Neoliberalism on Regional Conflicts

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Introduction

With the development of the idea that cooperation in the world politics can be upgraded through the construction and support of multilateral relations and multilateral institutions in the 20th century, importance of the liberal doctrines increased.  When nations worry too much about a newly raising power or power diffusion, overreaction or adopting dangerous strategies can seem as plausible options for the leaders. As Thucydides stated in his book ‘History of Peloponnesian War’; rise of Athens in power and the fear in Sparta as a result of this, caused the war which resulted with the collapse of the Greek city system.[1] Likewise, it is stated that World War I, caused by the rise of Germany in power and the fear in Britain due to such development, as a result of this war the centrality of European state system collapsed.[2] Hence it is possible to say that, merely power diffusion and race for power were the main concern of states in the world politics till the late 20th century. But in today`s world, it is not an adequate way to consider the world with realist views and with the aim of relative gains.  States of 21th century should consider all dimensions of power and how it changes with the adoption of absolute gains which will make them all win.

After the increasing density of the sovereign states all around the world, different conflicts and races of power also increased, states began to race with the other sovereign states in their region with the aim of being the rising power and the main actor in their region. Taking into account the lack of the cooperation and the absence of a supreme entity above the states, such conflicts in different dimensions emerged among the states.

This essay is tackling the neoliberal theory in international relations theory in general and tries to apply this particular type of theoretical approach to the regional conflicts in world politics. The essay is rejecting the idea of considering the factor of power only in one dimension in today’s world and advocating the cooperation among states and affords for solution of the regional conflicts on the basis of neoliberal principles and absolute gains.

Theoretical Approach – Neoliberalism

The theory of Neoliberalism in international relations is mostly focusing on the international cooperation and international institutions, this type of particular view shows that neoliberalist view goes beyond the realist idea of interstate relations. In case of explaining the international relations, the representatives of the neoliberalism possess different ideas in case of international actors and their influences. Those neoliberalists whose ideas are quite solid on the basis of neoliberalism believe that international institutions play a significant role in international relations and they are underlying the transnational nature of international relations. And those neoliberalists, whose ideas are not that solid on the neoliberalist principles, agree that states are the major actors of the international relations. Similar disagreements can be seen regarding to the cooperation and multilateralism. Solid neoliberalists see cooperation as rational for states, it may be helpful in order to bring a resolution for issues and states may get benefit from it. Non solid neoliberalists think that cooperation may give negative consequences and cause the emergence of new issues, states may get apt to not implementing their commitments.[3] But in this regard, it is possible to say that, international institutions can promote the international cooperation and assure the development of cooperation. They also may put pressure on states to comply with the international agreements. However all neoliberalists accept and acknowledge the importance of the international cooperation which is one of the main principles of this theory. And the theory indicates that institutions enhance the cooperation and reduce the risk of war and conflict. Neoliberalism specifically looks at this solution: it argues that international cooperation limit the effects of anarchy.[4]

Besides, neoliberalists focus on domestic relations too, tackling the domestic policy issues and the influence of the political regimes and political systems to the state’s foreign policy in particular and to international relations in general.[5] Although some theories ignore the role of domestic policies in international relations, neoliberalism indicates that the political systems, domestic policies should not be neglected, democratic and non-democratic states would act and interact differently. Democratic peace theory advocates the premise that democracies solve the conflicts without using the military sources. Neoliberals tackle the policy tools and diverse resources available for states, they are underlying the importance of the economic sources and propound that power cannot be absorbed only in military and political terms, but also as ‘soft power’.  Joseph Nye firstly introduced the title of ‘economic security’ and ‘soft security’ and eventually the ‘soft power’ which shows that states can pursue their national interest and create political impact in other countries without using military sources.[6]

There are two most influential contemporary approaches in international relations theory; neorealism and neoliberalism. And these two views have dominated the international relations in last decade.[7] Realism is a tradition associated with the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli; according to this, international relations absorbed as interstate relations with the principled of power politics and anarchy. And this tradition illustrated by realism and neorealism. While rationalists refer to Grotius and paying attention to the shared interests which may seem appealing to states as an opportunity to consider the joint common rules and institutions. Liberalism and neoliberalism are associated with this particular tradition.[8]

