transnational relations play an important role.These relations concerns the societies that are connected by multiplechannels that range from informal and formal governmental andnongovernmental elites in various countries. Second, therelationships agenda among the states involve multiple issues in theabsence of a clear hierarchy and resolution of issues do not involvesecurity relations. Third, military force is never considered as theprimary mechanism for the resolution of disagreements among thestates involved. Instead, alternative power resources are the keyresolution mechanisms. One of the powers is found in internationalinstitutions themselves. A world with multiple imperfectly linkedissues, where trans-national and trans-governmental coalitions areformed, international institutions, have a potential role inincreasing the political bargaining power (Keohane &amp Nye 1985).They serve as catalysts in the formation of coalitions andinternational agenda and provide political linkages and initiativesfor the weaker nations.

Cooperationin world politics

Cooperationin world politics is another area that creates contention betweenneo-realists and institutional liberalists. Neo-realism centers ondisagreement among states, especially in matters of war and theapplication of military force. Keohane and Nye’s views oninterdependence seemed to address the division between the attentiongiven to conflict and the attention focused on cooperation. Sincethen, neoliberal institutionalism has tried to institute extensiveand lasting patterns of cooperation. Most of these patterns areinstitutionalized. For instance, in the North Atlantic region, thereexists a &quotsecurity community&quot, where there is no war. Also,there is no tendency for states to use threats or military force toresolve issues. The European Union has led to several countries toabandon a great deal of their autonomies and sovereignty in pursuanceof peace and prosperity (Milner &amp Moravcsik 2009).

Neoliberalinstitutionalism has identified itself with a distinctive feature ofmere cooperation to institutionalized cooperation. Realists’ ideasof the corporation are based on balancing and building of alliances.Neoliberal institutionalism explains the idea of institutionalizedcooperation as enduring policy coordination amidst the nationsinvolved, governed by rules, practices and norms that are confinedwithin the agreements, treaties or international organizations. Through such agreements, several countries disregard theirsovereignty and autonomy in pursuance of common policy areas. Theinstitutionalized cooperation is maintained if the states will actwithin the rules and norms provided by the institutions (Humpreys2013). They should cooperate at all times, both when they are gainingand when they are not gaining. Realists, on the other hand, do notexpect the states to cooperate in a time when their interests arecompromised.


Constructivismtheorists engage ambivalence that prevents it from being accepted inglobal politics. Constructivism is related to neo-realism in itsapplication of various notions on political practices around theworld politics. Contrary to neoliberal institutionalism, theconstructivist approach stresses that the most pressing issues inworld politics are rooted on social and historical dependence. Theinternational community has social structures that are characterizedby three features (Milner &amp Moravcsik 2009). These featuresinclude material resources, shared knowledge and practices. Thesocial structures are depicted by understanding, knowledge andvarious shared expectations. In several cases, the social structuresinvolve the actors who possess some relationship. This relationshipmay have cooperation or conflict instances. Foe example, asecurity-based dilemma, may be regarded a social structure involvingseveral inter-subjective understandings. In such a case, individualstates become suspicious of one another, thus making wrongperceptions about their intentions towards each other.

Constructivistapproaches disagree with the claim by neo-realists that anarchy islikely to lead the states in helping themselves. Usually, thisdependence is based on the level of individual interaction among thestates. In addition, the process of these interstate interactionsleads to the creation of other identities and interests. According toneoliberal perspective, the states’ interests and identities aredetermined by international organizations. Individual states clearlyidentify what their goals are before they enter into interaction withanother state. Interactions amid various states create one structureof interests and identities. Ideally, these structures have nounderlined powers from the major process. In major cases, the nationsdesire to exist continuously. For example, the cold war ceased afterthe US and the USSR ceased their rivalry. International actorsreceive steady identities and have a clear comprehension of theexplicit functions. The formation of the European Union erupted fromthe cessation of the cold war (Andrew 1997).

Contraryto neoliberal institutionalism, constructivists do not regard normsand regulations with seriousness. According to neoliberalinstitutionalism, the applications of norms ensure that nations havea glimpse of the differences that compel the global states tocooperate. The norms are drafted by the international organizations,and they help to build and maintain peace around the world.Constructivists’ perception is that the anarchy situation ischaracterized by social functions that bind individual states. Thisnotion implies that in an anarchy state, the states may revealthemselves in realist nature.

