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date: 09 March 2021

Liberal Perspectives on the Global Political Economyfree

  • Darel E. PaulDarel E. PaulDepartment of Political Science, Williams College


Liberal international political economy (IPE) is the offspring of a marriage between mainstream international economics with its focus on markets and mainstream international relations with its emphasis on the state. While clearly involving the traditional disciplines of economics and political science, liberal scholarship in IPE tends to be housed almost exclusively in the latter. Liberal IPE has always maintained a special relationship with its absentee father economics, looking to it particularly as a source of theoretical and especially methodological inspiration. In its earlier phase, the “American school” of IPE, also known by its practitioners as Open Economy Politics (OEP), was strongly oriented toward studying the societal determinants of state trade policy and indeed continues to expand upon this terrain. OEP has moved into many diverse areas since then. Having roots in both neoclassical economics and realist international relations theory, OEP has a strong tendency to limit its empirical interest to observable behavior, define interest in strictly material terms, and assume the psychology of decision-making to be rational and therefore unproblematic. Unsurprisingly, OEP has little room for ideas as interesting and important objects of study, and in turn some of the early pioneers of the liberal approach in IPE have lamented its becoming “too materialistic.”


One might be tempted to say that international political economy as an academic discipline, like its forefather political economy, was born liberal. As the Physiocrats, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, are widely considered the founders of both economics (or “political economy” as they all referred to it) and its liberal theoretical manifestation, so, too, can one say that IPE set sail through the pioneering work of liberal scholars. Even before IPE was formally differentiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, precursors such as Karl Deutsch and Ernst Haas in political science and Richard Cooper and Albert Hirschman in economics (Cohen 2008:29–30) were integrating the themes of states and markets in a liberal perspective on the changing international order. The work of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye marks not only the distinctive emergence of IPE in the United States but also the return of liberalism to political economy after having largely abandoned the field to Marxists. Today the existence of a “consensual approach” in IPE endorsed by the American Political Science Association’s section on political economy – now famously dubbed the “American school” of IPE (Cohen 2008) – strongly indicates that the field in the US is now dominated by liberals of one form or another. The dominance of liberal perspectives is much less the case outside of the US, although the influence of American scholarship throughout the English-speaking world means rivals are distinctly minority voices.

Moreover, the creation of a “global political economy” in the decades since the 1970s is the fruition of a liberal political project which can be summed up as the promotion of “markets and multilateralism.” This project has, of course, not been without its bumps along the way. That being said, a global political economy organized through institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the Group of 20 strongly indicates the broad successes of a liberal vision of global political-economic order. It should be of little surprise that scholarship from a liberal theoretical perspective has come to dominate the most prominent IPE journals in the United States. Maliniak and Tierney (2009) show that since the mid-1980s a majority of work published in the twelve leading US political science journals covering IPE has been theoretically rooted in liberalism, while since 2000 some two-thirds of published articles in these journals has been liberal in perspective.

Clearly liberal approaches to describing, explaining and understanding the global political economy are especially prominent, influential, and voluminous. This review first marks out liberalism’s theoretical boundaries. It then moves on to a review of the literatures on domestic–international interactions, domestic political institutions, international institutions, ideas, and finally normative evaluations and prescriptions of the global political-economic order.

The Boundaries of Liberal IPE

Liberal IPE is the offspring of a marriage between mainstream international economics with its focus on markets and mainstream international relations with its emphasis on the state (Cohen 2008:37). While clearly involving the traditional disciplines of economics and political science, liberal scholarship in IPE tends to be housed almost exclusively in the latter. In fact, in a definitive statement of the liberal approach, Frieden and Martin (2002:118) go so far as to define IPE as a “subdiscipline within political science.” That being said, liberal IPE has always maintained a special relationship with its absentee father economics, looking to it particularly as a source of theoretical and especially methodological inspiration. Gilpin’s (1987:27) definition of the liberal perspective on IPE in fact argues that it is “embodied in the discipline of economics as it has developed in Great Britain, the United States, and Western Europe,” something with which Frieden and Lake (1999:9–10) heartily concur. These leading introductions to the field in fact draw little if any distinction between mainstream economics and liberal IPE. Cohen (2008:37) points out that, if one ignores the continuation of Marxist and neo-Marxist scholarship throughout the twentieth century, the earliest American work in the field was all done by economists such as Albert Hirschman, Jacob Viner, and Charles Kindleberger. Today it is not uncommon to find considerable methodological and theoretical overlap between (American) IPE’s flagship journal International Organization and the field of economics’ Journal of Political Economy.

What unites liberal perspectives not only within but across disciplinary boundaries? First and foremost, liberal perspectives on the global political economy operate from a rationalist epistemology and individualist ontology (Keohane 1988). Individual interest is the analytic entry point for liberals, which in IPE is nearly always (with some important exceptions developed below) conceived as material in nature. Rather than begin as do realists with core assumptions concerning actors’ interests, liberals rely strongly upon neoclassical economic theory to deduce them and subject them to empirical test. (Lake 2006:763–4).

Liberals in IPE are also positivist in their epistemology, emphasizing the discovery of causal laws and the wide use of statistical methodologies to falsify hypotheses derived from theory. Consider for example Keohane and Martin’s (1995:41, 46) argument that, unlike realism, their version of liberalism strives to be a scientific theory generating testable hypotheses and a [progressive] research program. Against another rival to liberalism, Moravcsik (1999:670) critiques constructivism for its lack of “(1) distinctive testable hypotheses, [and] (2) methods to test such hypotheses against alternative theories or a null hypothesis” while holding up rationalist liberal social science as distinctly superior.

Liberals are also pluralist in their relation to political theory. It is not a simplistic pluralism which claims that multiple groups revolve in and out of power through an endless diversity of issues and power resources. Instead it is a theoretical claim that power emanates from a variety of sources which differ across different societies, most importantly through the manner in which institutions aggregate and express interests. Unlike Marxists, liberals reject the existence of a general logic of power (such as through capital) and instead insist that hierarchies can be constructed along any number of lines, from class to ethnicity to knowledge/skill and beyond without bowing to the demands of the means of production.

Finally, a common problematic unites liberal perspectives across many substantive fields of inquiry. While liberalism no longer assumes the existence of a harmony of interests which is bound to triumph over parochialism, it nevertheless remains true that liberal analysis begins from the premise of a universal interest such as a Pareto-efficient trade policy or the public good of a stable open global economy. Liberal IPE scholarship then marshals its resources to answer a basic question informed by liberal economic theory: why does mutually beneficial cooperation (aka “liberalization”) sometimes fail?

