Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Robert A. Gorman

Committee Members

Patricia Freeland, Anthony Nownes, Asafa Jalata


The purpose of my dissertation is to challenge the mainstream tradition of discourse in the field of international relations with regard to the world system and gains pursuit which has been framed by two significant theoretical perspectives: realism and neoliberalism.

In my dissertation, I established a theoretical linkage between the gains pursuit debate and the dynamics of the world system. The problem of absolute and relative gains divides two of the most influential approaches to international relations theory: realism and neoliberalism. However, these dichotomized approaches to gains pursuit assume a fixed (or static) view of the world system based on anarchy, and do not allow an explanation of the dynamics in the world system such as polarity change (as a form of system) or tension-détente movement. (as an environment of system)

To explain the complexity, dynamics of system and the decision-maker’s choice, this research suggests a synthetic approach to the issues around gains pursuit and the change of the world system from both major perspectives (realism and neoliberalism) of international relations.

From this point of view, this research will present a critique of past dichotomized perspectives on gain pursuit and suggest a possibility of reconciliation between two conflicting views in terms of the decision-makers’ sense of threat and assessment of the world system.

The second purpose of my dissertation is to challenge the literature of decision-making process on the subsystem levels (states’ and decision-makers’ levels) which are based on decision-makers value systems, personalities, and ideologies only. The decision-maker’s mind-set is crucial to understand his/her gains pursuits. However, the mind-set must not be understood as the result of individual personalities but as the result of the interaction between the world system environment and the decision-maker’s assessment of the environment.

Three main questions of this research are as follows: 1) Can two dichotomized major theoretical approaches (realism/neoliberalism) of gains pursuit explain the whole dynamics of the world system? 2) Can the analysis based on a typology of personality and value system provide a much richer explanation of the decision-maker’s choice and gains pursuit? Can this approach provide a valid explanation of the same decision-maker’s policy change? 3) Does change of the world system influence the decision-maker’s gains pursuit? If so, what are the major factors in the world environment which have influence on actions around gains pursuit? What is the basic mechanism of this relationship? Three case studies in my dissertation (Human Rights policy of the Carter Administration, Mao and Deng’s foreign policies, decision-making of the Clinton Administration) provide explanations for the above questions.

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