In order to understand the concept of neoliberalism and its strong sides, it is necessary to tackle the third great debate in international relations theory. The third great debate, or the ‘Neo – Neo debate’, which was a debate between neorealism and neoliberalism. The double ‘neo’ is one of the signs that show this is an update, a discussion about the latest version of state in international relations.[9] The neo-neo debate was a theoretical based debate in 1970s – 1980s, in which two major views of the international relations discussed the international system, major actors, and main forms of interaction. Both sides brought their claims on the table; neorealists argued that states are the main international actors, international anarchy is a reality and it determines the importance of security and power for states. States behave rationally, protect their national interests and face with the unfriendly international environment. International anarchy has influence on states’ decisions, attitudes and motives. International institutions play a major role in international relations. And representative of neoliberalism raised criticisms to neorealist theoretical assumptions: influential non-state actors cannot be neglected besides states. International organizations have gained significant power on the world politics and on the states’ sovereignty. In terms of financial sources and political impact, multinational corporations have the ability to compete with the states. In case of domestic policies, states should not be considered as unitary actor, as the only decision-making processes. Different national actors, institutions, interest groups involve on the national level policies, and furthermore different economic entities, local authorities, national political and business elite are dealing with international partners undermining the monopoly and directly playing role in the international arena. States’ interests are not limited with the security and political power it also includes economic resources and development. And in case of assuring financial welfare, social stability and friendly external environment, cooperation can be quite important strategy. Cooperation gives to states the opportunity to meet on the common ground in order to bring a solution to issues, states may gather for their national interests not as foes, opponents but as partners.

Although the representatives of the both theories advocated different views and different perspectives, this debate led and increasing understanding between neoliberalism and neorealism. While they both explain the international relations on the rational basis, they also agreed on the research technique; game theory seemed the best for examination of rational actors’ decision. Yet, different interpretations of games led to a disagreement on theoretical basis.  As a result of this debate, neoliberals and neorealists came to understand that they share common research interests on understanding the states’ interests, action, motives, different forms of interaction and a shared devotion to rationality. They agreed on the existence and the reality of anarchy in international relations[10]  but they differently interpreted it. And the hegemonic stability theory allowed both theories to expound the role of leaders in ensuring stability when a hegemon acts with the support of the majority of actors, hegemon can enforce rules and regulations.  Both theories also appreciate the possibility of cooperation in several ways. As stated by Kenneth Waltz “In a state of anarchy, the desire to ensure one’s own safety leads to war or to the endangerment of one’s own safety”.[11] Thus it is possible to say that, states would consider the cooperation possibility when their safety is secured firstly.  And neoliberals do not believe that close cooperation is combative. Keohane argues that, “international system is anarchic, but normatively regulated too”.[12] It led to a deduction that, the condition of cooperation reduces the possibility of anarchy and conflict.[13]

In conclusion, states’ importance as one of the main actors in world politics cannot be neglected but in today’s world and in current system, international institutions, transnational corporations and such entities entered to the international arena with their influence of power, in other words international cooperation became one of the key element of today’s international relations. According to Charles Lipson; Rosetta stone of the international relations is usually referred to the international system and its affection to the cooperation.[14] Hence, both neoliberals and neorealists institutionalists can deduce their own conclusion from the structural condition set by what they absorb as an anarchic international system.[15] And the definition of the anarchy – anarchic system remains as a problem between these two approaches. Mainly, power diffusion and emergence of a new power are causing the arise of the conflicts in the regional and global scope and this situation leads to state of anarchy. The emphasize on anarchy and the acceptance of the reality of anarchy in international relations by neoliberals and neorealists in the result of the neo-neo debate, reaffirms this argument.

