While rationalism can explain the design and form of institutions, it fails to provide an adequate explanation of how these institutions are created. According to Keohane, institutions are created in two main ways. The first is the imposition of institutions by a powerful state and the second is the formation of institutions by voluntary decision-making amongst a group of states. (Keohane 1984, 71) Though the former is e...
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...when the conditions are right.
In conclusion, the rationalist account provides a partial but functional explanation of the design and form of institutions. Rationalism explains that the purpose of institutions is for states to further their own goals in an environment that fosters cooperation rather than discord. As such, institutions are designed according to the problems associated with the characteristics of their constituent actors and the issues the institutions were intended to address. However, rationalism fails to offer a holistic account of how institutions are created if not imposed by a powerful state. Moreover, the focus on materialism and the state limits the rationalist account’s explanatory power. Ultimately, rationalism only provides a partial explanation of international institutions but remains useful in situations that align with its assumptions.
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