terça-feira, 11 de novembro de 2008

Is cooperation possible? An utopian approach

1- Introduction: summarizing the arguments that support cooperation
The questions whether or not cooperation is possible and to what extent it might be achieved are central ones in international relations theory. Answering these questions requires adopting a paradigmatic approach on the nature of the international system’s structure. If the international system is chaotic and characterized by a struggle for power, as realists argue, then the scope for cooperation is limited, if existent at all. If, on the contrary, the international system presents some fair possibilities for cooperation, as liberals affirm, then cooperation becomes of paramount importance and not only can it be achieved but it must be maintained and fostered as well.

The question, therefore, is whether we are doomed to live in a Hobbesian world, where all struggle against all, or in a Lockean world where fostering cooperation may lead to a Kantian utopia of ‘Perpetual Peace’. The possibility of cooperation has divided realists and liberals and has become a major issue in IR theory. In this essay, we shall try to present some arguments that support cooperation and contrast them with some arguments that hold cooperation as difficult to maintain in the longer run. We shall analyze some liberal arguments and some realist counter arguments. Since it is part of their paradigmatic assumption, liberals tend to be much more supportive of the idea of cooperation. In this regard, liberal theory itself could be seen as an argument that supports cooperation.

Due to the limited scope of this essay, however, we could not fully explore here all main assumptions of liberalism in IR theory. We shall instead focus on some main arguments that support cooperation from the liberal camp as well as from the (neo)realist and from the constructivist camps. In fact, it is important to note that several attempts have been made recently in the neorealist field to incorporate arguments that support cooperation and, therefore, incorporate cooperation into realism’s analyses.

2- Arguments that support cooperation: Neo-realism (contingent realism)
Traditional realists, such as Morgenthau, Waltz and Mearsheimer, are skeptical about cooperation for they hold that Realpolitik (struggle for power) is the main feature of world politics. For them, ‘cooperation between states occurs, but it is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to sustain’ (Baylis: 304). Contrary to this view, ‘contingent realists’ such as Charles Glaser assert that ‘there are a wide range of conditions in which adversaries can best achieve their security goals through cooperative policies, rather than competitive ones’ (Ibid. 305). According to John Baylis, these neo-realists ‘tend to be more optimistic about cooperation between states than traditional ‘neo-realists’’ (Ibid. 306). This optimism has its roots in the belief of contingent realists that standard realism is flawed for three main reasons: it is biased towards competition; it emphasizes ‘relative gains’ and neglects ‘relative advantages’; and it overemphasizes cheating. Because of these three flaws in the realist analysis, ‘contingent realists’ argue that there are concrete opportunities for cooperation between states that should not be neglected by IR theory. By exposing some limitations of classical realism, ‘contingent realist’ reinforces arguments that support cooperation.

3- Arguments that support cooperation: mature-anarchy
Other authors of the neo-realist tradition, such as Barry Buzan, are also more optimistic about cooperation between states than their counterparts in the traditional realism camp. Buzan perceives important recent changes in world politics such as the invention of atomic weapons and the nuclear arms race. For him, states recognize the acute dangers of competition in a world characterized by arms of devastating lethal capabilities.

According to Baylis, "Barry Buzan has argued that one of the interesting features of the 1980s and 1990s is the gradual emergence of a rather more ‘mature anarchy’ in which states recognize the intense dangers of continuing to compete aggressively in a nuclear world"(Baylis: 306). Anarchy, an essential feature of the international system for realists, would therefore evolve and not remain static. This trend towards the evolution of anarchy to a state of maturity is one strong argument, they believe, that supports cooperation. According to them, recent developments in Western Europe and the Nordic countries could be seen as the emergence of security communities in which the security dilemma is ameliorated if not transcended. This ‘civilizing process’ could be further extended to other regions in order to create a wider security community. Many other regional agreements such as the establishment of a Peace and Cooperation Zone in the South Atlantic, free of nuclear weapons, point to the same direction. Recent events seem to suggest, in fact, that the scope for cooperation has widened considerably. These events could confirm Buzan’s assumption that anarchy can also mature. Hence, if anarchy can mature then cooperation should not only be attainable but be desirable as well.

4- Arguments that support cooperation: Social Constructivism
It would not be possible here to discuss in length all main assumptions of social constructivism, a theory that, according to Michael Barnet, "is a success story" (Baylis: 252). What is important for the understanding of the possibilities of cooperation is the main social constructivist idea according to which reality, including the international system, is socially constructed. Alexander Wendt, a leading exponent of this school of thought, argues that the international structure is a social rather than a material phenomenon (Wendt: 20). According to this social definition of structure, Wendt identifies three "cultures of anarchy": Hobbesian, Lockean or Kantian. For him, besides power politics, ideas also affect international relations.

