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Which synthesis? Strategies of theoretical integration and the neorealist-neoliberal debate

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Despite growing interest in the promises and problems of theoretical synthesis among political scientists, frameworks for assessing the potential advantages of different pathways to theoretical integration are scarce. We build on the conceptualization of alternative strategies for synthesis proposed by Jupille, Caporaso, and Checkel and assess the implications of two criteria — parsimony and empirical fit — for understanding the relationship between two influential strands of international relations theory, neorealism and neoliberalism. Neorealists present concerns about relative gains as evidence of the limited scope of the neoliberal theory of international cooperation. We argue that, on the contrary, neoliberalism provides theoretical tools that are indispensable to determine when and why relative-gains concerns thwart international cooperation, and that this provides a strong case for subsuming neorealism under neoliberalism in a parsimonious synthesis. We apply this framework to explain an empirical puzzle: why two arch-rival states — Austria and Prussia in the second half of the 18th century — succeeded in cooperating in some cases but failed in others.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28582/1/Which%20synthesis%20%28LSERO%29.pdf

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