For purposes here, the boundaries of liberal IPE include liberal economists interested in the state and power on one side, through the mainstream of the “American school” of IPE across to liberals interested in the ideational dimensions of economic activity. While one often finds sociologists, geographers, and anthropologists as leading thinkers within nonliberal approaches to IPE, liberalism hews closely to a definition of the field as the meeting place of mainstream economics and political science.

This essay organizes liberal perspectives on the global political economy into three broad categories. The first treats the mainstream core of the so-called “American school” of IPE, also known by its practitioners as Open Economy Politics (Lake 2006, 2009). In its earlier phase this literature was strongly oriented toward studying the societal determinants of state trade policy and indeed continues to expand upon this terrain. OEP has moved into many diverse areas since then such as monetary policy and the formation of international economic organizations. The second section reviews liberal work on ideas as explanatory variables in the global political economy. This literature is distinct from OEP by strongly diverging from a strictly materialist notion of interest. Finally, the third section treats explicitly normative work on evaluating and prescribing policy for the global political-economic order to more fully express liberal values and goals.

Open Economy Politics

International Political Economy as a distinct field of academic research was born into a theoretical and methodological cacophony, with long-extant Marxist and neo-Marxist work jockeying for position alongside new studies of “transnational politics” all amidst the general structural transformation of the global international political and political economic order of the 1970s. By the mid-1990s, however, the “vast, open range” of IPE which Susan Strange (1984) had once so memorably celebrated had been largely plotted and fenced – particularly in the upper echelons of the American academy – through the growth of a broad theoretical “consensus” (Frieden and Martin 2002:118) keen to set aside paradigmatic debate and pursue Kuhnian normal science (Lake 2009:49).

This consensus is a deep one, incorporating agreement on “theories, methods, analytical frameworks, and important questions” (Frieden and Martin 2002:118). In earlier years its practitioners simply referred to it as a “modern political economy” approach (Alt et al. 1996:689). More recently it has been dubbed “open economy politics” by one of its leading contributors (Lake 2006). At OEP’s core are “the assumptions of neoclassical economics and international trade theory,” (Lake 2006:762), and its empirical questions are strongly oriented toward the analysis of economic openness (or the lack thereof) and its political-economic determinants. One should not forget the older and more eclectic origins of neoliberal institutionalism and its interest in strategic interaction between states, which has also largely been brought under the OEP umbrella. Following standard usage within mainstream American IPE (e.g., Katzenstein, Keohane, and Krasner 1998:647–9; Frieden and Martin 2002), the OEP literature is here divided into two broad categories: the domestic political determinants of states’ international economic policies (with sections on domestic interests and domestic institutions), and strategic international interaction between states.

The Domestic Interest Approach

OEP is, according to its most public proponent David Lake, “a direct descendant of the domestic interest approach” (Lake 2006:762). Long before political scientists took up interest in the politics of the global economy, economic historians began investigating the domestic political determinants of international trade policy. Two of the most influential were Alexander Gerschenkron (1966[1943]) and Charles Kindleberger (1951) while several scholars of comparative politics blazed the trail for analysis integrating domestic and international politics within the political science proper, especially Peter Gourevitch (1977), Peter Katzenstein (1978, 1985) and Robert Putnam (1988).

Two classic works in OEP appeared around the end of the Cold War, one with an empirical focus on trade policy and the other in monetary policy. Rogowski (1989) deployed the Stolper-Samuelson theorem (itself a derivation from the Heckscher-Ohlin mobile factor endowment model of international trade) to explain both political cleavages and coalitions formed around trade policy and ultimately global patterns of trade liberalization and protection. Frieden (1991) turned to the Ricardo-Viner specific factor endowment model of trade to explain the distributional effects of and domestic political conflict over financial policies regarding international capital mobility and larger patterns of global financial integration. Each author’s use of pure (liberal) economic theory is especially notable.

The Heckscher-Ohlin and Ricardo-Viner models continue to be analytic workhorses within OEP and characterize a “key divide” (Lake 2006:763) within the literature, with many studies amassed on both sides. Midford (1993) expanded on the “extreme parsimony” of Rogowski’s approach by multiplying the number of factors beyond the classic land–labor–capital triad in line with the work of the economist Edward Leamer (1984). Midford’s eight-factor model showed support for the basic Stolper-Samuelson insights regarding interest group positions on trade policy in the US and Western Europe since World War II. Scheve and Slaughter (2001) test both the Heckscher-Ohlin and Ricardo-Viner models in an analysis of the trade preferences of individuals as revealed by survey data. While the standard method of determining factor endowments is to measure income, the authors make a significant innovation by incorporating asset (home) prices into their study. They find that factor type and not industry of employment best account for opinions on trade policy, lending support to the HO model. In another variation, Milner and Judkins (2004) study the trade positions of political parties within the OECD countries. They find that partisanship is highly correlated with trade policy, with left (labor) parties far less supportive of free trade than right (capital) parties. This is supportive of the HO model. At the same time, Milner and Judkins also find that partisanship on trade issues is much less acute in small open economies and decreases over time as globalization has gained traction.

Despite the characterization of a defining HO–RV split in the literature, support for the Ricardo-Viner model is more difficult to find. Irwin (1996) conceived his study of the 1923 British general election – “an election that hinged on the issue of free trade and protection” – as a direct test of both models and finds that the Ricardo-Viner specific factors model performs much better as an account of actual voting patterns at the county level. Chase (2003) works from a specific factors model but deduces trade preferences from returns to scale and production sharing rather than simply the lack of capital mobility. His empirical research of US trade politics surrounding the NAFTA negotiations shows a positive relationship between import competition and opposition to free trade as well as significant intra-class cleavages and intra-industry cross-class alliances consistent with the Ricardo-Viner model. Overall Frieden and Martin (2002:127) find the RV approach notably “less developed” in the literature than the more prominent HO model.

Recent work has sought to reconcile the differences between the two models through a temporal analysis focused on changing inter-industry factor mobility over time. Michael Hiscox in particular has contributed much to this literature. Calling both the HO and RV models “extreme” in their assumptions concerning factor mobility (2002:9), Hiscox assembled a large dataset covering six countries over much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to test the relationship between factor mobility and trade politics. He finds that factor mobility is strongly associated with a country’s stage of development, with early industrialization associated with a sharp increase in mobility while it declines in later stages. Political cleavages and trade coalitions, Hiscox finds, do follow the variation in factor mobility over time. Class cleavages predominate in periods of high inter-industry factor mobility while industry cleavages define politics in eras of low mobility, as predicted by both the HO and RV models.

