System or Unit: Why do Dyadic Relations Differ?

Kadri Kaan Renda


Most of the students of international relations are steeped in the debates on the concept of anarchy. Not only neorealist school builds its arguments on the assumption that the international system is anarchic and consequently states are compelled to conduct their foreign policies with respect to the anarchic nature of international system, but also neoliberalism  and social constructivism acknowledge that presumption even though they draw different conclusions. However, those systemic approaches are challenged by individualist approaches. Therefore, the research question of this paper is how and why within different dyads we observe different relationships. One can explain the variation of actions of units by applying different levels of analysis. In this paper, I will argue that international system even if it is anarchic and self-help does not necessarily compel states to act as if they are living in a state of nature. Starting with these assumptions, I will argue that the dyadic relations can vary, if there is a hierarchic relationship between two states, if states calculate their relative gains differently, and if there are economical, institutional and normative links and similarities between them. The former two arguments are critiques of neorealism from a realist perspective and the latter argument has its roots in liberal thought. In this endeavor, after a brief review of the premises of neorealism, the paper will proceed with the question of how dyadic relations can differ with references to some specific examples.



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