Can states achieve cooperation in the international system?
Considered as utopian by some, or as the main purpose of statehood by others, cooperation has always been one of the most controversial issues in international relations. It has been discussed by the two dominant theories, realism and liberalism, and seems to be the point where scholars and theorists seem to disagree the most. According to realist thinkers, the state is the reflection of the human being and hence is selfish. Moreover, the international system is anarchical. Thus, roughly they think that cooperation between states is impossible. On the other hand, liberalism is considered as optimistic (Clark states that liberalism is 'the tradition of optimism'), and therefore liberal thinkers easily imagine and dream of cooperation.
Basing ourselves on those two main theories, we will first examine them and try to reconcile them through the new theory emerging in world politics: neo-liberalism. Finally, we will analyse why cooperation between states could become mandatory in today's changing world order
[...] We could notably name the 'Transmanche Region' (Kent in Great Britain and Nord- pas-de-Calais in France). Those regions don't have much power but can create schools or hospitals which are not under the full control of national governments, and create a sense of identity differing from national. But the most important step which has been taken toward a global community is the recognition of individuals as subjects. Today, anybody can sue a state, at different levels, from a local court to the European Court. [...]
[...] And finally, full cooperation is more likely to appear in a case of repeated contacts. Thus, according to the liberal analysis of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as long as a possibility of verifying one another's compliance exists, mutual cooperation is the best and only way to solve the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Charles Lipson explains that 'such conventions, which are typically grounded in ongoing reciprocal exchange, range from international law to regime rules'; in other words, we need international organizations to achieve cooperation. [...]
[...] We have seen that realists' concerns about cooperation were the possibility of cheating and the fear that other states may gain more than they would. On the other hand, neo-liberals only worry about cheating. David Mitrany develops the idea that states' concerns about power and security are fading away, because of the increasingly cost of war. Nuclear weapons seem to have sealed the balance of power and a war between nuclear powers would be disastrous for the entire planet.Conflicts being less probable, relative gains matter less than they used to. [...]
[...] Geoffrey Ponton and Peter Gill argue that 'stability can only be achieved by matching strength with strength, rather than strength with conciliation'. Considering this, Axelrod asks a question: 'Under what condition will cooperation emerge in a world of egoists without central authority?' 'People tend to look after themselves and their own first' and as states are mere reflections of human nature, they wouldn't fully cooperate. Moreover, according to Joseph Grieco, 'for realists, international anarchy fosters competition and conflict among states and inhibits their willingness to cooperate'. How could states, which are bound to hate each other, cooperate in any domain? [...]
[...] In order to understand why realist thinkers are pessimistic about the possibility for states to achieve cooperation, we need first to examine the core assumptions of the theory. According to those thinkers, international politics can not be seen in other way than through conflicts and is described in term of anarchy. The world system is composed of sovereign powers competing with each other, and a line is drawn between international and domestic politics, between anarchy and a strong power. This difference is major; realism indeed considers that without a strong power, there can be nothing but war. [...]