Attempts at reconciliation between HO and RV findings have not gone without criticism. Two recent authors (Ladewig 2006; Jeong 2009) have continued to note the failure of this literature to produce consistent conclusions, both emphasizing not theoretical but instead methodological causes. According to Ladewig (2006), factor mobility is virtually impossible to measure directly despite its central empirical importance to research, and different studies have estimated quite different levels of factor mobility for the very same case (the United States since the 1960s). He measures factor mobility with an original dataset based on US House of Representatives districts and finds marked change over time, with low mobility and class cleavages over trade in the 1960s and 1970s yet high mobility with industry cleavages since then. These findings largely support those of Hiscox. Jeong (2009) introduces a different methodology. Rather than selecting “key” Congressional votes, he incorporates all Congressional votes on trade and uses a multilevel item-response theory model to distill the relative importance of each vote to the question of trade policy. Through this method he comes to a very different conclusion from that of Hiscox, finding that the most recent period in the US (1987–2006) is characterized by class, not industry-based, conflict over trade. Clearly the literature on the politics of trade will continue to develop.

Although having its roots and much of its continuing research in international trade, the domestic interests approach has expanded analysis into other policy arenas referent to the global political economy. Hiscox (2004) considers rising levels of global capital mobility and finds their political effects are highly contingent upon the degree of inter-industry factor mobility. While the overall effects of capital mobility should cause firms to have less interest in protectionism (because investment flows act as substitutes for trade flows), there continue to be high levels of manufacturing capital lobbying of Congress for trade protection. Hiscox uses an RV model to explain this anomaly, arguing that industries with immobile capital will actually increase their interest in trade protection under conditions of generally increased capital mobility. Scheve and Slaughter (2004) also look at the effects of sectoral international capital mobility, with their research focusing on workers’ sense of economic vulnerability in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. Finding “a clear link” between globalization of investment and worker insecurity, the authors’ research supports extant international trade theory on the likely attitudes of losers from trade.

Similar work has been done on many other state policies related to the global political economy. O’Rourke and Sinnott (2006), for example, find across twenty-four mostly advanced industrialized economies that attitudes toward immigrants are largely a function of skill endowment and the domestic relative abundance of skilled labor per standard trade theory. At the same time, they find that attitudes also reflect “nationalist sentiment” although the statistical correlation is less robust than that of material interest. Milner and Tingley (2009) use the Heckscher-Ohlin model to explain domestic political support and opposition to foreign aid in the United States since 1979. Noting that foreign aid is most materially beneficial to both physical and human capital-intensive Congressional districts, the authors find that factor endowments largely explain trade votes with strong distributional consequences. Interestingly, their research also shows no change over time in preferences and thus by extension in the mobility of factors.

Domestic Institutions

Liberal scholars have long recognized that domestic political institutions are not simple conduits for the expression of interests but play a significant intervening role of their own. Thus the OEP literature turned its attention early on to institutions and the manner in which they aggregate interests and delegate decision-making authority. One significant early statement was made by Alt and Gilligan (1994) who found that a simple argument on political coalition-building produced by mainstream international trade theory was insufficient to account for observed trade policies. The mere existence of interests is not sufficient for determining actual political behavior because interests define only the “benefits” of action – the good to be secured or the ill to be avoided. They do not count the “costs” of collective action, such as the free-rider problem, which are strongly influenced by political institutions. Moreover, Alt and Gilligan found that political institutions themselves define the factor mobility highlighted by economic theory through the manipulation of collective action costs. Another early empirical analysis on cross-national patterns of nontariff barriers (NTBs) by Mansfield and Busch (1995) found that states with autonomous trade policy institutions well insulated from domestic political pressures for free trade have higher NTBs. Their measure of insulation is a function of the number and size of electoral constituencies, with the hypothesis being a smaller number of large constituencies produces a more insulated state. The authors are keen to point out that a simple “societal model” of trade policy is insufficient and that thorough attention to domestic political institutions is essential.

Many domestic political institutions have been analyzed from the Open Economy Politics perspective. Electoral institutions as key mechanisms of preference aggregation have proven to be of durable theoretical and empirical interest. Rogowski (1987) offered an early statement, positing a “natural affinity” between economic openness and both a proportional representation electoral system and a large number of constituencies due to their role in diminishing the political influence of protectionist/special interests. Garrett and Lange (1995) use a simple model to show that all democratic electoral institutions bias policy outcomes in favor of less productive economic sectors, although this tendency can be reduced through systems of national proportional representation and single-member districts which serve to disperse workers in low productivity sectors across electoral jurisdictions. In an empirical study of different constitutional and electoral systems of representation, Milner and Judkins (2004) found domestic political structures to have a complex and difficult-to-ascertain effect on trade policy. Some institutions – such as federalism, size of the party system and electoral district magnitude – are not significant influences on political party trade positions, while electoral rules, however, do have a significant impact. They find that a proportional representation system in particular causes political parties to be more protectionist than in a plurality system.

Once legislators are elected, the organization of the legislative system is a further important institutional factor influencing state international economic policy. Bailey, Goldstein, and Weingast (1997) argue that two changes in Congressional voting rules on trade agreements contained within the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934 undergird the US path toward free trade. By shifting trade votes from a treaty-like supermajority to a simple majority, free-trade Democrats made international economic agreements possible without any change in underlying interests. Moreover, the authors claim that these institutional changes shifted the political equilibrium of the country toward a more liberal free trade position by aggregating interests in novel ways through presidential powers to bundle foreign and domestic tariff reduction into a single agreement. Hiscox (1999), however, studies the very same legislation and argues that its durable influence has been due less to the revolutionary nature of institutional change as to the fractured position of the Republican Party on trade after World War II. That is, Hiscox claims shifting interests rather than institutional change in aggregating and expressing stable interests accounts for increasing Congressional support for trade liberalization since 1934. Martin (2000) studies the role of democratic national legislatures in accounting for state commitments to international agreements. She engages the question through the analytic lens of “credibility” and its relationship to what she calls the “commitment problem.” Following a rationalist-functionalist approach to international institutions, Martin argues that the precarious nature of state commitment to international agreements is a cardinal barrier to interstate cooperation. This barrier can be overcome and credibility enhanced, however, through executive branch cooperation with their national legislatures. While the participation of legislators makes interstate bargaining more complicated, she finds through studies of both the US Congress and the parliaments of several EU members that state commitment to any bargain reached become much more credible and thus cooperation is promoted.

