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International Relations *: Theories of IR, G-N

A guide to databases and scholarly web sites in support of research in international relations and comparative politics..

IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories, G-N

The descriptions below are from The IR Theory Web Site created by Mark Beavis of University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Entries are supplemented using sources from the Credo Reference and Gale Virtual Reference Library databases, with additional references to selected books and journal articles. To search for studies that utilize these theories and apply them within the context of IR research and practice, go here.

Game Theory
A decision-making approach based on the assumption of actor rationality in a situation of competition. Each actor tries to maximize gains or minimize losses under conditions of uncertainty and incomplete information, which requires each actor to rank order preferences, estimate probabilities, and try to discern what the other actor is going to do. In a two-person zero-sum game, what one actor wins the other loses; if A wins, 5, B loses 5, and the sum is zero. In a two-person non-zero or variable sum game, gains and losses are not necessarily equal; it is possible that both sides may gain. This is sometimes referred to as a positive-sum game. In some games, both parties can lose, and by different amounts or to a different degree. So-called n-person games include more than two actors or sides. Game theory has contributed to the development of models of deterrence and arms race spirals, but it is also the basis for work concerning the question of how collaboration among competitive states in an anarchic world can be achieved: The central problem is that the rational decision for an individual actor such as a state may be to "defect" and go it alone as opposed to taking a chance on collaboration with another state actor. Dealing with this problem is a central concern of much of the literature on international regimes, regional integration, and conflict resolution.

Allan, Pierre  and Christian Schmidt, eds. Game Theory and International Relations: Preferences, Information, and Empirical Evidence. Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar, 1994; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Globalization, as a theory, argues that states and societies are increasingly being 'disciplined' to behave as if they were private markets operating in a global territory. 'Disciplinary' forces affecting states and societies are attributed to the global capital market, transnational corporations (TNCs), and structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, which are all driven by neo-liberal economic ideology. Some scholars, such as Stephen Gill, see these agents as representing an emerging system of global economic governance ('disciplinary neo-liberalism') based on a quasiconstitutional framework for the reconstitution of the legal rights, prerogatives, and freedom of movement for capital on a world scale ('new constitutionalism').

Gill, Stephen. "New Constitutionalism, Democratisation and Global Political Economy." Pacifica Review: Peace, Security and Global Change 10 (1998): 23-38.


An image of politics different from realism and pluralism. Globalism focuses on the importance of economy, especially capitalist relations of dominance or exploitation, to understanding world politics. The globalist image is influenced by Marxist analyses of exploitative relations, although not all globalists are Marxists. Dependency theory, whether understood in Marxist or non-Marxist terms, is categorised here as part of the globalist image. Also included is the view that international relations are best understood if one sees them as occurring within a world-capitalist system.

Viotti, Paul R. and Mark V. Kauppi. International Relations Theory: Realism, Pluralism, Globalism, and Beyond. 3rd edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention
Thomas Friedman's theory that no two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's. More specifically, Friedman articulates it thus: 'when a country reached the level of economic development where it had a middle class big enough to support a McDonald's network, it became a McDonald's country. And people in McDonald's countries didn't like to fight wars anymore, they preferred to wait in line for burgers'.

See Chapter 12 in Friedman, Thomas L.. The Lexus and The Olive Tree. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000.

Hegemonic Stability Theory
The central idea of this theory is that the stability of the international system requires a single dominant state to articulate and enforce the rules of interaction among the most important members of the system. For a state to be a hegemon, it must have three attributes: the capability to enforce the rules of the system, the will to do so, and a commitment to a system which is perceived as mutually beneficial to the major states. A hegemon's capability rests upon the likes of a large, growing economy, dominance in a leading technological or economic sector, and political power backed up by projective military power. An unstable system will result if economic, technological, and other changes erode the international hierarchy and undermine the position of the dominant state. Pretenders to hegemonic control will emerge if the benefits of the system are viewed as unacceptably unfair.

