The field of International Relation (IR) theory has been dominated by great discourse surrounding neoliberal institutionalism and neorealism. There has been great contention in the ‘neo-neo’ debate especially among most theorists dealing with International Relations. Although some differences have been noted between the two schools of thought, there are those who argue that they are typically the same.
One of the outstanding features of neoliberal institutionalism is that it went through theoretical minimalism for some considerable length of time. In other words, it was the subject of major research activity during the 1980s. Although neorealism was also debated and researched at length during the same period of time, the intensity and approach was completely different.
The state has been noted as the key player in both neoliberal and neorealist institutions. In addition, such states are shaped by various forms of disorders. One of the problems associated with both theories is that they only focus on unique perspectives and values which the scholars opted to discuss.
In addition, the myriads of social transformations and events that shaped the world politics are largely ignored when rationalism is brought on board. Hence, there is great assumption that preferences are fixed. This kind of approach has indeed hindered researchers from evaluating and comprehending how belief systems have evolved with the passage of time.
On the other hand, theorists who deal with reflections often seek to understand the changes that have taken place within the political arena. The latter changes are usually observed in terms of preset ideologies or post hoc observations. Such inherent differences between neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism have indeed brought a lot of controversy and debate among International Relations scholars.
There are also several assumptions that are usually associated with the two theories. For instance, the behavioral patterns of the state are well explained through the state centric approach. As a matter of fact, the latter is assumed to be a major advantage of these theories.
There is a well known rational choice model through which states act. In addition, international anarchy has been brought into common understanding and therefore, all the theories that have been put forward by the two models tend to offer much insight how international institutions are organized especially in regards to their strengths and weaknesses.
Lack of overarching power that rules a state in addition to the state of lawlessness is yet another defining feature of international relations as expounded by the two theories. Hence, the theories tend to create a sense of anarchy among states that have experienced lawlessness at one time or another.
It is also worth to mention that one of the distinct defining lines between neorealists and neoliberals was the key agenda which both pursued and relentlessly fought for. For instance, the neoliberals were mainly interested in building the economy while the neorealists had a lot of interest in building and enhancing security platform.
Although their aspirations seemed to be different at this point, it is definite that the end results were a common gain to various states that they were representing. In any case, both security and economy are dependent on each other if mutual gain is to be achieved.
In a nutshell, the two theoretical models of international relations have led to the emergence of other divergent approaches and theories that view world politics in a unique way. As a result, the ability to articulately define the state of world politics and international relations has been in a state of stagnation for some decades now.