More recently, liberal perspectives have taken up interest in the broadest effects of society-wide democratization on economic openness. O’Rourke and Taylor (2006) rely upon the Stolper-Samuelson theorem to theorize that workers in labor-scarce countries will oppose openness whereas those in labor-abundant countries will support it. Their statistical analysis supports the argument that democratization in poor developing countries fosters globalization while in wealthy developed countries it has the opposite effect. The mechanism is not a simple expression of working-class electoral power however, for the authors find that “democracy helped labor get its way on tariff policy, but only if it was supported by capital” (2006:18). Milner and Kubota (2005) likewise offer an analysis using the Stolper-Samuelson theorem and come to similar conclusions. They find that newly enfranchised groups in developing and democratizing countries – overwhelmingly labor and the poor – are more supportive of globalization (even as economic data showing these groups actually benefit from globalization and survey data showing that they believe themselves to benefit is quite inconclusive). While praising the above mentioned authors, Eichengreen and Leblang (2008:292) find much of the literature on the relationship between democratization and globalization to be “contradictory and inconclusive,” having poorly sorted out the direction of causality and widely neglected to consider the problem of simultaneity. They critique the bulk of this literature for doing little to separate out the trade and financial dimensions of globalization and largely ignoring the history of the global economy prior to World War II. Seeking to address these shortcomings, the authors’ regression results find a positive relationship between democracy and both trade and financial dimensions of globalization, as well as reciprocal effects of globalization on democracy, across the period 1870–2000.

International Institutions

Liberal IPE’s interest in domestic political institutions is predated by its original focus on international institutions and their role in structuring bargaining and strategic interaction between states. While the domestic–international interaction has recently so dominated the research agenda of OEP that international institutions have been delegated to the status of “the second major building block” (Frieden and Martin 2002:136; see also the placement of international bargaining after domestic institutions in Lake 2006), the work of many of IPE’s pioneers on “transnational relations,” “complex interdependence,” and regimes helped establish the field. Here the emphasis is on relations between states, particularly strategic bargaining and the role of international institutions in molding that interaction. Game theory makes a contribution to liberal perspectives on the global political economy through this doorway as well as more broadly the approach of neoliberal institutionalism. Although Robert Keohane, this literature’s most important contributor, often rejects “liberal” (2002a:3) or “neoliberal” (2000:125) as accurate labels for this work, neoliberal institutionalism adopts the same epistemological and ontological foundations as does neoclassical economics, “rational-choice analysis in the utilitarian social contract tradition” (Keohane 1982a:325). In addition, its empirical interests lie in the study of cooperation and institutions in particular as Pareto-superior solutions to market failures (Keohane 1982a:337–9; Lake 2006:767).

There are many antecedents to liberal IPE work on international institutions. One important contributor is Ernst Haas whose work on the European Economic Union laid the foundation for integration studies. Although denying it was a “theory” at all, Haas pioneered the use of functionalism to account for the growth of international cooperation and organization after World War II. The concept of “spillover” was used to suggest the expansion of union from one issue area to another over time, and interest in functionalism continued well beyond Haas’s own work into the early regimes literature as well as the domestic interests approach. Haas also took up the fundamental liberal “problem of cooperation” well before IPE formally existed, and his answers strongly foreshadowed those given by liberal scholars decades later: domestic interest groups (Haas 1958), expectations (Haas 1961), social learning (Haas 1964), and shared knowledge and beliefs (Haas 1975, 1990).

It can be said that the early 1980s’ literature on international regimes is the origin of a broad disciplinary “taking international institutions seriously” in IPE (Frieden and Martin 2002:142). In those years, American IPE was yet to be dominated by liberal perspectives and many different scholars contributed to this work. Especially prominent voices included realists such as Stephen Krasner and Robert Gilpin and (future) constructivists like John Ruggie, himself a student of Ernst Haas. Among liberals, however, the leading figure is Robert Keohane who defined the liberal approach to the study of international institutions with his well-theorized rationalist state-centric approach, a sort of “microeconomics of international relations” first introduced in a realist guise by Kenneth Waltz (1979). Rather than come to realist conclusions regarding the inevitable failures of cooperation and the necessity of violence in underpinning international order, Keohane strove to demonstrate that international institutions – “regimes” – could overcome failures of cooperation. Conceived as analogous to market failure in liberal economics, institutions could overcome suboptimal equilibria and enable agreement by reducing uncertainty, increasing the quality and quantity of information, and reducing transaction costs (Keohane 1982a). Keohane (1984) and others (e.g., Stein 1982; Axelrod 1984; Lipson 1984; Snidal 1985a; Oye 1986) also marshaled game theoretic analysis to demonstrate the possibilities for institutions to bring about mutually beneficial cooperation.

The failures of international cooperation and the waning ability of the United States to underwrite a growing open global economy in the 1970s was the primary empirical motivation of this early liberal work on international institutions. The economist Charles Kindleberger (1973) is generally credited as the founder of hegemonic stability theory avant la lettre in his argument on the causes of the Great Depression. Seeing an open liberal global economy as a public good subject to all the problems of underprovision outlined by liberal economic theory, Kindleberger argued its collapse in the 1930s was due ultimately to the failure of a hegemon to supply it, an unfortunate combination of “British inability and US unwillingness” (1973:289). Building on his earlier work with Joseph Nye on regimes (Keohane and Nye 1977), Keohane (1980) picked up Kindleberger’s insights and developed them into an “issue-specific version of the hegemonic stability thesis” explanation of regime change in trade, money, and oil during the 1970s. Focusing on measures of tangible economic power, Keohane found hegemonic stability theory to have mixed success as an explanatory framework. Strongest in accounting for change in petroleum and money regimes, Keohane (1982b) pursued this argument toward an account of the generalized inflation of the 1970s, finding the collapse of international regimes to be both an effect of declining hegemonic power and a cause of greater uncertainty and uncooperative state policies.

Throughout the 1980s the theme of hegemony animated considerable work from a liberal perspective, and the theory of hegemonic stability emerged as the signature (and as some wags would say, the only) contribution of American international political economy to the social sciences (Cohen 2008:67). A strand which came to be known as hegemonic “benevolence” particularly appealed to liberal understandings of the global political economy (Snidal 1985b; Grunberg 1990) and depicted British and American hegemony as a virtuous provision of public goods (Kindleberger 1976, 1981, 1986; Lake 1983; James and Lake 1989; Keohane 1980, 1982a, 1984 – although see Snidal 1985b:581 for Keohane’s dissent from inclusion in this camp). Realist scholars of IPE contributed much to the hegemonic stability literature, of course (see especially Gilpin 1975; Krasner 1976). Liberals diverged strongly from realists, however, in their account of international institutions. Keohane’s (1984) argument continues to be the definitive statement, asserting that by reducing uncertainty and transaction costs, institutions are perfectly capable of promoting international cooperation on the basis of common interests even “after hegemony.”