Webb, Michael C. and Stephen D. Krasner. "Hegemonic Stability Theory: An Empirical Assessment." Review of International Studies 15 (April 1989): 183-198; Snidal, Duncan. "The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory." International Organization 39 (Autumn 1985): 579-614; Extract from lecture notes on the theory of hegemonic stability by Vincent Ferraro, Ruth C. Lawson Professor of International Politics at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts.

Historical Materialism

The theory argues that social life is based upon material production. People have to produce goods and services in order to survive, and an important distinction has to be made between the forces and relations of production. The forces of production refer to the technology and science involved in the production process such as the use of machinery and computers in contemporary work-places. The relations of production refer to questions of ownership and control, so that Marx believed that under capitalism, for example, there was a growing conflict between socialised forces of production and their ownership by particular individuals. The theory asserts that in all societies there is a tension between the forces and relations of production, but in class-divided societies this tension reaches antagonistic proportions, since particular groups have a vested interest in perpetuating a set of productive relations. The antagonism between the forces and relations of production is, for Marx, the reason why revolution is inevitable, although it has to be said that in all societies some tension between the two will exist. The fundamental proposition of historical materialism can be summed up in a sentence: “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). It is a theory that privileges the economic in explanation of non-economic phenomena.

Anderson, Perry. In the Tracks of Historical Materialism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984; "Historical Materialism." (2007). In Political Philosophy A-Z. Retrieved from

Historical Sociology
Any sociology focusing on the study of past societies or using historical sources. It pays particular attention to culturally, geographically, and temporally located facts. Although historical sociology, which arose in the late nineteenth century, fell out of favor for a long period, it has regained respect as the result of some major studies performed by researchers in the United States and Britain. Historical sociology attempts to develop new theories which are capable of providing more convincing, comprehensive explanations for historical patterns and structures. It concentrates more on the experiences people lived rather than the transformations of institutions. To test their theories, historical sociologists use deductive reasoning (attempting to locate evidence that supports or refutes their theories), case comparisons (looking at similarities and differences between equal entities), and case illustrations (comparing several cases to a single theory or concept). Four research areas that produce respected historical sociology studies are capitalist expansion, the growth of national states and systems of states, collective action, and sociology of religious development. Studies of capitalist expansion examine topics such as the emergence and consequences of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the working class, population growth, and the developmental operations of the modern world system. Studies of the growth of national states and systems of states examine political topics such as revolutions, state bureaucratization, the democratization of politics, and the interaction of nations in the international arena.

Abrams, Philip. Historical Sociology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982; Kent, Stephen A. "Historical Sociology." Encyclopedia of Sociology. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 1195-1202. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.

Idealism is so widely defined that only certain basic tenets can be described. Idealists believe strongly in the affective power of ideas, in that it is possible to base a political system primarily on morality, and that the baser and more selfish impulses of humans can be muted in order to build national and international norms of behavior that foment peace, prosperity, cooperation, and justice. Idealism then is not only heavily reformist, but the tradition has often attracted those who feel that idealistic principles are the "next-step" in the evolution of the human character. One of the first and foremost pieces of the "old world" and "old thinking" to be tossed on the trash heap of history by idealism is that destructive human institution of war. War, in the idealistic view, is now no longer considered by either elites or the populace of the great powers as being a plausible way of achieving goals, as the costs of war, even for the victor, exceed the benefits. As John Mueller says in his book Quiet Cataclysm, war is passing into that consciousness stage where slavery and dueling reside - it can fade away without any adverse effect, and with no need for replacement.