According to John Baylis, "(t)his leads Social Constructivists to argue that changing the way we think about international relations can bring a fundamental shift towards greater international security"(Baylis: 311). Cooperation can be, in this perspective, a self-fulfilling prophecy as much as Realpolitik or power politics. Fostering cooperation would bring about a fundamental change in the inter-subjective understanding according to which states operate and thus propitiate effective change in international relations.

In fact, Baylis affirms that "according to Social Constructivist writers, power politics is an idea which does affect the way states behave, but it does not describe all inter-state behavior. States are also influenced by other ideas, such as the rule of law and the importance of institutional cooperation and restraint" (Baylis: 312).

The assumption that ideas are socially constructed is also an argument that supports cooperation, for cooperation is regarded as being potentially beneficial to states willing to escape a Hobesian state of war of all against all in order to enter a more tranquil Kantian state of "Perpetual Peace". Social Constructivists, when assuming that "changing the way we think about international relations can help bring about greater international security" (Baylis: 312), reinforce the idea that cooperation can be achieved by a shift from a competitive to a cooperative international environment.

5- Arguments that support cooperation: Globalism (Utopian Realism)
Scholars called Globalists, such as Anthony Giddens, also share the idea that a shift from a competitive to a cooperative international environment can help bring about a more benign international scenario. In fact, according to John Baylis, "the opportunity to pursue change in the international system is shared by scholars who point to new trends which are already taking place in world politics. The state has been the central concept of international relations ever since its inception. This state-centric view, however, is now increasingly challenged. Writers from the global society school of thought argue that at the beginning of the twenty-first century the process of globalization which has been developing for centuries has accelerated to the point ‘where the clear outlines of a global society’ are now evident" (Baylis: 316).

These utopian realists believe that cooperation is not only possible but also necessary in an increasingly globalized world in which we are witnessing a "fracture of statehood". They propose a new policy of global responsibility capable of addressing, in a cooperative manner, issues related to poverty, the environment, human rights, democracy and so forth. For Globalists, therefore, globalization itself, particularly the emergence of a global communication network, supports cooperation and even makes it necessary and unavoidable.

6- Arguments that support cooperation: Complex Interdependence
The last arguments that support cooperation are those brought forward by Robert Keohane: complex interdependence theory. Drawing a distinction between cooperation and harmony, Keohane believes that the fact that the structure of the international system is anarchical does not preclude the possibility of cooperation, especially in a condition of complex interdependence between states. For Keohane "defining cooperation in contrast to harmony should (…) lead readers with a realist orientation to take cooperation seriously rather than to dismiss it out of hand" (Kaufmann: 493).

Christian Reus-Smit asserts that Keohane’s theories imply that "when conditions (of interdependence) prevail, states share a spectrum of common interests, and they recognize that cooperation will yield greater individual and collective gains than competition or conflict" (Baylis: 361). Even though neo-liberal institutionalists such as Keohane accept that cooperation is difficult to achieve under conditions of anarchy, they maintain that the establishment of regimes can help reduce cheating, increase information and reduce costs of cooperation, thus fostering cooperation. Regime theory and complex interdependence theory would therefore help account for an increased pattern of cooperation between states, clearly visible during the last decades of the 20th century.

7- Skepticism about cooperation: Do the theories of cooperation hold water?
In spite of all arguments supportive of cooperation presented earlier in this essay, traditional realists still deny its possibility. For them, self-interest remains the defining feature of the international structure characterized by the absence of a higher authority and therefore anarchical. Traditional realists cannot account for important changes in the international system, such as the emergence of widely accepted regimes and evident patterns of cooperation (the EU being the most eloquent example). Traditional realists still believe we live in a Hobbesian world of war of all against all, and therefore refuse to accept any major changes brought about by the nuclear age, the end of the cold war and globalization.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest, however, that these three events of major significance did bring about a considerable increase in patterns of cooperation between states in recent years. In fact, as we have seen, theories of cooperation do indeed hold water against criticism.

Furthermore, arguments that support cooperation are nothing more than a theoretical attempt to explain empirical evidence suggesting a surge in terms of cooperative behavior in the international arena. As such, such arguments are a central theme in today’s IR arsenal to try to explain the reality of the world we live in.

8- Bibliography
1- Barnett, M. (2004), ‘Social Constructivism’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
2- Baylis, J. (2004), ‘International and Global Security in the Post-Cold War Era’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
3- Claude Jr., I. L. (1998), in Kaufman, D. J., Parker, J.M., Howel, P.V., Doty, G.R. Understanding International Relations, The Value of Alternative Lenses (USA: Custom Publishing).
4- Lamy, S. (2004), ‘Contemporary Mainstream Approaches: Neo-realism and Neo-liberalism’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
5- Little, R. (2004), ‘International Regimes’, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
6- Weber, S. (1997), ‘Institutions and Change’, in Doyle, M.W. and Ikenberry, G. J. New Thinking in International Relations Theory (Boulder Colorado: Westview Press).
7- Wendt, A. (1998), Social Theory of International Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University press).

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