Dissertation > Political, legal > Diplomacy, international relations > Diplomacy, international relations theory

A Study of Robert .O.Keohane’s Political Thoughts

Author QiHongGuo
Tutor WangCaiBo
School Jilin University
Course Political Theory
Keywords University Press Theory of international mechanisms International cooperation Neoliberal institutionalism Science Press Western International Relations Theory World political and economic International regime Global Governance U.S. hegemony
Type PhD thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 749
Quotes 5
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Robert.O.Keohane enjoys a reputation in the western international relation theory circles. Starting with criticizing new realism, on the basis of economical and political development and changes in the world, from the new institutional economics perspective, absorbing the theory core of realism and taking it as an analysis instrument, Robert.O.Keohane has initiated the international relation theory of Neoliberal institutionalism and is dominating the debate in the western international relation theory circles. What is the theoretical and practical background against which Robert .O.Keohane’s political thoughts have come into being? What are his political thoughts? What is special about his thoughts? What is the value direction of his thoughts? All these are studied in this thesis.Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts have come into being against the theoretical background of the influence of the western liberalism, the question about and criticism of the new realism international relation theory and the revival of neoinstitutionalism. Liberalism has been a main influence on international politics, and since the end of the cold war, western states’diplomatic policies have embodied more liberalism than ever. In Robert.O.Keohane’s Neoliberal institutionalism, there are such liberalism elements as John Locke’s liberalism, Hugo Grotius’opinions about international laws and Immanuel Kant’s thoughts about everlasting peace. Robert.O.Keohane started with new realism’s theoretical hypothesis about international politics, but he reached a conclusion different from new realism. Robert.O.Keohane used as a reference Kenneth Waltz’s structure theory, but he established a new theory. The most important contribution Robert.O.Keohane has made to international relation theory is that he has taken rational selection institutionalism of the new institutional economics as a tool to analyze international relations with. Transaction costs, uncertainty, ineffective market and Coase’s laws are of great significance to the establishment of his theory.Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts has come into being against the practical background of the state of world anarchy, the US’s relative declination, and globalization including global problems arising from it. World anarchy means that there is no world government dominating sovereign states. It is both actuality in the world and a hypothesis for theoretical exploration. Robert.O.Keohane holds that in the state of world anarchy a sovereign state pays close attention to its own absolute interests and international institutions may help to bring about international cooperation. Now that the US is not as strong as before, in order to maintain its hegemony, it will have to introduce a new diplomatic strategy: replace unilateralism by multilateralism, and international cooperation is inevitable. The acceleration of globalization and the arising of global problems need global governance. As a leading role in globalization, the US will take governance responsibility necessarily, and the key is what governance model is to be chosen. Robert.O.Keohane holds that institutions help to bring about cooperation and institutional governance is the best choice.Against the above background, Robert.O.Keohane has initiated the international relation theory of Neoliberal institutionalism, the logic structure of which is that in a complex-interdependence world, only if necessary international institutions and regimes are established and work effectively, can international cooperation and global governance be brought about, and then can the US’s hegemony be thought legitimate. Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts are based on the understanding of the features of the day. Since the 1970s, with the détente and end of the cold war, the state of conflicts has tended to be eased in the international society and the means by which sovereign states associate with each other have been diversified. Robert.O.Keohane holds that complex interdependence is the basic feature of international politics and economies nowadays. International cooperation is a strategic choice in a complex independence world, and international regimes are the way to cooperation, in which cooperation costs can be reduced and it is one of the international regime functions. No matter how international regimes changes according to its own rules of logic, the function that they help to bring about cooperation will not change. Global governance is the concrete practical model of international cooperation, and it is cooperative governance. International institutions are the best choice for global governance, and the key is how to design the institutional institutions for global governance.Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts are logically clear and structurally reasonable, and original. His thoughts have aroused much concern in western international relation theory circles. In this thesis, the author studies Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts by comparing the modern western mainstream international relation theories. Concerning the feature of the international system, new realism holds that the feature is the systematic structure, neoliberal institutionalism holds that it is the international institutions, and constructivism holds that it is the international culture. Concerning the grounds for state conduct selection, new realism holds they are the structure selects, neoliberal institutionalism holds they are the institution selects, and constructivism holds they are the culture selects. Concerning the essence of international relations, new realism holds it is the fight for power among states in a state of anarchy, neoliberal institutionalism holds it is the international cooperation in a state of anarchy, and constructivism holds it is the construction of culture. The original of Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts can be found by the comparison. Robert.O.Keohane is one of the persons dominating the modern western international relation debate, but his thoughts are also criticized by new realism, with criticism focused on restrictions on international cooperation, cooperation theory’s capability for explanation, and so on.In this thesis, after the exploration of the background, the contents and the originality, the author analyzes the value direction of Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts: to expound and prove the legitimacy of the establishment of the US hegemony. The author holds that Robert.O.Keohane takes international cooperation and global governance as results grounds and international institutions and international regimes as institution grounds for the legitimacy of the US’s hegemony, and institutional hegemony is a new form of the US’s hegemony today. The author also points out that institutional hegemony has added to the contents and difficulties of the struggle of China and the other developing countries against hegemony.Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts are rooted in the western developed countries and have a strong tendency to westernization. International institutions and regimes are established under the leadership of hegemony states, and works for the states of hegemony, so even if the states’power declines, the institutions and regimes will serve them still. The states of hegemony can get more absolute gains and relative gains from international cooperation than other states, and the developing countries can get much less relative gains than the developed countries. Global governance is a tactical choice, by which the developed countries can transfer costs. The costs of global governance are to be paid by all the parties concerned, and the developing countries will pay more costs than the developed countries. What’s more, the institutions for global governance are designed under the leadership of the hegemony states, and the developing countries are in an unfavorable position. Therefore, when we recognize and absorb the reasonable elements in Robert.O.Keohane’s political thoughts, we must see the tendency to westernization and hegemony.

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