Theories of International Organization

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Univ.-Prof. Dr. Herm.-J. Blanke

International Organizations Winter 2008/09 W ORKING PAPER 02

Theories of International Organizations (The realist, institutionalist and idealist school)

The realist school Classical realism (Carr 1964; Morgenthau 1993) starts from the premise that the state is not only the major, decisive actor in international politics but also one that is unified and self-contained. Thus, in realist analyses of international politics societal actors are left out, as are differences between various states. Domestic and international politics are two different manifestations of the same phenomenon, which is the struggle for power. The efforts of states to seek security generate a permanent struggle of all against all, which always harbours the possibility of the use of force. And since this struggle follows objective laws, there is only one way of avoiding war, and that is to pursue a policy based on the balance of power (Morgenthau 1993). According to realist theory, IGOs are of little help in challenging this perpetual power struggle since they cannot change the anarchical structure of the international system. Rather, IGOs are simply used by powerful states to implement their power politics more effectively and to pursue their self-interest. The establishment and the success of IGOs are thereby dependent on the existence of a hegemony possessing overwhelming power resources, i.e., something like a legal monopoly of force. Neo-realism mostly adopts the premises of classical realism but attempts more differentiation (Gilpin 1981; Grieco 1988; Kennedy 1987; Waltz 1979). Since, in the neo-realist view, the anarchical structure of the international system dictates the maximization of relative power, IGOs are largely ineffective, and therefore meaningless. Thus, neo-realists argue, states must ensure that other states do not benefit more from cooperation in international organizations than they do themselves because absolute gains translate...
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