Neoliberalism, as one of the main theory in international relations, essentially argues that, even in the state of anarchy cooperation can be created by building joint regimes, norms and institutions with mutual trust. In case of understanding which criterias are important for states when they tend to cooperate with other states, employment of the game theory is an adequate mean to explain this question. Primarily in the sense of absolute gains, this cooperation should seem beneficial for states.

Application of theory to the topic

Regional conflicts have their own unique challenges to the international community and international order. These conflicts can be on political, economic or social dimension in their nature but they are closely tied with a particular region.  After the Second World War, United Nations, NATO and Warsaw pact specified the international system during the Cold War.[16] During the time of this definition of the international system, character of the system unexpectedly suppressed more regional or nationalistic conflicts. But, how to approach towards regional conflicts in today’s international system and how to resolve them?

As mentioned in the beginning of this essay, race for power seems to be one of the main sources of conflicts; changes in the international distribution of economic and military power have caused the emergence of new powers, new centers of growth in power all around the world. And if we refer to the beginning of the essay again and remember that, leaders may worry and follow dangerous strategies in case of the emergence of new powers, the reason for the news conflicts in the world scene. There are different dimensions regarding to the definition of the power today. Joseph Nye argues that, power today as distributed like a three-dimensional chessboard. On the top board of this chessboard, military power which is beyond the area of realism tends to be a unipolar world. The middle board is the economic relation which tends to be multipolar, different powers to balance the superpower. And the bottom board is the transnational relations, cross-border order or the disorder out of the governments’ control, the area where lots of actors involved and the governments are not the main and only actors.[17] The rise of different forms of powers and regionalism is the sign of the fragmentation of international order.[18] Conflict formations can be shaped by the world economy or the strategic and economic penetration of the major powers but mainly the roots of these conflicts derive from the regional and domestic circumstances.[19] Hence, such conflict will tend to draw of the participation of great powers.[20] Nevertheless, Joseph Nye argues that great powers probably will unite in their view of aggressor as a factor of threat to the international stability, and this will make aggressor to find new allies.[21]

Regional conflict formations have different components, their particular forms include sustained violent actions such as civil war (e.g. in 1950s in Colombia), border wars (e.g. in 1968 between Honduras and Salvador) and interventions to other countries (Vietnam’s intervention to Kampuchea and Tanzania’s intervention into Uganda in 1970s).[22] Furthermore, extra regional use of military force which is external intervention can also be considered by major powers as an option. In case of East-West or such confrontations, intervention can be unilateral. Joseph Nye indicates that in situation of regional military conflict, great powers must act to contain the threat and put down the aggression.[23]

How the theory of neoliberalism and its principles help to construct particular types of approaches towards such issues -regional conflicts in the international relations- ?

Joseph Nye highlights two sources of power conflict. First, power transition may prompt some actors to challenge to status quo. Newly emerging powers may attack to declining ones to secure more favorable status in the international order whereas declining powers may prefer to suppress the rising competitors.[24] In this regard, it is quite substantial not to be too fearful about the diffusion of power.[25] States will face with the transnational issues such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism and cyber security. These challenges will be more significant by time and they will require cooperation including the nongovernmental organizations, in some cases. Second, the nature of power and the methods of its exertion are also important elements in causing or preventing the conflict.[26] He argues that the use of military power has become both more expensive and less effective. As he remarks; rising power have incentives for territorial aggression then they have had throughout most of history because the route to prestige, power and economic success in the modern era lies in high technology, production and human capital.[27]And in order to reveal the difference of the system in today’s world, he also points out; world politics today is different from that of the last two centuries. It is now like a three-dimensional chess game in which interstate military power is highly concentrated in United States and economic power is distributed in a multipolar manner […]. Thus, a smart strategy must handle different distributions of power in different domains and understand the trade-offs among them.[28] 

