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Social Choice Theory on Balance of Power - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 291
Balance of Power/political realism/social choice theory/Brown: to be punished one way or another. The imperatives imposed by a self-help system will drive states to behave rationally and selfishly: states are obliged to treat each other as potential enemies, although, if a balance of power can be sustained, a degree of stability may emerge. The beauty of this approach is that by marginally recasting its assumptions, a version of liberal internationalism can also be defended. Neorealists argue that rational egoists cannot co-operate under anarchy, while neoliberals argue that, given a degree of institutionalization and improved information flows, co-operation is possible, albeit at suboptimal levels (Axelrod and Keohane, 1985(1); Keohane, 1989;(2) Mearsheimer, 2001(3)). >Balance of Power/Waltz, >State/Waltz.
Brown: The shift from Augustinian to 'rational choice realism' has had important consequences. (Cf.>International relations/Niebuhr).
1)On the positive side, it has undermined the assumption that international relations theory is, in some strong sense, sui genens, unconnected with the other social sciences and based on a kind of ethnomethodology of diplomatic practice to which social theory more generally cannot contribute.
2)On the other hand, the dominance of neorealist/ neoliberal thought has significantly narrowed the range of questions that theorists of international relations deem appropriate or answerable. Whether states pursue relative gains or absolute gains (one way of distinguishing between neorealist and neoliberal assumptions) is an interesting question, but can hardly form a satisfactory basis for an examination of the foundations of the current international order (Grieco, 1988)(4).


1. Axelrod, R. and R. O. Keohane (1985) 'Achieving cooperation under anarchy: strategies and institutions'. World Politics, 38: 226-54.
2. Keohane, R. O. (1989) International Institutions and State Power. Boulder, CO: Westview.
3. Mearsheimer, J. (2001) The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: Norton.
4. Grieco, J. M. (1988) 'Anarchy and the limits of cooperation: a realist critique of the newest liberal institutionalism'. International Oganisation, 42:485—508.

Brown, Chris 2004. „Political Theory and International Relations“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Social Choice Theory
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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