No scholar better exemplifies the intellectual challenges foisted on the Neorealist school of international relations than prominent scholar Stephen Krasner (Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Studies, the Senior Associate Dean for the Social Sciences, School of Humanities & Sciences, and Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department 2005-2007). Throughout his career he has wrestled with realism's promises and limitations. Krasner has always been a prominent defender of realism and the importance of power understood in material terms, whether military or economic. Yet realist frameworks rarely provided a complete explanation for outcomes, in Krasner's analyses, and much of his work involved understanding power's role in situations not well explained by realism. If states seek power, why do we see cooperation? If hegemony promotes cooperation why does cooperation continue in the face of America's decline? Do states actually pursue their national interests or do domestic structures and values derail the rational pursuit of material objectives? Krasner's explanations were as diverse as were the problems. They pushed, to use his phrase, "the limits of realism."
Edited by Martha Finnemore and Judith Goldstein, Back to Basics asks scholars to reflect on the role power plays in contemporary politics and how a power politics approach is influential today. The arguments made by the authors in this volume speak to one of three themes that run through Krasner's work: state power and hegemony; the relationship between states and markets; conceptions of the nation state in international politics. These themes appeared regularly in Krasner's scholarship as he wrestled, over his career, with fundamental questions of inter-state politics. Contributors largely agree on the centrality of power but diverge substantially on the ways power is manifest and should be measured and understood. Many of the contributors confronted the same intellectual dilemmas as Krasner in struggling to define power and its relationship to interests, yet their responses are different. Together, these essays explore new ways of thinking about power's role in contemporary politics and demonstrate the concepts continued relevance for both policy and theory.