Correspondence: Institutionalized Disagreement
A correspondence between the authors regarding international relations leads Jervis, Schweller, and Nau to discuss some of the most important foundations of international relations.
To the Editors (Robert Jervis writes): Randall Schweller's discussion of John Ikenberry's book After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars is acute, but his criticisms of the role of institutions miss the dynamics that can be involved. Schweller is convincing when he argues that international institutions are too weak to restrain major powers when their leaders decide that their interests call for breaking the rules or disregarding the views of the institution's other members. He does not discuss, however, the more important if more elusive role of institutions: their ability to shape even a powerful state's preferences. Thus while at the point of decision a major power will not be bound by the institution, its capabilities, outlook, and even values may have already been affected by how the institution operated previously. What Schweller downplays is how things can change over time—how institutions can strengthen themselves by altering the environment and the views of policymakers.
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- March 5, 2015