By the early 1990s a backlash against hegemonic stability theory began to gain ground (Lake 1993:460). While the theory continues to occupy a prominent place in American undergraduate classrooms (Paul 2006:730–1), it has largely “fad[ed] into obscurity” (Cohen 2008:67) in IPE scholarship. In turn, the literature on regimes shifted toward targeted attention to particular international institutions. A landmark work is Bates’s (1997) study of the International Coffee Organization. Beginning with a critique of purely interest-based studies which marked the early stages of the domestic interest approach (e.g., Rogowski 1989; Frieden 1991), Bates argues that global economic processes such as international coffee prices are themselves determined (in part) by state policy and cannot be treated as an exogenous variable. He (1997:161–2) summarizes his argument by stating “The causal path thus runs from state policy to the behavior of international markets and to the welfare of domestic interests – a sequence that deviates strikingly from that traced out by Frieden and Rogowski.”

The European Union is a prominent institutional focus of interest. Burley and Mattli (1993) offer an early functionalist account of the legal integration of the EU through the European Court of Justice, arguing that the increasing demand for European-wide law from state and nonstate actors has over time created a transnational EU legal sphere autonomous from state policy. Moravcsik (1999) offered an important theoretical challenge to the rational-functional approach to international institutions in two ways. First, he argues that the transaction costs of international bargaining are not unusually high as supposed by all works rooted in the regimes literature, undermining a key premise of the demand for international institutions. Second, he claims that the transaction costs which do exist are less a function of interstate strategic bargaining environments and more a function of domestic politics. Tsebelis and Garrett (2001) also criticize functionalist accounts by arguing that the EU’s evolving treaty base and the institutions which come out of it generate the particular equilibrium outcomes observed over time.

The GATT/WTO is also of notable analytic interest. Goldstein, Rivers, and Tomz (2007) analyze trade data from 1946 to 2004 and find that the GATT/WTO has notably increased trade between not only formal member states but also all those with “institutional standing.” They argue this has happened by creating both rights and obligation for members as well as offering them to nonmembers, usually former colonies of GATT/WTO members, which nevertheless had important trade ties with member states. In addition, due to the ability of members to opt out of various WTO treaties and GATT legal clauses, the radical distinction between formal members and nonmembers with standing is misleading. Statistical analysis of trade data incorporating both de jure and de facto members shows the significant contributions of members to increased trade. Mansfield and Reinhardt (2008) broaden the scope of material interest to incorporate not simply the volume of income from international trade but its volatility as well. In the first large-scale statistical study of trade volatility over time, they find the GATT/WTO has increased trade between members in part by increasing trade flow stability and consistency in state trade policies. A discordant note, however, is sounded by Busch and Reinhardt (2006) who offer an analysis of third-party participation in WTO’s dispute resolution system. They find that particular institutional rules of the organization and their interpretation empower third parties to easily join formal trade disputes as a “participatory audience,” serving to lower the prospects for early settlement and raise the bargaining costs for the principal parties. Their argument is ultimately that the WTO actually lowers the efficiency gains of economic cooperation.

Lying beneath most liberal scholarship on international institutions is the argument that institutions increase the credibility of state commitments to liberalizing policies by aiding them in resisting the power of anti-liberal and/or “special” domestic interests. Simmons’s (2000) work on state commitment to and compliance with Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund’s Articles of Agreement continues to serve as the touchstone study. In this work she finds that stable and clear domestic legal regimes and a strong domestic commitment to the rule of law have an important influence on compliance and the creation of “liberal inertia” behind its continuation. Büthe and Milner (2008) emphasize the informational effects of GATT/WTO and preferential trade agreements, arguing that state behavior is more closely monitored by all parties because of such institutions and compliance violations are more swiftly and loudly decried and thus punished.

In light of the tendency among liberals to see institutions primarily through a functionalist lens, a warning from Goldstein and Martin (2000) is significant. They claim that international institutions are not always vehicles for reaching Pareto-optimal outcomes even when they foster precisely the kinds of cooperation praised in liberal theory. For example, increasing transparency and information flows are widely considered to be positive contributions to cooperation made by institutions. However, Goldstein and Martin argue that by increasing the flow of information, domestic interests opposed to trade liberalization can better mobilize around protectionist policy measures. In addition, the increased “bindingness” of international institutions has the effect of dissuading domestic actors from acceding to them in the first place out of fear of lack of flexibility in the face of future unknowns. The ironic outcome is that the expansion of the authority of international institutions designed to create a more liberal international economic order can undermine the political foundations of that very order.


Having roots in both neoclassical economics and realist international relations theory, Open Economy Politics has a strong tendency to limit its empirical interest to observable behavior, define interest in strictly material terms, and assume the psychology of decision-making to be rational and therefore unproblematic. Unsurprisingly, OEP has little room for ideas as interesting and important objects of study, and in turn some of the early pioneers of the liberal approach in IPE have lamented its becoming “too materialistic” (Keohane 2009:38).

Liberalism more broadly has a long tradition of engaging the political role of ideas, values, and beliefs. Moravcsik (1997) refers to this body of thought as “ideational liberalism” and appeals to figures such as John Stuart Mill, Guiseppi Mazzini, and Woodrow Wilson as its signal contributors. He goes so far as to incorporate social identity into the liberal project, but is careful to retain a rationalist foundation by taking ideas as extra-political and by narrowing the analytic terrain of ideas to “collective social values or identities concerning the scope and nature of public goods provisions” (Moravcsik 1997:515) which includes questions concerning the definition of the nation, the legitimacy of political institutions, and the legitimacy of the overarching economic order.

The early regimes literature (which again was not wholly liberal) reserved a place for the role of ideas in the form of “principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actor expectations converge” (Krasner 1982:185). Some of the early hegemonic stability literature also considered ideas tangentially, which one can see in Keohane’s (1984) discussion of empathy, moral obligation, and norms of reciprocity as supports for international cooperation after the decline of US hegemony. A more robust liberal engagement with ideas and the locus classicus in liberal IPE is that by Goldstein and Keohane (1993a). Organizing ideas into the typology of “world views,” “principled beliefs,” and “causal beliefs,” Goldstein and Keohane (1993b) advance a rationalist and empiricist understanding of the causal significance of ideas through the metaphor of directing movement along one of many distinct “pathways.” In the context of incomplete information, ideas influence behavior by creating expectations and thus providing “road maps in uncertain environments” (1993b:14). In the presence of multiple Pareto improving equilibria, ideas serve as “focal points and glue” (1993b:17) around which actors build political strategies, expectations, and even trust. Ideas are also institutionalized as rules and norms and thus shape the incentive structure of actors participating in such institutions. They are particularly important in the context of law in which persuasion and justification are important verbal actions.