Brown, Chris. International Relations Theory: New Normative Approaches. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992; Herz, John H. "Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma." World Politics 2 (January 1950): 157-180; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

Hans J. Morgenthau defines imperialism as a national foreign policy aimed at acquiring more power than the state actually has, through a reversal of existing power relations, in other words, a favorable change in power status. Imperialism as a national foreign policy is in contrast to 'status quo' foreign policy and a foreign policy of 'prestige.' The policy of imperialism assumes the classical realist theory perspective of analysis at the unit level in international relations. Furthermore, imperialism is based on a 'balance-of-power' construct in international relations. The three types of imperialism as outlined by Morgenthau are: Marxist theory of imperialism which rests on the foundation that all political phenomena are the reflection of economic forces; the Liberal theory of imperialism which results because of maladjustments in the global capitalist system (e.g., surplus of goods and capital which seek outlets in foreign markets); and finally, the 'devil' theory of imperialism which posits that manufacturers and bankers plan wars in order to enrich themselves.

Chapter 5, "The Struggle for Power: Imperialism". In Morgenthau, Hans J. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 1948. Klusmeyer, Douglas B. “Contesting Thucydides' Legacy: Comparing Hannah Arendt and Hans Morgenthau on Imperialism, History and Theory.” The International History Review 33 (2011): 1-25; Long, David and Brian C. Schmidt, eds. Imperialism and Internationalism in the Discipline of International Relations. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005.

The term given to a pattern of decision making. It implies changes in policy are made by slight increments over a continuous period. It best applies to budgetary policy: it is common for democratic governments not to want to shock the voters by presenting them with a sudden change in their economic expectations. On the other hand its use as a model can be exaggerated. Much policy has to be made in response to unexpected external forces and incremental change in such circumstances is not appropriate.

Dimitrakopoulos, Dionyssis G. “Incrementalism and Path Dependence: European Integration and Institutional Change in National Parliaments.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 39 (September 2001): 405-422; "Incrementalism." (2008). In Key Concepts in Governance. Retrieved from

Integration Theory

According to Haas (1958), integration is a process by which "political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations, and political activities toward a new center, whose institutions process or demand jurisdiction over pre-existing national states." This is a broad definition that includes both social processes (shifting loyalties) and political processes (negotiation and decision-making about the construction of new political institutions above the participating member states with a direct say in at least a part of the member states’ affairs). Broader, more recent developments have formed a field of integration theory studies that is more focused on the outcomes of integration rather than the process. Significant attention has been paid in this respect to the formation and maintenance of the European Union.

Chapter 1. Theories of European Integration. In George, Stephen. Politics in the European Union. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001; "Integration." (2002). In Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations. Retrieved from


In its most basic form, intergovernmentalism explains interstate cooperation and especially regional integration (e.g. EU) as a function of the alignment of state interests and preferences coupled with power. That is, contrary to the expectations of functionalism and neofunctionalism, integration and cooperation are actually caused by rational self-interested states bargaining with one another. Moreover, as would be expected, those states with more ‘power’ likely will have more of their interests fulfilled. For example, with regard to the EU, it is not surprising, according to proponents of this theory, that many of the agreed-upon institutional arrangements are in line with the preferences of France and Germany, the so-called ‘Franco-German core.’ Andrew Moravcsik is probably the most well-known proponent of intergovernmentalism right now.

Moravcsik, Andrew. "Preferences and Power in the European Community: A Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approach." JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 31 (December, 1993): 473–524.


Internationalism is a political movement that advocates greater economic and political cooperation among participating actors for the benefit of all. It is by nature opposed to ultranationalism, jingoism and national chauvinism and presupposes the recognition of other nations as equal, in spite of all their differences. Indeed, it is most commonly expressed as an appreciation for the diverse cultures in the world and as a desire for world peace. It also encompasses an obligation to assist the world through leadership and cooperation, advocating robust global governance and the presence of international organizations, such as the United Nations.

Long, David and Brian C. Schmidt, eds. Imperialism and Internationalism in the Discipline of International Relations. SUNY series in Global Politics. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2005; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

International Political Economy
A method of analysis concerning the social, political and economic arrangements affecting the global systems of production, exchange and distribution, and the mix of values reflected therein (Strange, p18). As an analytical method, political economy is based on the assumption that what occurs in the economy reflects, and affects, social power relations.

