Realism, Institutions, and Neutrality

Constraining Conflict Through the Force of Norms


  • Daniel A. Austin



Realism posits power as the key component of international relations. In contrast, Institutionalism looks to norms and customs as the primary buses of world politics. Yet both theories frequently fall short in explaining major international events. This article considers the institution of neutrality as an example of how norms exert a stabilizing influence in international relations. On the other hand, the failure to observe norms often results in instability, and in extreme cases, can lead to war. When this point is reached, the use of force may be the only means to restore a stable balance of power. By drawing on both Realist and Institutionalist theories, a richer explanation of international life can be found.