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Mearsheimer’s perspective on international institutions depicts realism, and he described the assumptions that are basic to realism. He argued that institutions could not promote stability after the cold war since they had little influence on the behavior of the state. Mearsheimer’s perspective has a major strength since it combines the assumptions of structural realists to explain why states want power. He moves from the perspective of analyzing these assumptions individually but analyzes them together as one, and this explains why realism is not obsolete (Mearsheimer, 1994). The perspective indicates why states are willing to gain power at the expense of other states.
The major weakness of Mearsheimer’s perspective is the overemphasis on power. The perspective concentrates on the importance of power to all nations and forgets to address other issues related to the state such as internal affairs in the state that affect it. Being a realist, Mearsheimer believes that states are interested in their survival and are rational (Mearsheimer, 1994). However, not at all times do state make selfish decisions. At times the decision of states is based on humanity, and this means doing what is best for all human beings and not only those in that particular state.
Pevehouse and Russett (2006) offer a counterargument to that of Mearsheimer. The work of the two indicates that institutions can be used to create peace and stability in states. They researched to find out the role of international governmental organizations (IGOs) in promoting peace through democracy and international trade. The research concluded that IGOs help in maintaining peace through aiding in the process of dispute settlement, create a platform for socialization which leads to peaceful behavior and creating commitments that when observed ensure peace between states.
Ruggie (1982) also offers a counter-argument to that of Mearsheimer. Ruggie (1982) argues that it is not an easy task to explain the differences between the present international economic regimes and those of the past. This is because regimes are characterized by not only what actors say and do but also their understanding of various frameworks and what they deem as acceptable. Ruggie (1982) also explains that in the economic regime, states should be sought according to their characteristics and relations and not their capabilities in material power. Therefore, the study of the international economic regime should be studied from a systematic perspective and not a cause and effect situation.
The realist paradigm is based on five assumptions which are that it is difficult to tell the intentions of states, anarchy, rationality, the highest interest is survival and states have a military capability that is inherently offensive. These assumptions indicate that it is difficult for nations to cooperate and maintain peace through international institutions (Grieco, 1988). The realist paradigm is applicable in some cases today but not all. Some states take advantage of some international institutions to benefit themselves, and this can be explained by the realism assumption that self-interest is at the heart of states. However, some international institutions have helped in maintaining the peace between states through solving disputes hence creating peace.
Grieco, J.M. (1988). Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism. International Organization 42(3): 485-507.
Mearsheimer, J. (1994). The False Promise of International Institutions. International Security 1994(5): 5-49.
Pevehouse, J. & Russett, B. (2006). Democratic International Governmental Organizations Promote Peace. International Organization 60(4): 969−1000.
Ruggie, J.D. (1982). International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order. International Organization 36(2): 379−415.