Lawton, Thomas C., James N. Rosenau, and Amy C. Verdun, eds. Strange Power: Shaping the Parameters of International Relations and International Political Economy. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2000; Strange, Susan. States and Markets. 2nd edition. New York: Pinter Publishers, 1994; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

International Regime Theory
A perspective that focuses on cooperation among actors in a given area of international relations. An international regime is viewed as a set of implicit and explicit principles, norms, rules, and procedures around which actors' expectations converge in a particular issue-area. An issue-area comprises interactions in such diverse areas as nuclear nonproliferation, telecommunications, human rights, or environmental problems. A basic idea behind international regimes is that they provide for transparent state behaviour and a degree of stability under conditions of anarchy in the international system. International regime analysis has been offering a meeting ground for debate between the various schools of thought in IR theory.

Gale, Fred. "Cave 'Cave! Hic Dragones': A Neo-Gramscian Deconstruction and Reconstruction of International Regime Theory." Review of International Political Economy 5 (1998): 252-283; Krasner, Stephen D. International Regimes. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.

Just War Theory
Normative theory referring to conditions under which (1) states rightfully go to war (jus ad bellum) with just cause, as in self-defense in response to aggression, when the decision to go to war is made by legitimate authority in the state, as a last resort after exhausting peaceful remedies, and with some reasonable hope of achieving legitimate objectives; (2) states exercise right conduct in war (jus in bello) when the means employed are proportional to the ends sought, when noncombatants are spared, when weapons or other means that are immoral in themselves are not used (typically those that are indiscriminate or cause needless suffering), and when actions are taken with a right intention to accomplish legitimate military objectives and to minimize collateral death and destruction. Many of these principles of just war are part of the body of international law and thus are legally binding on states and their agents.

Brooks, Thom, ed. Just War Theory. Boston, MA: Brill, 2013; Crawford, Neta C. “Just War Theory and the U.S. Counterterror War.” Perspectives on Politics 1 (March 2003): 5-25; Hehir, J. Bryan. “Just War Theory In A Post-Cold War World.” The Journal of Religious Ethics 20 (Fall 1992): 237-257; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Legal Positivism
A legal theory that identifies international law with positive acts of state consent. Herein, states are the only official 'subjects' or 'persons' of international law because they have the capacity to enter into legal relations and to have legal rights and duties. Indeed, they are the only entities with full, original and universal legal personality; the only proper actors bound by international law. As far as non-state entities (such as individuals, corporations, and international organisations) are concerned, their ability to assert legal personality is only derivative of and conditional upon state personality and state consent. This predominant ideology originated in the nineteenth century when legal positivism took the eighteenth century law of nations, a law common to individuals and states, and transformed it into public and private international law, with the former being deemed to apply to states and the latter to individuals. Thus, only states enjoy full international legal personality, which can be defined as the capacity to bring claims arising from the violation of international law, to conclude valid international agreements, and to enjoy priveleges and immunities from national jurisdiction.

Edited text taken from Cutler, C. "Globalization, Law and Transnational Corporations: A Deepening of Market Discipline." In Cohn, Theodore H., Stephen McBride, and John Wiseman. Power in the Global Era: Grounding Globalization. Gordonsville, VA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000; Hall, Stephen. “The Persistent Spectre: Natural Law, International Order and the Limits of Legal Positivism.” European Journal of International Law 12 (2001): 269-307; Wright, Quincy. “Legal Positivism and the Nuremberg Judgment.” The American Journal of International Law 42 (April 1948): 405-414.

Liberalism (Liberal Internationalism)
A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual. It favors civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority. In IR liberalism covers a fairly broad perspective ranging from Wilsonian Idealism through to contemporary neo-liberal theories and the democratic peace thesis. Here states are but one actor in world politics, and even states can cooperate together through institutional mechanisms and bargaining that undermine the propensity to base interests simply in military terms. States are interdependent and other actors such as Transnational Corporations, the IMF and the United Nations play a role.

