I began this project in the late 1970s seeking to explain the contradictory mixture of cooperation and conflict then present in the international economy. All of the advanced industrialized states were caught in the web of stagflation, oil prices were skyrocketing for the second time in less than a decade, and nontariff barriers to trade were rising. Yet the Tokyo Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had just reduced tariff levels once again, and the leaders of the Western world were undertaking a unique and historic attempt to coordinate their macroeconomic policies. I was attracted by, but ultimately dissatisfied with, the “theory of hegemonic stability,” which in many ways adequately captured the problems of the late 1970s but not the successes. What was needed was a theory that could account for both conflict and cooperation in nonhegemonic international economic systems. This book is the distant descendant of that original quest.
After developing an early version of what is now Chapter 1, I began to search for “least likely” cases that would allow for a rigorous elucidation of the theory. The problems associated with the decline of the Pax Americana no longer seemed to me appropriate to that end; examining an era of structural change in which the future is not yet known renders theory testing difficult, if not wholly meaningless. Although it possessed little intrinsic interest at first, American trade strategy in the prehege-monic era appeared to be a good “hard” case for the theory. I chose it for that reason. The deeper I delved into the case, the more fascinating it became.
In this book, I develop and test a systemic-level theory of national trade strategy, a theory that abstracts from domestic-level characteristics and focuses exclusively on how nation-states stand in relation one to another. In doing so, I deviate from classical theories of international trade, draw upon several less widely accepted literatures in international economics, and make strong generalizations. The theory is also intentionally parsimonious. As a consequence, I slight systemic variables not directly related to international trade and alternative explanations at the national and individual levels of analysis. Throughout, I seek to probe the limits of the systemic approach. This probing is not only analytically important, it is empirically fruitful as well. Applying the theory to the case of American trade strategy between 1887 and 1939 leads to an interpretation that differs from and challenges the current historiogra-phy.
I have benefited from the criticisms and support of numerous advisers, colleagues, and friends. Richard Rosecrance encouraged my interest in systemic theories of international politics and taught me the value of history for such an approach. Peter Katzenstein, first as adviser and later as editor, was an indefatigable critic whose suggestions are reflected throughout the book. Walter LaFeber, an exemplar for any young scholar, questioned my interpretations of American trade strategy and in the process led me through a voluminous history. I am grateful to all.
I had the good fortune to spend 1981–82 as a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution with G. John Ikenberry and Michael Mastanduno. Their friendship and support made a difficult writing job easier. Much of what is now Chapter 2 was stimulated by our loud discussions in the library corridors and our subsequent collaborations. Jeffry Frieden, a good friend and colleague, has read and commented on virtually every word I have written over the last four years. In return for his efforts, I always let him win at tennis.
Robert Keohane, John Odell, and several anonymous reviewers read and commented on the complete manuscript. In addition, many colleagues have provided useful comments on various portions of the book: John Conybeare, David Dollar, Glenn Fong, Robert Gilpin, Judith Goldstein, Joanne Gowa, Lori Gronich, Stephan Haggard, Thomas Il-gen, Bruce Jentleson, Stephen Krasner, Fred Lawson, Charles Lipson, Timothy McKeown, Kenneth Oye, Ronald Rogowski, Arthur Stein, Kenneth Waltz, Beth Yarbrough, and Robert Yarbrough. Selected portions of the manuscript have been presented at annual meetings of the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association; at the University of California, Davis; Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the Program on Interdependent Political Economy at the University of Chicago. I thank the participants in these meetings for their often enlightening comments.
I am grateful to the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University, the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the Brookings Institution, the UCLA Office of International Studies and Overseas Programs, and the UCLA Academic Senate for financial assistance. Deborah Shapiro, Joel Rothblatt, and Scott James all served as outstanding research assistants. Bess Karadenes assisted with the final proofreading. Roger Haydon guided the manuscript through the publication process with remarkable ease. Trudy Calvert greatly improved the prose. None of the individuals or institutions noted above, however, is responsible for any remaining errors.
Earlier versions of portions of this book were published as “International Economic Structures and American Foreign Economic Policy, 1887–1934,” World Politics, vol. 35, no. 4 (July 1983), copyright © 1983 by Princeton University Press, adapted with permission of Princeton University Press; “Beneath the Commerce of Nations: A Theory of International Economic Structures,” adapted from the International Studies Quarterly, vol. 28 (1984) with permission of the International Studies Association, Byrnes International Center, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA; and “American Trade Strategy in the Pre-Hegemonic Era,” International Organization, vol. 42 (Winter 1988), adapted with permission of the MIT Press and the World Peace Foundation.
I also thank my parents, Edward and Gloria Lake and Samuel and Sylvia Krieger, for their confidence and encouragement over the years. Although Brenden Manker Lake, whose birth coincided with the final revision of the manuscript, was too late to offer much support, his pending arrival helped bring this project to a timely conclusion. Finally, my greatest debt of gratitude is to my wife, Wendy Krieger Lake, to whom this volume is dedicated. The book is as much hers as mine, for I would never have contemplated—far less completed—this endeavor were it not for her love, support, and encouragement. This is a debt I look forward to repaying for many years to come.
David A. Lake