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Unformatted text preview: Taking Preferences Seriously
Liberalism Revisited Andrew Moravcsik "Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics" (1997) The Choice for Europe (1998) Moravcsik's objective: To develop and deploy a reformulated version of liberalism Moravcsik is seeking a liberal theory of IR that is non ideological and nonutopian, and therefore more appropriate for empirical social science Liberalism's Core Insight The core insight of liberalism as it has manifested itself in the study of IR is that statesociety relations matter The relationships of states to the domestic and transnational social context in which they are embedded have a fundamental impact on state behavior The Core Assumptions of Liberal IR Theory 1. Individuals and groups are the most important actors in IR 2. States are representative actors 3. The configuration of state preferences determines state behavior 1. The Primacy of Societal Actors Liberal theory rests on a "bottomup" view of politics It focuses on the domestic level of analysis, particularly the beliefs and demands of societal actors (i.e., individuals and groups) This is in stark contrast to the "topdown" perspective of systemic theories such as realism and institutionalism which treat the state as a "blackbox" 2. States Are Representative Actors According to liberal theory states are not independent or autonomous actors in their own right Instead, states are representative institutions States represent some section of domestic society They are subject to capture and recapture by coalitions of societal actors Individuals and groups use the state to achieve goals which they are unable to achieve through private behavior Individuals and groups constantly pressure state actors to pursue policies consistent with their preferences Sources of Inequality in Political Representation Every government represents some individuals and groups more fully than others Societal actors are not equal: Some have more political power than others The structure of state institutions (i.e., regime type) matters An autocratic regime may only represent the preferences of a single individual (i.e., a dictator) or a narrow elite class (i.e., an oligarchy) A democratic regime will generally represent the preferences of the majority, but also groups that are wellorganized Even among democracies there is variation in how societal interests are represented (e.g., proportional representation vs. majoritarian systems) State Rationality States may act in either a unitary or disaggregated manner The more concentrated decisionmaking authority, the more accurate the systemic assumption that the state is a rational, unitary actor becomes When decisionmaking authority is dispersed among several different, potentially opposed, state actors, the rationality assumptions is weakened 3. State Preferences Determine State Behavior Individuals and groups are the most important actors in IR because they shape state preferences Societal actors define the social purposes which state power is used to achieve State preferences in turn determine state behavior Each state seeks to realize its distinctive preferences under varying constraints imposed by the preferences of other states The configuration (or distribution) of interdependent state preferences determines international political outcomes Ultimately, "what states want is the primary determinant of what they do," and what states want is a function of the preferences of the dominant societal actors which states represent Preferences A key element of Moravcsik's argument is the notion of preferences What are preferences? Preferences are usually thought to be synonymous with interests: An actor's preference for a given outcome is a function of that actor's interests State Preferences Where do preferences come from? How do we determine in a given situation what an actor's preferences are? In terms of IR, how do we determine what the preferences of states are? At what level of analysis should we focus in making such a determination? Realism & Institutionalism Realism and Institutionalism largely ignore the domestic level of analysis Both assume that the preferences of states are exogenously given and fixed by the characteristics of the international system For instance, according to realism, the structural fact of anarchy causes states to define their core interest as survival This fixed interest gives states a fixed preference for political outcomes that either maintain or augment their share of power in the international system State Preferences The crux of Moravcsik's argument: The preferences of states are shaped by domesticlevel (or "societal") forces...
Ideas (i.e., principles, norms, ideologies) Interests (i.e., organized groups) Institutions (i.e., a state's regime type) The Configuration of Preferences Where the preferences of societies are naturally compatible or harmonious, states will be able to coexist with a minimal amount of conflict Where these preferences are diametrically opposed, tensions and the potential for conflict may be great In other words, where an attempt by dominant social groups in one country to realize their preferences through state action necessarily imposes costs (negative externalities) on dominant social groups in other countries, conflict can occur Where the preferences and motives of states are mixed, conditional cooperation (of the kind identified by institutionalists) may be possible The Analytical Priority of Liberal Theory Moravcsik argues that liberal theory (as he has reformulated it) is analytically prior to both realism and institutionalism Liberal theory defines the conditions under which the assumptions of systemic theories like realism and institutionalism hold Before we can know whether a realist or institutionalist logic is at work, we must first look to the domestic level ...
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- Fall '08