Of these three causal pathways, the most common and the most consistent with the OEP literature is ideas as focal points. Following the pioneering game theory work of economist Thomas Schelling (1960), Garrett and Weingast (1993) and Weingast (1995) offer an argument for the importance of ideas in solving coordination games. Beginning with the observation that most bargaining situations allow for multiple Pareto-efficient equilibria, Garrett and Weingast (1993) argue that actual cooperation emerges from a combination of individual interest and collective ideas, the latter being the outcomes of history, culture, and institutional legacy. Their empirical study of the passage of the Single European Act shows that the legislation was made possible through a key ruling by the European Court of Justice and its endorsement by member states, namely that of “mutual recognition” of national treatment policies of foreign goods and services by member states. This became the signature focal point around which European economic law and the single European market have been subsequently built. Weingast (1995) deploys a theoretical argument with illustrations to suggest how “common conventions” such as the definition of dumping or expectations related to national treatment of goods and services also may serve as focal points for cooperation.

Goldstein (1993) offers an argument concerning the role of ideas in law in explaining changes in and inconsistencies of US trade policy since the early nineteenth century. Taking stock of shared causal beliefs, such as those concerning the relationship between trade expansion and wages or between government spending and aggregate demand, she shows how ideas have served as “road maps” compensating for incomplete information and leading policy makers toward particular expressions of interest. Moreover, by being “encased in institutions” (Goldstein 1993:3), she also demonstrates how shared beliefs of the past strongly affect the strategic expression of interest long after their creators and the conditions which gave rise to such ideas have faded from the scene. A literature on reputation has also deployed the road maps’ conception of ideas as means of compensating for incomplete information and enabling international cooperation. Tomz (2007) provides an important statement in this vein. Noting that foreign investors are unable to completely measure potential risks and returns, he studies several cases over three centuries to demonstrate how beliefs around the likelihood of debt repayment explain both sovereign state willingness to repay and foreign investor willingness to lend. Moreover, these beliefs are mutable, influenced by new information such as regime change in a debtor country or a pattern of changed behavior in a debtor, and thus can be characterized as learning.

Such change in ideas over time has prompted a significant liberal literature on policy diffusion in the global political economy. Social learning is one popular approach, defined as “change in beliefs or change in one’s confidence in existing beliefs, which can result from exposure to new evidence, theories, or behavioral repertories” (Simmons, Dobbin, and Garrett 2006:795). The global diffusion of liberal ideas and institutions since 1989 has been a particular empirical focus on this literature. Simmons and Elkins (2004) argue that the diffusion of neoliberal economic policies over the past three decades is a result of two distinct processes. First, diffusion is the result of strategic interaction between states; when one adopts a liberalizing trajectory, these choices create new externalities for other states seeking to attract mobile capital investment and trade opportunities. A second mechanism is policy learning in which states collect information from the track record of foreign models. While incorporating norms and culture, Simmons and Elkins (2004:175–6) are keen to resist a “sociological” approach associated with the work and influence of John W. Meyer, instead claiming that ideas play a role as sources of information and provide a “cognitive short-cut” rather than tap into questions of identity.

In a study of the diffusion of bilateral investment treaties, Elkins, Guzman, and Simmons (2006) find evidence for the existence of learning in that treaties are more likely to be signed when prior signatories are successfully attracting foreign investment. However, they argue that competitive economic pressures for globally mobile capital have the strongest causal effect. Meseguer (2004) finds a greater role for social learning in a study of the spread of privatization among OECD and Latin American countries. Testing a “rational model of learning,” she finds that updating information from one’s own and others’ experiences on the relationship between privatization and economic growth, rather than domestic regime type or external pressure, best explains this policy diffusion in the 1980s and 1990s. Lee and Strang (2006) also study the diffusion of public-sector downsizing among the OECD countries in the 1980s and 1990s but find little support for a simple form of learning in which states adopt “policies that work” as measured by economic trade, trade balances and fiscal health. They do find, however, that strong economic performance among downsizers and weak economic performance among upsizers do seem to be sources of social learning. Interestingly and in a strong finding for the importance of ideas, opposite outcomes (weak economic performance among downsizers and strong economic performance among upsizers) have no effect on learning, leading the authors to conclude that “learning is theory-driven…when theories and evidence come into conflict, theories win” (Lee and Strang 2006:904).

Liberal work on the importance of ideas in the global political economy has also strongly developed in the study of international law and the interaction between legalization and economic governance. Liberal work on international law is the inheritor of both the regimes literature, housed within the neoliberal institutionalism and tied to its theoretical and empirical mooring of cooperation between states, as well as a more robust form of liberal theory realized in the domestic interest approach (Slaughter Burley 1993). In this way it is also at the forefront of the liberal consensus in American IPE. What sets this literature apart from Open Economy Politics, however, is a robust engagement with the role of ideas as well as ethics (discussed below).

Anne-Marie Slaughter has laid an important foundation for this literature in her theorization of international law as an expression of liberal ideas and ideals. Her depiction of the international legal system is one of transnational government networks in a transnational liberal society, constituted primarily by professional associations and their concomitant government bureaucracies with a highly disaggregated vision of the state (Slaughter 1995, 2004). Her theoretical foundation is that of Andrew Moravcsik in which state policy is primarily the outcome of domestic and transnational social relations. Although taking up a decidedly rationalist approach, Slaughter (following Moravcsik) allows for the “pursuit of material and ideal welfare” (Moravcsik 1997:517). According to Slaughter (and other liberals), the transnational society created among liberal societies is in part built upon shared norms and values including the separation of powers, pluralism, and tolerance. This harkens to Moravcsik’s (1997:527–8) elucidation of “ideational liberalism” which incorporates the perceived legitimacy of others’ domestic political and socioeconomic orders, and it is these commonalities which allow liberal states to cooperate and liberal societies to integrate into a transnational networked space. This ideational dimension of international law is inescapable. Limiting its importance to simply reducing transaction costs or strengthening the credibility of commitments sells short the foundational role of norms in the operation of law. The expanding purview of international law in the global political economy is simultaneously the expansion of common norms regarding both behavior and interpretation of behavior which Abbott and Snidal (2000) label the “covenant” (as opposed to the “contract”) dimension of law.

In terms of theory, liberal work on international law has developed markedly within both the international relations and international law fields. Keohane (2001:7) for one has held up liberal work on international law as a model for rationalist approaches in IPE precisely because the former “studies rational strategic action in the context of rules and rule making, deeply structured by interests and power but also reflecting the influence of ideas on interests and on how power is exercised.” That being said, the empirical work on the contributions of ideas to global economic governance has been less developed. Exceptions include Abbott and Snidal’s (2002) analysis of the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, in which they argue that political interest in corruption arose in the US in the 1970s and globally in the 1980s due to “values activism” which was later encoded in OECD regulation primarily through “aggressive values tactics” of the US government and civil society groups such as Transparency International. In particular, the authors appeal to the explanatory power of values at “key turning points” of the political process. However, Abbott and Snidal also note their melding of rationalist and constructivist arguments, suggesting the distinct limitations of a liberal rationalist approach.

