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Can states achieve cooperation in the international system?

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  1. The pessimistic point of view of realist vision on cooperation
  2. The liberal's utopian idea of globalisation
  3. Possibility of a more realist cooperation mainly through the analyse of a regionalisation of the world

?International cooperation is a subject of manifesting importance for anyone concerned about the prospects for world peace and order? because today cooperation is everywhere: in economics with the WTO, in politics with the UN and even in security issues with the NATO. International cooperation is a ?voluntary adjustment by states of their policies so that they manage their differences and reach some mutually beneficial outcome? and it has been influenced by liberal institutionalism ideas since the post war time. Cooperation must be analyzed as a long term engagement with the aim of creating an international regime that can impose rules on states, provide them with standard of behaviors, induce transparency and confidence in the relations and guide or solve problems between them. This liberal development has a more optimistic view on the international system than the theory it challenges: Neo¬realism. Both theories' definitions of the international system are based on the same principles: The anarchy reigning the system ? anarchy being the reason for the absence of a central government ?makes states the main, unitary and interest maximizing actors. Neo¬realism and liberal institutionalism also focus on solving problems existing in the international system: They study the behavioral regularities in order to explain why the balance of power and the status quo has evolved. However, they still differ in their approach to cooperation and the effect of anarchy on state's willingness to cooperate. Cooperation takes place on different levels of the international life but it also affects many small parts of the world: For instance in the EU, cooperation is pushed way further when compared to the international level of cooperation between states. And therefore, liberals and realists do not focus on the same actors when they study it: While the former has a more global approach by taking the existing international organizations and explaining why they are relevant, the latter starts with a point of view of the state and explains why cooperation is really hard and even impossible. So how does anarchy really affect states' willingness of cooperation? First, one must understand the pessimistic point of view of realists, then analyze the liberal's Utopian idea of globalization. But in this case, both theories stick to their idea so that's why I wish to see if a more realist possibility of cooperation is possible mainly through the analyses of a regionalization of the world.

[...] We have studied three concepts on how states can achieve cooperation in the international system. First, the neorealist one where cooperation is impossible because anarchy forces states to seek for more independence and power, therefore state sovereignty is the most important factor. Neoliberals and regionalist academics base their study on the same ground as the neorealists but with a more optimistic view: They think cooperation is possible (although on different levels) and that anarchy is an emulation for states as it pushes them to organize themselves around interstate institutions. [...]


[...] Since conflict and competition are 'normal' in the international system, cooperation is hard even when states have common interests. Common interests, if they exist, are inhibited by something else: States' worse fear, as unitary actors in the system, is for their survival. A state's first goal is to survive in the system and secure its political independence. This is harder for smaller states as they are always threatened by 'bigger' states. In order to achieve these goals, Switzerland, for instance, at its creation, declared it will always remain neutral. [...]


[...] This coefficient is never null and depends on three factors: First the long-term relations between the partners (the longest they were enemies the higher it will then the domains involved in cooperation (if security issues are involved, cooperation will not happen as survival and security are essential to states sovereignty) and finally the state's current power and whether it is increasing or declining. As states struggle for their survival on the international scene, they are very sensible to any erosion of their capabilities 'the resources that are under an actor's direct control such as population, size of territory, resources, economic strength, military capability and competence' and thus cooperation is often seen as a loss of state sovereignty and consequently a loss of power. [...]

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