However,in neoliberal institutionalism, the focal point is the natural rightsentitled to individual human beings. The Constructivist approach doesnot agree that the state of anarchy forms the foundation for theinternational community. Individual states can influence thesubstance and the outcome of specific structures. Wendt (1999) arguesthat different states have different conceptions on the implicationof anarchy. Neoliberal institutionalism does not reject theanarchistic nature of the international community as beingoveremphasized.

Accordingto the constructivist approach, anarchy is bound to occur in theinternational community as a result of the union of different statesthat have varied self-interests compelled by anarchy. Anarchy iscommonly understood as a lack of political or government authorityamid any political system. It implies that in such a state,individual nations will rely on their strength. Consequently,reaching some agreements between the states will depend on theirlevel of enforcement. On the contrary, neoliberal institutionalismbelieves that anarchy situation can be abridged in the short of fullresolution. Anarchy bears to teamwork and coordination to devastatethe interactions that thrive among the states. However, theshortcomings can be overcome by availing information or making moreconvincing commitments.

Theconstructivist approach holds that the past interactions set the pacefor future interactions. The creation of interests and identities ofthe theory of several nations may present a relationship challengebetween the structures and agents. For example, America feels thethreat of the manufacture of nuclear weapons by the North Korea(Wendt 1999). Thus, two nations may be forced to enter a relationshipthat is founded on enmity. This situation is likely to result in agreater change in social structures in the face of variousinternational actors. The theory does not contradict the moralistsidea of the pursuit of interest.

However,it criticizes the idea that creation of interest results from abyproduct circumstance. In international relations, human security isconcerned with matters such as political economy, politicalcommunity, and the sovereignty of the states. Constructivism holdsthat normally, a state behavior is socially constructed (Wendt 1999).This notion implies that such values and ideas affect therelationships of the communities internationally. The materialsengaged in the construction of reality in international relationsutilizing the anarchy concept have resulted in self-aid in theinternational system. The nations construct rather than the threatsoccurring naturally.


Neoliberalinstitutionalism and neo-realism share some features. Both neoliberalinstitutionalism and neo-realism support systemic level-theory ininternational theory. Systemic-level theorists assert that theinternational system plays an important role among the states byconstraining and shaping them (Andrew 2008, p. 4). When applyingtheory to explain international relations, systemic-level theoristsemphasize that the external forces cannot be ignored. Failure torecognize them would create pressure on the domestic variables,making them explain the international system. According toneo-realists, balance of capabilities and anarchy are the key factorsthat influence the states. Neoliberal institutionalism agrees thesignificance of the above factors, but they believe that theconsequences of anarchy are stopped by the interplay between theinstitutionalized nature and the mutual independence of the worldpolitics, especially with focus on specific matters in a givencountry. While there is a consensus on systemic-level theory,neoliberal institutionalism does not exclusively focus on powerbalance and anarchy as the core elements of the system.

Neoliberalinstitutionalism and moralists also agree that in internationalpolitics, the states are the critical actors and that they arerational in major and unquestionable ways. However, neoliberalinstitutionalism goes a step ahead to admit the existence of othersignificant players, such as NGOs and international institutions, inworld politics (Andrew 2008, p. 5). Both neoliberal institutionalismand neorealist share a common epistemological orientation. Theyexhibit positivism and nationalism and get concerned with empiricalmeasurements of causal propositions proposed by the theories. All thethree assumptions are useful, but several parties give moreconsideration to domestic politics.


Neoliberalinstitutionalism and neo-realism exhibit sharp contrast in severalinternational matters. While neoliberal institutionalism emphasizeson the role of international institutions, neo-realists viewinternational institutions as unstable their operation is dependenton state power. Neoliberal institutionalism pays attention to otherforms of power except military force and threats. On the other hand,the neo-realists hold onto military force as the main ingredient ofnational power. Neoliberal institutionalism explains theinternational system as representing both interdependence and anarchyand emphasize on decentralization of the system that rely onself-implementation behavior, but disagree on domination of anarchyin the system. Neo-realist disagrees with the countries, continual tocomply even when their interests are jeopardized. Despite thedifferences, both theories agree on the systemic-level theory andthat the nations are the key performers in international politics.


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