Hoffman, Stanley. "The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism." Foreign Policy 98 (Spring 1995): 159-177; Paris, Roland. "Peacebuilding and the Limits of Liberal Internationalism." International Security 22 (Fall 1997): 54-89; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

A body of thought inspired by Karl Marx. It emphasises the dialectical unfolding of historical stages, the importance of economic and material forces and class analysis. It predicts that contradictions inherent in each historical epoch eventually lead to the rise of a new dominant class. The era of capitalism, according to Marx, is dominated by the bourgeoisie and will give way to a proletarian, or working class, revolution and an era of socialism in which workers own the means of production and move toward a classless, communist society in which the state, historically a tool of the dominant class, will wither away. A number of contemporary theorists have drawn on Marxian insights and categories of analysis - an influence most evident in work on dependency and the world capitalist system.

Kubálková, V. and A.A. Cruickshank. Marxism and International Relations. New York: Clarendon Press, 1985; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

A set of ideas associated with the view that only the material world explains all manner of mental phenomena. Man's attempt to cope with it is basic and human feelings and beliefs are secondary. The Marxist theory that economics ultimately determines historical development is the form known as dialectical materialism, though it was Engels who elaborated the materialist conception of history. Idealist philosophers and religious believers are bound to challenge these ideas.

Gill, Stephen, ed. Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993; "Materialism." (2010). In Encyclopedia of American Studies. Retrieved from

Modernization Theory
A theory presuming that all countries had similiar starting points and follow similar paths to 'development' along the lines of contemporary 'first-world' societies. The theory of modernization normally consists of three parts: (1) identification of types of societies, and explanation of how those designated as modernized or relatively modernized differ from others; (2) specification of how societies become modernized, comparing factors that are more or less conducive to transformation; and, (3) generalizations about how the parts of a modernized society fit together, involving comparisons of stages of modernization and types of modernized societies with clarity about prospects for further modernization.

Harrison, David. The Sociology of Modernization and Development. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988; "Modernization Theory." (2001). In Reader's Guide to the Social Sciences. Retrieved from

Neo-Classical Realism
Neoclassical realism holds that the actions of a state in the international system can be explained by systemic variables, such as the distribution of power capabilities among states, as well as cognitive variables, such as the perception and misperception of systemic pressures, other states' intentions, or threats - and domestic variables like state institutions, elites, and societal actors within society, which can affect the power and freedom of action of the decision-makers in foreign policy. While holding true to the neorealist concept of balance of power, neoclassical realism further adds that states' mistrust and inability to perceive one another accurately, or state leaders' inability to mobilize state power and public support can result in an underexpansion or underbalancing behaviour leading to imbalances within the international system, the rise and fall of great powers, and war. Appropriate balancing occurs when a state correctly perceives another state's intentions and balances accordingly. Overbalancing occurs when a state incorrectly perceives another state as threatening, and uses too many resources than it needs to in order to balance. Underbalancing occurs when a state fails to balance, out of either inefficiency or incorrectly perceiving a state as less of threat than it actually is. Nonbalancing occurs when a state avoids balancing through buck passing, bandwagoning, or other escapes.

Lobell, Steven E., Norrin M. Ripsman, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, eds. Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009; Rose, Gideon. "Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy.” World Politics 51 (1998):144–172; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.