Another element which can be used regarding to the solution of the regional conflicts is the international political economy as an international relations discipline. With the aim of closing the gap between politics and economy, a group of experts whose members include Robert Keohane, Joseph Nye, Edward Morse and Robert Baldwin, contributed to this view.[29] It is not possible for every theory to acknowledge the possible link between economic growth and the military conflicts between sovereign states in world politics. But through a liberal view, it is possible to see a relationship between economic development and peace. Global economy may have the impact on international politics due to the fact that it shapes interconnected interests of separate states.[30] Consequence is the intension of the powers to maintain the status quo in international affairs. The possibility of economic cooperation among states surely will have an influence to reduce the impact of conflict. If states consider their benefits in international arena, the most plausible path for them is to pick the option of cooperation with the absolute gains of both sides. As stated by the liberals and neoliberal institutionalists (Richard Cobden, J. A. Hobson, Woodrow Wilson, David Mitrany, Robert Axelrod, Robert Keohane, and Joseph Nye), the cost of war is much higher than its possible positive results.[31] If states are to rationally consider their conflicts with other states, they would adopt more peaceful policies based on the cooperation and mutual benefits. Another main factor in this case of interstate relations is always keeping the dialogue channels open, even when the relations are quite tense, sides must bring the matters on the table and try to cooperate. Admitting the absolute gains represented by international institutions can be part of the consideration by nation-state over conflict vs. cooperation decisions.[32] As an outcome of the cooperation tense and the possibility of conflict will be reduced or annihilated at all.

In conclusion, in the world politics and world political economy, possibilities for conflict among nations have increased as the scope of the state action widened.[33] The major threats for world economy and world peace have their roots in the conflicts among nations. Neoliberal principles and neoliberal institutionalism can make significant contribution to resolution of the regional conflicts. Rationality of the states will be an effective factor that will make them cooperate for the maximization of their gains. Absolute gains will be the result of this cooperation and both states will gain more than they would lose. And the importance of the international institutions will appear again; international institutions will arrange the necessary framework for cooperation and will stimulate the cooperation.

After Napoleon’s defeat, The Concert of Europe maintained balance among European states to avoid future conflicts and war. In time The Concert dissolved and newly democratic nations rejected to cooperate with the older monarchies. This dissolution led, in part, to World War I.[34] War followed by the Treaty of Versailles and the establishment of the League of Nations, tough requirements of the treaty increased the unrest in Germany, unrest easily turned to aggression. Requirement of the League for consensus in order to act made it not possible to respond to member state’s aggression. The failure of this institution, in part, led to The Second World War.[35] Nevertheless, since the international system redefined during the Cold War, international institutions have been preventing the violent global conflicts. With the increasing significance of financial cooperation, international cooperation among industrialized countries since the end of World War II has likely been broader than international cooperation among major states during any period of comparable length in history.[36]

Hence, in today’s world politics with today’s specific circumstances, cooperation and institutionalism have the utmost importance in regulating the interstate relations and protecting the national interests of states, world peace and status quo. Cooperation dimension of the states’ relationship has much to offer them, than conflict.

Ozan ÇİFTCİ

St. Petersburg State University

ozanciftci550@gmail.com

References

[1] Nye, Joseph, Jr. ‘’A game of three dimensional chess game with China’’, Los Angeles Times, (2013).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 34-35.

[4] Maxime, Gomichon, ‘’Joseph Nye on Soft Power’’, Bristol, (2013).

[5] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017).

[6] Ibid

[7] Powell, Robert. “Anarchy in International Relations Theory: The Neorealist-Neoliberal Debate.” International Organization 48, no. 2 (1994): 313-44. 

[8] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 22-23.

[9] Morgan, Roger. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944) 70, no. 3 (1994): 521-22. 

[10] Baldwin, D. A. ‘Neorealism and neoliberalism : the contemporary debate (1993) p. 4

[11] Pangle, T. L. ‘Justice among nations : on the moral basis of power and peace’ (1999) p. 245.

[12] Linklater A. ‘Neo-realism in Theory and Practice’ in Booth, K., & Smith, S. ‘International Relations Theory Today’ p.  249.

[13] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 34-35.

[14] Dominykas, Broga, ‘’What are the key elementsof theneo-neo debate?’’, Manchester, 2012.

[15] Pfefferle, Tim, ‘’The neo-noe debate in international theory’’ London, 2014.