It is also important to note the self-imposed limits which liberals place on the role of ideas. Unlike constructivist scholarship, liberals deploy ideas as an additional explanatory variable when material power and individual interest prove insufficient. Thus as Garrett and Weingast (1993:186) state, “the lesser the distributional asymmetries between contending cooperative equilibria and the smaller the disparities in the power resources of actors, the more important will be ideational factors.” In differentiating rationalist liberalism from constructivist approaches, one might take Keohane’s (2000) aphorism that, from a liberal perspective, social life is “ideas part-way down.” At the same time, Keohane (2001:8) has also suggested that rationality itself is culturally determined, such as when he observes that “interests are incomprehensible without an awareness of the beliefs that lie behind them” or that “the values and beliefs that are dominant within a society provide the foundations for a rational strategy.” The line between rationalist liberalism and constructivism becomes quite muddied here, and Keohane (2002b) strives to maintain the separation by defining rationality as maximization/optimization amid stable preferences.

It is no surprise that some liberals more closely associated with Open Economy Politics have resisted arguments strongly invoking ideas. For example, a study of neoliberal tax policy diffusion by Swank (2006) finds no support for an argument based on social learning and instead emphasizes the importance of strategic competition to explain the spread of neoliberalism. On the whole, however, the literature on ideas from a rationalist perspective maintains a strong research agenda within liberal approaches to the global political economy.

Normative Liberalism

When liberals launched the marginalist revolution in economics in the late nineteenth century, they expressly sought to establish their field as an exact science, wholly distinct from moral philosophy and history, through ever-increasing reliance on advanced mathematics and a theoretical foundation of self-interest and marginal utility (Alvey 1999). Within international relations, liberals have long been sensitive to the charge of utopianism (e.g., Carr 2001[1939]) and thus especially keen to cast off any association with ideology, all toward establishing a positive version of liberal theory. Thus neoliberal institutionalists, eager to avoid being “tainted by the idealist brush” (Keohane 2000:7), pioneered a form of liberal IPE dominated by interest, power and strategic interaction. More fully-fledged liberals likewise advanced a form of analysis which they claim is a “nonideological and nonutopian form appropriate to empirical social science” (Moravcsik 1997:513).

This “nonideological” scientific liberalism has always been motivated by fundamentally normative concerns, however. Open Economy Politics research on the domestic political foundations of state trade policy is rooted in a desire to preserve an open liberal economic order. Positive work demonstrating the political origins of protectionism aids the normative project of combating it. The larger “problem of cooperation” in IPE and IR more generally has always been driven by a normative commitment to a liberal internationalist vision of cooperative global integration. The growth of international institutions and international law, lauded by liberals at least as far back as Immanuel Kant, has more recently pricked an equally long-standing liberal value of popular sovereignty and fear of concentrated power at the global scale, and thus stimulated a normative engagement with the most desirable political foundations for global governance.

Liberal normative literature on the global political economy has no doubt also been spurred on both by newfound opportunities to participate in the making of a post-Cold War world order along liberal lines as well as anti-liberal challenges to it from both the nationalist Right and the socialist Left. It is perhaps easiest to begin with the governance literature reviewed above, which has most clearly moved into an expressly normative concern over the legitimacy of the liberal global order. In a presidential address to the American Political Science Association, Keohane (2001) boldly combined positive and normative analysis in what he identified as a distinctly liberal “governance dilemma” which sees powerful institutions as both necessary for peaceful human cooperation and flourishing and as potentially dangerous suppressors of liberty. In light of this dilemma, the task of political science for Keohane (2001:1) becomes “help[ing] actors in global society design and maintain institutions that would make possible the good life for our descendants.” This is not a thin conception of the “good life” either, simply establishing fair procedures but remaining agnostic on their outcomes. Keohane in particular has gone on to work which wades deep into normative political theory, advising policy makers on how to “limit and constrain the potential for abuse of power” (Grant and Keohane 2005), to “articulate a global public standard for the normative legitimacy of global governance institutions” (Buchanan and Keohane 2006), and even to “build, piece by piece, a pluralistic accountability system in world politics” constituted primarily by NGOs and NGO networks (Keohane 2006).

Many other liberals have embraced the normative vision of a legitimate and accountable networked global political-economic order. The most definitive statement comes from Slaughter (2004) who outlines a set of “foundational norms” for the future establishment of a “just world order” based upon the liberal normative principles of “global deliberative equality, legitimate difference, and positive comity…checks and balances and subsidiarity” (2004:29). The result would be a “networked world order…as inclusive, tolerant, respectful, and decentralized as possible” (2004:217). Even normally temperamentally conservative economists have jumped into the act. In one of his most explicitly normative arguments, Rodrik (2000) identifies a “political trilemma of the world economy” in which policy makers faced with trying to maintain globally integrated national economies, nation-states, and mass politics are allowed only two of these three. He is bold enough to not only predict a future of “global federalism” in which the nation-state is thrown onto the ash heap of history, but admit to possible bias since it is the “option that I personally like best” (2000:184).

Other liberals, particularly economists, have tackled normative questions over material welfare and matters of global distributive justice. Rodrik (esp. 1997, 2007) has pursued a long-standing critical engagement with both mainstream empirical work on economic development as well as a normative project of bolstering economic growth and political autonomy in the developing world and preserving an open liberal economic order. Stiglitz and Charlton (2005) have written prescriptions for making a global liberal trading order compatible with economic development in the global South, a regime “based on principles of economic analysis and social justice – not on economic power and special interests” (2005:5). Stiglitz (2006) has expanded this work to incorporate normative prescriptions for the entire global economy including trade, intellectual property rights, natural resources, the environment, governing multinational corporations, debt relief, finance, and accountability, ever keen to demonstrate that “the problem is not with globalization itself but in the way globalization has been managed” (2005:4). Sachs (2005, 2008) has been the most prominent among recent liberal economists writing in a normative vein, offering elaborate economic and political plans for the “end of poverty” and the establishment of an “enlightened globalization” in order to realize the Enlightenment commitment to “the idea that social progress should be universal” (2005:350). Echoing the most lofty discourse of any liberal cosmopolitan, Sachs (2008) emphasizes the need for a “new ethic of global cooperation” (2008:339) which will see his project through, institutionalized through the United Nations, networked NGOs and a global e-Parliament debating global legislation. The primary obstacle to this new world order is a “collapse of faith,” “cynical disbelief” (2008:295) and “a global chorus of pessimists” motivated by “a state of mind, not a view based on facts” (2008:313). One can perhaps be excused when expressing doubts that liberal perspectives on the global political economy have truly dispatched with utopianism.