The kind of intellectual conservatism which arose in the United States, partly in reaction to the social and political movements of the 1960s, and partly in support of US foreign policy during the cold war. The leading neo-conservatives were urban intellectuals, academics and publicists, many of them converts from social democracy, who had been disturbed by what they saw as the immanent breakdown of American society, as a result of sexual liberation, multiculturalism, political correctness, and the dependency culture. Prominent among them were writers associated with Commentary (under the editorship of Norman Podhoretz) and The Public Interest (under the editorship of Irving Kristol). Growing from the original neo-conservative position there has been a movement in the world of politics to put into practice certain principles and aspirations arising from the original neo-conservative debates. Some members of this movement have obtained prominent positions in government and administration in the US, so that considerable attention has been focused on their philosophy, which does not always coincide with neo-conservatism in sense 1. The ruling idea is that American society owes its success to its democratic tradition, and its respect for individual freedom. Threats to America come from people who envy this success and do not possess the institutions and customs that enable them to emulate it. The answer is not to contain them, as in the past, within their borders. The answer is to change the regimes that foster them: to spread democratic institutions and free economies wherever we can, so that the whole world can enjoy the privileges that are presently enjoyed in America. The Iraq war has inevitably focused attention, much of it hostile, on that position. Some of the hostility comes from more traditional conservatives (sometimes described as ‘paleo-conservatives’), who defend an isolationist foreign policy and a more inward-looking and skeptical approach to the democratic inheritance.

Joseph, Lawrence B. “Neoconservatism in Contemporary Political Science: Democratic Theory and the Party System.” The Journal of Politics 44 (November 1982): 955-982; Lipset, Seymour Martin. “Neoconservatism: Myth and Reality.” Society 25 (July-August 1988): 29-37; "Neoconservatism." (2010). In Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices. Retrieved from; Murray, Douglas. Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. New York: Encounter Books, 2006.

A relatively new approach to the study of International Relations and the global political economy that explores the interface of ideas, institutions and material capabilities as they shape the specific contours of the state formation. It analyzes how the particular constellation of social forces, the state and the dominant ideational configuration define and sustain world orders. In this sense, the neo-Gramscian approach breaks the decades-old stalemate between the so-called realist schools of thought, and the liberal theories by historicizing the very theoretical foundations of the two streams as part of a particular world order, and finding the interlocking relationship between agency and structure. The theory is heavily influenced by the writings of Antonio Gramsci. Furthermore, Karl Polanyi, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Niccolò Machiavelli, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Michel Foucault are cited as major sources within the Critical Theory of International Relations. The beginning of the neo-Gramscian perspective can be traced to York University professor emeritus, Robert W. Cox's article “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory,” Millennium 10 (1981) 2 and “Gramsci, Hegemony and International Relations: An Essay in Method,” Millennium 12 (1983) 2. In his 1981 article, Cox demands a critical study of IR, as opposed to the usual "problem-solving" theories, which do not interrogate the origin, nature and development of historical structures, but accept for example that states and the (supposedly) "anarchic" relationships between them as Kantian Dinge an sich ("thing-in-itself").

Bieler, Andreas et al. Global Restructuring, State, Capital and Labour: Contesting Neo-Gramscian Perspectives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006; Budd, Adrian. Class, States and International Relations: A Critical Appraisal of Robert Cox and Neo-Gramscian Theory. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013; Germain, Randall D. and Michael Kenny. “Engaging Gramsci: International Relations Theory and the New Gramscians.” Review of International Studies 24 (1998): 3-21; Wikipedia.

Neo-Liberal Institutionalism
Encompasses those theories which argue that international institutions play an important role in coordinating international cooperation. Proponents begin with the same assumptions used by realists, except for the following: where realists assume that states focus on relative gains and the potential for conflict, neoliberal institutionalists assume that states concentrate on absolute gains and the prospects for cooperation. Neoliberal institutionalists believe that the potential for conflict is overstated by realists and suggest that there are countervailing forces, such as repeated interactions, that propel states toward cooperation. They regard cheating as the greatest threat to cooperation and anarchy as the lack of organisation to enforce rules against cheating. Institutions are described by neoliberals as 'persistent and connected sets of rules (formal or informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations.' (Robert Keohane is the scholar most closely identified with neoliberal institutionalism).

Baldwin, David A., ed. Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993; Ganesan, N. “Testing Neoliberal Institutionalism in Southeast Asia.” International Journal 50 (Autumn 1995): 779-804; Keohane, Robert O. "International Institutions: Two Approaches." International Studies Quarterly 32 (December 1988): 379-396.