[16] Joseph Nye, Jr., “International Conflicts After the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: The Role of Intervention. Report of the Aspen Institute Conference, August 2-6, 1995, (Aspen, Colorado: Aspen Institute, 1996) pp. 63-76.

[17] Joseph Nye, Jr., (2010 February 10) personal interview with Vocke William.

[18] Väyrynen, Raimo. “Regional Conflict Formations: An Intractable Problem of International Relations.” Journal of Peace Research21, no. 4 (1984): 337-59. 

[19] Ibid.

[20] Joseph Nye, Jr., “International Conflicts After the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: The Role of Intervention. Report of the Aspen Institute Conference, August 2-6, 1995, (Aspen, Colorado: Aspen Institute, 1996) pp. 63-76.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Väyrynen, Raimo. “Regional Conflict Formations: An Intractable Problem of International Relations.” Journal of Peace Research21, no. 4 (1984): 337-59. 

[23] Joseph Nye, Jr., “International Conflicts After the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: The Role of Intervention. Report of the Aspen Institute Conference, August 2-6, 1995, (Aspen, Colorado: Aspen Institute, 1996) pp. 63-76.

[24] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 123p.

[25] Nye, Joseph, Jr. ‘’A game of three dimensional chess game with China’’, Los Angeles Times, (2013).

[26] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 123p.

[27] Joseph Nye Jr., “International Conflicts After the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post–Cold War World: The Role of Intervention (report of the Aspen Institute Conference, Aspen Institute, Aspen, CO, August 2–6, 1995, 1996), 68.

[28] Nye, Joseph, Jr., ‘’A game of three dimensional chess game with China’’, Los Angeles Times, (2013).

[29] Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017): 98p.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Keohane, Robert O. (Robert Owen), 1941-. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1984. 18p.

[34] Joseph Nye, Jr., “International Conflicts After the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: The Role of Intervention. Report of the Aspen Institute Conference, August 2-6, 1995, (Aspen, Colorado: Aspen Institute, 1996) pp. 63-76.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Keohane, Robert O. (Robert Owen), 1941-. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1984. 18p.

  • Keohane, Robert O. (Robert Owen), 1941-. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1984.
  • Joseph Nye, Jr., “International Conflicts after the Cold War,” in Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War World: The Role of Intervention. Report of the Aspen Institute Conference, August 2-6, 1995, (Aspen, Colorado: Aspen Institute, 1996).
  • Nye, Joseph, Jr., ‘’A game of three dimensional chess game with China’’, Los Angeles Times, (2013).
  • Tsvetkova, Natalia, ‘’Russia and the World’’, Lexington Books, (2017).
  • Väyrynen, Raimo. “Regional Conflict Formations: An Intractable Problem of International Relations.” Journal of Peace Research21, no. 4 (1984).
  • Dominykas, Broga, ‘’What are the key elements of the
  • neo-neo debate?’’, Manchester, (2012).
  • Pfefferle, Tim, ‘’The neo-noe debate in international theory’’ London, (2014).
  • Linklater A. ‘Neo-realism in Theory and Practicein Booth, K., & Smith, S. ‘International Relations Theory Today’
  • Pangle, T. L. ‘Justice among nations : on the moral basis of power and peace’ (1999).
  • Baldwin, D. A. (1993). Neorealism and neoliberalism: the contemporary debate. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Maxime, Gomichon, ‘’Joseph Nye on Soft Power’’, Bristol, (2013).
  • https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20110211-ethics-matter-political-scientist-joseph-s-nye-jr Joseph Nye, Jr., (2010 February 10) personal interview with Vocke William.
  • Keohane, Robert O. “The Demand for International Regimes.” International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982).
  • Keohane, R & Nye, S. J (1977). Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Canada: Little, Brown & Company Ltd.
  • Keohane, R & Nye S. J (1972). Transnational Relations and World Politics. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
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  • Kegley, C. W. (1995). Controversies in international relations theory: realism and the neoliberal challenge.Basingstoke: Macmillan.

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