Cyclic or dynamic - Neorealism versus Neoliberalism

Seminar Paper, 2006

7 Pages, Grade: 1.6

Abstract or Introduction

Contemporary theory of International Relations is a continuous scholarly battleground for various
schools of thought. This paper will scrutinize two prevailing theories of neorealism and
neoliberalism, namely Kenneth Waltz’s concept of political structures juxtaposed with Robert O.
Keohane’s neoliberal institutionalism. To arrive at a critical conclusion that explains which of the
two constructs stand a better chance of successfully explaining the most fundamental workings of
the international system of states, a four-part sequence is proposed in this paper. Firstly, this paper
will explain how both authors define their assumed principles and how those assumptions are
summarised in relation to the international system. Secondly it will demonstrate where the author’s
ideas intersect and/or divert from the other. Thirdly, it will examine if it is feasible to classify the
ideas as distinct theories or if it is perhaps more accurate to see Keohane’s work as an alteration to
neorealist theory. Finally, by equating the logical consequences of the findings in the preceding
sections, this paper will conclude with a restrictive formulation of the more convincing idea within
the confines of the two texts.
Waltz commences his 1979 chapter on political structures in “Theory of International Politics” by
stressing the need for a system theory of international politics, which is set apart from economic,
social and other international realms. He adapts the idea of structure predominately used by
economists and anthropologists. Waltz is particularly interested in the creation and interaction of
the units within the system and amongst each other, as well as the forces and outcomes that the
units entail. By setting aside “the characteristics of units, their behaviour, and their interactions”
and focusing purely on their position within the structure instead, Waltz argues that an abstract theory of the system will more precisely explain how the structure of political systems affects the
agencies, its units, thereby minimising confusion between system and unit level causalities.
As Waltz continues his deductive approach to political systems he constitutes structure and
interacting units.


Cyclic or dynamic - Neorealism versus Neoliberalism
The Australian National University
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Cyclic, Neorealism, Neoliberalism
Quote paper
Jan Lüdert (Author), 2006, Cyclic or dynamic - Neorealism versus Neoliberalism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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