The label employed to describe an economic philosophy that has become increasingly prominent since the late 1970s which rejects state control and positive government intervention in the economy and focuses instead on free market methods, fewer restrictions on business enterprise and the importance of property rights. Associated with the conservative Right, the ideology stresses the shrinking of the state by lowering tax levels, privatizing assets and encouraging and rewarding personal achievement and responsibility. Its adherents oppose environmentalism, fair trade and socialism and labor policies such as collective bargaining rights and the minimum wage. It is usually described as Thatcherism in the United Kingdom and Reaganomics in the United States.

Campbell, John L. and Ove K. Pedersen, eds. The Rise of Neoliberalism and Institutional Analysis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001; Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005; Wikipedia.

A term denoting various currents in twentieth-century Marxism, perhaps starting with the work of Lukács, and continuing in the Frankfurt school. These currents diverge from traditional Marxism in emphasizing, not historical materialism, but the description of consciousness, as the central component in Marx’s social analysis. Some neo-Marxists find inspiration in the elements in Marx that derive directly from Hegel, emphasizing, for example, the analysis of alienation, the concept of the dialectic, the supposed movement of history towards a utopian ideal. Others, in reaction, try to detach Marx from Hegel, uniting his thought, perhaps, with existentialism or with some kind of structuralism.

Arato, Andrew. From Neo-Marxism to Democratic Theory: Essays on the Critical Theory of Soviet-Type Societies. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993; Cattell, David T. “A Neo-Marxist Theory of Comparative Analysis.” Slavic Review 26 (December 1967): 657-662; Glassman, Jim. “The Spaces of Economic Crisis: Asia and the Reconfiguration of neo-Marxist Crisis Theory.” Studies in Comparative International Development 37 (Winter 2003): 31-63; "Neo-Marxism." (2007). In Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought. Retrieved from

A theory developed by Kenneth Waltz in which states seek to survive within an anarchical system. Although states may seek survival through power balancing, balancing is not the aim of that behaviour. Balancing is a product of the aim to survive. And because the international system is regarded as anarchic and based on self-help, the most powerful units set the scene of action for others as well as themselves. These major powers are referred to as poles; hence the international system (or a regional subsystem), at a particular point in time, may be characterised as unipolar, bipolar or multipolar.

May, Ernest R., Richard Rosecrance and Zara Steiner, eds. History and Neorealism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010; Keohane, Robert O., ed. Neorealism and Its Critics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986; Mark Beavis, IR Paradigms, Approaches and Theories. Last up-dated on 14 March 2013.


A position derived from communist social scientists that the distinctive quality of communist societies is the coexistence of modern and traditional elements. Neo-traditionalism is contrasted to totalitarianism because it stresses that communist societies have a high level of societal organization, power is particularistic rather than impersonal, and that positive as well as negative levers of deference are used. Neo-traditionalism is more at odds with group pluralism. Walder (1986) rejects the underlying analogy with western society, arguing that communist society is defined by institutions set up by the state, and therefore social networks rather than group endeavors provide the pattern of social activity. The masses are still atomized in a sense, for they are gelled into a comprehensive and monolithic social structure which is organized by and serves the interests of the party-state, and which is a different species from liberal western society. The concept is centered around two principal and related aspects--organized dependence, which  refers to the structural character of the work unit, and principled particularism to rational behavior consonant with that framework.

Walder, Andrew G. Communist Neo-Traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Industry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

New Growth Theory
While classical and neoclassical growth economic system theories emphasize physical resources and free trade as major factors contributing to economic growth, the main thrust of this new growth theory is on human capital and new technologies for growth. Scholars such as Romer (1990), advocate state that, while classical and neoclassical theories stress resource scarcity as a major impediment to growth, the new growth theory remains optimistic about the continuity and expansion of wealth creation enhanced by new ideas, products, and markets. There is an attempt to clearly distinguish knowledge (a form of capital) from physical capital. New growth theory holds that technology is endogenous; it is a central part of the economic system.

