Theories of International Cooperation and the Primacy of Anarchy

Explaining U.S. International Monetary Policy-Making After Bretton Woods

By Jennifer Sterling-Folker

Subjects: Political Science
Series: SUNY series in Global Politics
Paperback : 9780791452080, 320 pages, January 2002
Hardcover : 9780791452073, 320 pages, January 2002

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Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Glossary of Abbreviations

1. Explaining International Cooperation
The "New" International Organization
Prior Periods of Liberal Cogency
Contructivism in an Era of Liberal Cogency
A Second Look at Interdependence and Regimes as Explanations for Cooperation
A Realist-Constructivist Alternative
Overview for the Book

2. Liberal Cooperation Theory
Defining Interdependence
Autonomy and Sovereignty in Interdependence
Interdependence and Cooperation According to Issue Areas
Complex Interdependence: Issue Areas of Mutual Gain in Conditions of Interdependence
Domestic Structual and Cognitive Barriers to Cooperation
Changing Cognitive Maps: Learning, Information, Linkages, and Regimes
Interdependence as Process and By Way of Conclusion

3. A Realist-Constructivist Alternative
The "Conventional Wisdom"
Revisiting the Concept of Anarchy
Human Social Practice in an Anarchic Environment
The Foundation for a Neoclassical Realist Approach to Autonomy and Cooperation
Autonomy as a Social Practice
The Realist-Constructivist Approach to International Cooperation

4. Empirical Propositions and the Bretton Woods Monetary Regime
Monetary Elite Networks and Opportunities in the American Context
Operationalizing Liberal Expectations: A First Cut
Post-Bretton Woods as Regime Creation and Policy Optimizing
Defining Functional Institutional Efficiency in International Monetary Affairs
Post-Bretton Woods as Regimes Maintenance and Satisficing Stabilization
Operationalizing Realist-Constructivist Expectations
Research Design Summary

5. U. S. International Monetary Cooperation, 1971-1993
"The Dollar May be Our Currency But It's Your Problem"
"In a Boat With an Elephant"
"The Magic of the Marketplace"
"Cowboys at the Hotel"
"Remember, It Was Only Dinner Conversation"
"Once in a While I Think about those Things, But Not Much"

6. Why Liberal Theories Fail to Account for the Empirical Record
Revelations from the Empirical Record
Economic Policymakers in History
The Shift From Regime Creation to Regime Maintenance
Interdependent Demand and Functionally Efficient Supply

7. Explaining U. S. International Monetary Cooperation with Realist-Constructivism
Returning to the Hotel
Why Toast the God of Cooperation
Post-Plaza Polite "Dinner Conversation"
Directions for Future Research
Cooperation and the Possbility of Fundamental Systemic Change




Argues the state and not markets should be the center of analysis when attempting to explain international cooperation.


Challenging the standard liberal explanations for international cooperation in the field of international relations, this book contends that despite numerous efforts and the passage of time, our understanding of the cooperative phenomenon remains woefully inadequate. Sterling-Folker argues that widespread explanatory reliance on what constitutes functionally efficient choices in global interdependence is deductively illogical and empirically unsound. The author's approach for explaining international cooperation is comprised of realist and constructivist insights and places the state, rather than the market, at the center of analysis. A thorough examination of Post-Bretton Woods American monetary policy-making reveals the fundamental flaws of traditional explanations and the superiority of a realist-constructivist alternative to the cooperative phenomenon.

Jennifer Sterling-Folker is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.


"We can no longer look upon either liberal cooperation or realism in quite the same way after this book. The exegesis on both of these theories is penetrating, insightful, and imaginative, while the empirical testing is appropriate and quite conclusive. Anyone who wishes to enter into the theoretical conversation in contemporary international relations must read this book. " — Donald J. Puchala, University of South Carolina

"Sterling-Folker offers a simply breathtaking account of the flaws inherent in liberal international theory, and how realism is superior as a theory of cooperation. This book will become a major focal point in contemporary scholarly debate about the political consequences of international economic interdependence, and it may play a role in United States policy debate concerning countries such as China as well. " — Joseph M. Grieco, Duke University