Legro/Moravcsik: Is Anybody Still a Realist?
Coyle: Liberalism and World Politics Revisited
Moravcsik: Taking Preferences Seriously
Part I: Summary
The Lergo and Moravcsik article focused on the idea that minimal realism (p. 6) has degenerated realism (p. 53) to the point where realism today can include all the claims that traditional realists reject (p. 7), and exclude no claims (p.53). The solution to this problem, as seen by the authors, is to define a core set of assumptions for the realist paradigm that would be true to all realist theories (p. 8). The core assumptions of realism are: (1) actors are rational, unitary political units that pursue distinctive goals within an anarchic setting (p. 12); (2) that state preferences are fixed and are in conflict with all other states (p. 13); and (3) that capabilities, or the distribution of material resources, is what the outcomes of bargaining depend on (p. 17). If all three assumptions are possessed by realist theories, then the theories will become a distinct paradigm rather than be a conglomeration of all theories including: realism, liberalism, epistemism, and intuitionalism (p.46).
The main point of the Moravcsik article is that liberal theory should be treated as its own paradigm, rather than as a subset of other paradigms or as an ideological concept (p. 515). Moravcsik defines the core assumptions of liberal theory – the fundamental actors in international politics are individuals and private groups (p. 516), political institutions represent the domestic society and it is those preferences the state acts on in international relations (p. 518), and that the configuration of the state shapes state preferences (p. 521) – and states that these assumptions define liberalism as a parsimonious and coherent theory (p. 533).
The Doyle article's main point is that Kant's theory of liberal internationalism helps explain the periods of international stability and peace among those states who share liberal principles and institutions (p. 94). Kant's theory rejects the notion that a specific democratic or liberal institution is responsible for the peace and stability (p. 100) and instead says that in combination constitutional, international and cosmopolitan sources connect the characteristics of liberal politics and economies with the sustained stability and peace the world can/is experiencing (p. 100). However, Kant extends this peace and stability only to relations between liberal states (p. 102) and says that with non-liberal states, liberal states will be in a constant state of war because they feel threatened by states that aren't constrained by representational ideals, as liberal states are (p. 102).
Part II: Analysis
The Lergo and Moravcsik article is a little confusing. The authors stress the importance of creating a realist paradigm that is separate from all other paradigms, rather that the confusing mash of ideas that is "realism" today (p. 53). Then, according to the authors, you can test the causal links of the theory (p. 47). However, it is clear that realism only holds true when there are periods of intense conflicts between states (p. 49). So I am confused as to why the authors would then want realism to be a separate paradigm. If realism is only useful in periods of intense conflict, then what is its usefulness at other times? The authors propose using "two-level" games to include other aspects into realist theory (p. 51). However, this results in the same "mashing" of idea that the authors are opposed to in the first place. But in a two-level game, instead of mashing the ideas into one theory, you are able to use separate theories, and then mash the conclusions together. Instead of synthesizing domestic variables, economic variables or changing preferences into realist theory (as the authors demonstrate that various realists do), you simply conduct two analyses and then merge the results. To me, this is a semantic distinction about where you combine ideas, rather than a helpful and useful idea.
The Moravcsik article is also focused on creating a paradigm – which seems to be his standard method of analysis. However, it is focused on a liberal paradigm rather than a realist paradigm. Moravcsik makes three core assumptions of liberal theory – the fundamental actors in international politics are individuals and private groups (p. 516), political institutions represent the domestic society and it is those preferences the state acts on in international relations (p. 518), and that the configuration of the state shapes state preferences (p. 521) – and states that these assumptions define liberalism as a parsimonious and coherent theory (p. 533). However, Moravcsik then states that these assumptions are commonsensical and tautological (p. 521). He also insists that this framework of liberalism creates an easy and clear connection between previously unrelated areas, and that his theory can also include non-liberal ideas (p.533). It seems ridiculous to create a theory that can explain everything. It also seems as if the theory loses its usefulness if it can explain everything. I think that Moravcsik misses the mark in defining liberal theory, and instead is too concerned with proving that liberalism can encompass everything realism does and more (p. 533). To that end, he fashioned his three assumptions too broadly, so that liberalism can include everything, and exclude nothing. Therefore, his assumptions need secondary assumptions that explain the outcomes – which means that his theory cannot explain anything and is useless.
A different picture of liberalism is presented by Doyle. He simply takes three kinds of liberalism – liberal pacifism (p. 84), liberal imperialism (p. 87), and liberal internationalism (p. 88) – and analyzes which of the three of these gives the most complete picture of why liberalism has created a period of stability and peace (p. 88, 92). Doyle comes up with the answer that Kant's theory of liberal internationalism is the most predictive because it connects multiple variables to peace, and not just one variable. It also can explain the stability and peace that liberalism brings and the war that exists in a world with liberal states (p. 100). However, Kant's theory rests on the concept of a "man" who is individual, rational and capable of appreciating the moral equality of all, rather than treating individuals as a means (p. 101). One of the strengths of this theory is that it explains something, but not everything. Also, liberal internationalism, unlike Moravcsik's theory, doesn't need additional variables to be an analytical tool – it stands on its own. In that sense, the theories presented in Doyle's article are useful analytical tools. It is unclear whether these theories of liberalism can be synthesized into one theory because their understanding of the role of the individual and causal connection to state politics is different. After reading this article, it is possible to understand why liberalism is having a hard time being considered a paradigm, as each liberalist theory seems to have a different understanding of the causal factors.