Romer, Paul. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, No. 5, "Part 2: The Problem of Development: A Conference on the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise Systems." (Oct. 1990), pp. 71-102.

New War Theory
Mary Kaldor’s new war theory argues that contemporary types of warfare are distinct from the classic modern forms of warfare based on nation-states. New wars are part of a globalised war economy underpinned by transnational ethnicities, globalised arms markets and internationalised Western-global interventions. The new type of warfare is a predatory social condition which damages the economies of neighbouring regions as well as the zone of conflict itself, spreading refugees, identity-based politics and illegal trade. It is also characterised by new forms of violence (the systematic murder of ‘others’, forced population expulsion and rendering areas uninhabitable) carried out by new militaries (the decaying remnants of state armies, paramilitary groups, self-defence units, mercenaries and international troops) funded by remittances, diaspora fund-raising, external government assistance and the diversion of international humanitarian aid. Whereas 80 per cent of war victims early last century were military personnel, it is estimated that 80 per cent of victims in contemporary wars are civilians. According to Kaldor, this new form of warfare is a political rather than a military challenge, involving the breakdown of legitimacy and the need for a new cosmopolitan politics to reconstruct affected communities and societies.

Chan, Stephen. “On the Uselessness of New Wars Theory: Lessons from African Conflicts.” In Experiencing War. Christine Sylvester, ed. (New York: Routledge, 2011), pp. 94–102; Kaldor, Mary. New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era. 3rd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012; Newman, Edward. “The ‘New Wars’ Debate: A Historical Perspective is Needed.” Security Dialogue 35 (June 2004): 173-189.

Non-Hegemonic International Order Theory
To varying degrees, mainstream international relations theories, including realism, liberalism, and constructivism, have privileged hegemonic power and socialization in international order-building. Nonhegemonic international order theory holds that international order is not simply a function of the power and preferences of hegemonic actors (or powerful states). A nonhegemonic international order may be defined as a relative stable pattern of interactions among a group of states without the individual or collective hegemony of the great powers. Nonhegemonic international order theory makes the following assumptions: (a) the main actors/agents in international relations are states, social groups, and international organizations; (b) the international system is in anarchy, but hegemony is not a natural or inevitable solution to anarchy; resistance to hegemony may be a more a natural tendency; (c) the structure of the international system is both material and ideational and hence resistance to hegemony can be both material and ideational; (d) international cooperation is possible not only to organize resistance to, but also the socialization of, hegemony-seeking actors; and (e) nonhegemonic actors are not just passive recipients of universal ideas or collective goods, but active borrowers and exporters (Acharya, 2008).

Acharya, Amitav. “Nonhegemonic International Relations: A Preliminary Conceptualization.” Department of Politics University of Bristol. Paper presented to 2008 ISA Convention, San Francisco.

Normative Theory
Normative theory deals precisely with values and value preferences. Unlike empirical theory, however, propositions in normative theory are not subject to empirical test as a means of establishing their truth or falsehood. Normative theory deals not with what is, the domain of empirical theory. Rather, normative theory deals explicitly with what ought to be - the way the world should be ordered and the value choices decision makers should make.

Brown, Chris. International Relations Theory: New Normative Approaches. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992; Viotti, P. and M. Kauppi, eds. International Relations Theory. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Nuclear Utilization Theory

An off-spring of limited war and flexible responsive theories, proponents of Nuclear Utilization Theory, mostly international relations scholars, policy analysts and military practitioners in the US, are not satisfied with the deterrent role accorded to nuclear weapons by Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) advocates. Dismissing the possibility that any use of nuclear weapons would necessarily escalate to a general nuclear Armageddon, they advocated the controlled use of nuclear weapons to fight and win a war. This strategic doctrine is an attempt to gain nuclear advantage, destabilizing the deterrence offered by the balance of MAD.

Ervin, Justin. Globalization: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008; "Nuclear Utilization Theory (NUT)." In Encyclopedia of United States National Security. Richard J. Samuels, editor. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006.