Keohane, Macedo, and Moravcsik (2009) provide a useful summary and defense of the normative liberal impulses behind positive liberal political economy. The most obvious is the differentiation between “special interests” and the “public good” (or more concretely, “public goods”) so essential to liberal economic theory. Others include individual rights defended through nonmajoritarian political institutions, “sound collective deliberation” defined as high levels of information and rational discourse, and “inclusive” government (largely justified by its contribution to individual rights and public goods). The authors’ steadfast commitment to liberal principles and attenuated commitment to democratic ones is especially interesting and strongly recalls the fears of Zakaria (2003) on the growth of “illiberal democracy” around the world.

This normative political economy literature points up a broader point of unity among all liberals, those pursuing what they perceive to be strictly positive work and those pursuing both positive and normative work simultaneously. Both positive and normative liberal thought rests upon what Slaughter, Tulumello, and Wood (1998) call the “law/power dichotomy,” a sharp distinction between a world of anarchy and unchecked force on the one hand and an alternative social order organized through cooperative rule-based institutions on the other. One can of course go all the way back to Kant and find this liberal distinction between “mad freedom” and “rational freedom” and trace it up to the present day in Robert Keohane’s (2001:1) juxtaposition of “cooperation” with “unregulated conflict” or Lisa Martin’s (2007:114) contradistinction between “consistently enforced rules” and “power politics.” International, or perhaps now transnational, cooperation becomes both the empirical point of reference as well as the cardinal normative good to be fostered.

Directions for Future Research

Open Economy Politics has established a strong research program and its adherents have blazed a number of trails for future research. Lake (2006) suggests three issue areas for integration into the OEP literature: endogenous state formation, global governance, and the political economy of conflict. Elsewhere Lake (2008) suggests OEP turn its attentions to marked power differences between states in the global political economy. Being rooted in liberal economic theory, OEP presumes the existence of small open economies and thus a global competitive market, with actors unable to affect prices. Lake suggests turning analytic attention to the rise of China and treating both international prices and factor endowments as endogenous rather than exogenous variables as excellent frontiers for research.

Compared to the study of trade policy, finance has long taken a back seat among liberal scholars of IPE. Thus the study of domestic-international linkages relating to financial policy and international financial institutions is a fertile field for research. Broz and Frieden (2006) suggest more scholarship on the politics of exchange rates, while Lohmann (2006) urges the resurrection of research on all monetary aspects of “macro political economy,” particularly central banking and financial volatility.

The global economic crisis which first emerged at the end of 2007 offers particularly rich soil for research into the world order which liberals (for the most part) have constructed since the end of the Cold War. While the 1990s were the heyday of liberal globalization and the 2000s saw a significant flowering of the networked global political economy, the early 2010s promise to put the cosmopolitan liberal political project to its most serious test since the 1930s.

Finally, calls for “bridge building” between liberalism and rival theoretical perspectives offer interesting and challenging avenues for future research. Rationality is a mental process, yet as Mercer (2005) demonstrates, rationalist scholarship carries on as if “rationality is free of psychology” and thus comfortably ignores processes of cognition which are central to its methodology and epistemology. Elms (2006) suggests introducing methods from behavioral economics and shows how one might adjust already extant IPE research to more seriously incorporate cognition. Keohane (1984) even made a theoretical gesture toward integrating emotion into IPE which could generate interesting new insights on the sources of international and transnational cooperation.

Something similar might be done regarding the relationship between liberalism and more social and social constructivist approaches to the global political economy. With “modernist” constructivism already blurring the lines between rationalism and constructivism writ large, particularly interesting work is increasingly being done on the borders of the two approaches. Cohen (2008:171) in particular suggests much could be gained by contemporary liberal IPE scholars breaking free from “the reductionist methodology of neoclassical economics.” One should not expect, nor even hope for, a merger, but a more fruitful dialog across theoretical gaps in the field can open new and interesting windows on a once again rapidly changing world.


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Links to Digital Materials

Centre for International Governance Innovation. At, accessed August 27, 2009. CIGI is an international think tank located in Canada whose mission is “to address international governance challenges through world-class research”. It supports such research through conferences, workshops, publications, public events and technology. Its website contains a wealth of information on policy communities involved in global governance issues.

The Economist. At, accessed August 27, 2009. This weekly news magazine from London is the gold standard of global economic reporting and opinion. It is also the signature public voice of classical liberalism after the manner of John Stuart Mill. The magazine’s editorial board is a staunch defender of globalization in all its forms – trade, finance, migration, and culture.

The Free Rider Problem. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. At accessed August 27, 2009. Collective action is the signature concern of liberal IPE, and the free rider problem is among its most significant impediments. This site offers a long discussion of the issue from a liberal perspective, giving a history of both positive and normative thinking on the matter as well as explanations of the prisoner’s dilemma, public goods, and Anthony Downs’s classic paradox of voting.

Neoclassical schools, 1871–today. History of Economic Thought Website. At, accessed August 27, 2009. This site includes detailed descriptions of the work of the most prominent economists of the neoclassical school of economics, including bibliographies and links to many writings. The list of economists includes the founders of the marginalist revolution, the Chicago School, the New Classicals, the Austrian School, and the authors of the neoclassical synthesis among others. Liberal IPE takes most of its theoretical guidance from such economists.

Dani Rodrik’s weblog. At, accessed August 27, 2009. Dani Rodrik is among the most prominent liberal economists writing in IPE today, and is especially known for his accessible work directed toward the broader public. This is Rodrik’s weblog which is subtitled “unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization”. He has been blogging since April 2007 and posts around 8–10 times a month.

Anne-Marie Slaughter. Big Think. At, accessed August 27, 2009. Before she became Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department in 2009, Anne-Marie Slaughter was one of the leading contemporary liberal theorists of international law. This site is billed as Slaughter’s blog and contains over a dozen video postings of her speaking on contemporary global political issues, from international networks to “America’s enemies.” It continues to receive new additions since her appointment to the State Department.

Theory Talk #9: Robert Keohane. Theory Talks. At, accessed August 27, 2009. Theory Talks describes itself as “an interactive forum for discussion of debates in International Relations with an emphasis on the underlying theoretical issues.” This is a printed version of a 2008 Theory Talks interview with Robert Keohane, the most influential liberal scholar in the field of IPE, with additional links to Keohane’s faculty profile, a 2004 video interview, and several of his recent articles. The larger site has as of this writing 33 such interviews with leading international relations scholars from both North America and Europe.