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SERAPIO, Stephanie A.

June 1, 2016
11318988 Weekly Review Essay # 1

POWER or COOPERATION: The fickleness in international relations

International politics is often associated with the term anarchy. Anarchy at its core means that
‘’there is no superior power within a system that would be able to enforce rules.’’ (Bode et.al, 2011). In
his book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes argued that this state of anarchy often result into the ‘’survival of the
fittest’’, wherein only the strong and the powerful can survive. Given this, some concerns that ought to be
addressed are the following: What is power? How should we perceive the relationship between
contrasting forms of power and with this anarchic situation, how can we ensure order and foster
cooperation?

Power, according to Barnett & Duvall (2005), is ‘’the production, in and through social relations,
of effects that shape the capacities of actors to determine their circumstances and fate.’’ Simply put, it is
the ability of states to use resources to elicit forced cooperation from other states. It has two analytical
dimensions concerning how power is expressed and specificity of relations through which power works.
Aside from this, there are four concepts of power namely, compulsory, institutional, structural and
productive In relation to power and cooperation, we have Kratochowil and Ruggie (1986) discussing the
shift in the focus of the study from formal institution toward international regimes. One of the many
functions of regimes is to serve as the converging point wherein states will exchange ideas and manage
their expectation towards one another. However, one main problem with regime analysis is the
ontological-epistemological debate that often leads to exclusion, inequality and hierarchy. In her article,
Viola (2013) argues that despite the assertion that most states believe in sovereign equality, stratification
and hierarchy are still prevalent in the international system. It is because the decision of exclusion and
inclusion often lies on the hands of the system insiders, who demands conformity to serve their own
interests. In order to make sense of all these readings and arguments, let us take into consideration the
case of Taiwan.

Despite being known as one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia, Taiwan (Republic of China)
is still having problems concerning their political status in the international arena. Most countries do not
recognize them as an independent country yet maintain economic ties with them. The People’s Republic
of China maintains that they are the sole representative of China and claims that Taiwan is still a part of
their territory. This leads us to the next issue at hand: with the denial of sovereignty from the PRC,
together with its power to veto, Taiwan was deemed ineligible to join the United Nations. The unresolved
international status of Taiwan supports Viola’s argument that stratification and hierarchy is still present
because the decision lies on the hands of the system insiders, which in this case, is the PRC. With PRC
being one of the most powerful countries in terms of economic and military capabilities, states are
adamant to go against the PRC and support ROC.

To sum it up, with rational and unitary states that have conflicting interests in a world of anarchy,
it is easy for states to exploit power in order to serve their own interest. The creation of institutions and
regimes can help facilitate communication and manage expectations but may also lead to problems like
exclusion and hierarchy. And the ones who often enjoy the benefit of the current system are those who are
already powerful especially in terms of military and economic prowess.

References:
Barnett, Michael, and Raymond Duvall. 2005. “Power in International Politics.” International Organization 59(01).
Kratochwil, Friedrich, and John Gerard Ruggie. 1986. “International Organization: a State of the Art on an Art of the State.”
International Organization 40(4): 753–75.
Viola, Lora Anne. 2013. “Stratificatory Differentiation as a Constitutive Principle of the International System.” In Bringing Sociology to
International Relations World Politics as Differentiation Theory, eds. Mathias Albert, BarryBuzan, and Michael Zürn. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 112–31.