Modern theory and empiricism have both consistently analyzed growth and conflict along the traditional paths of political and economic thought--realism, liberalism, idealism, materialism--and focused their analyses on one or the other, but rarely, or only incidentally, on both or on any connection between them. Gradual divergence of realism and liberalism in the Renaissance crystallized two orthodox approaches to understanding any growth-conflict relationship: realist irrelevance and liberal trade-related independence. Orthodoxy designated any other sort of relationship, or theories suggesting a different approach, as radical.
Classical realists averred that growth was fundamentally irrelevant to conflict: international relations revolved around politics and war, conflict was endemic in international anarchy, and economic pressures could be released in acquisition of empty territories and subjugation of backward peoples. The realist approach does not easily accommodate nonpolitical or nonmilitary factors in international relations, and is uncomfortable with the purely internal processes and motivations that condition, but do not cause, foreign policies.
More flexible neorealist, or structural, theories expanded and enriched the concept of nationalism, and later recognized some weakly positive relationship that could allow growth to generate conflict. Some approaches relied on political structures, operating as intervening variables between growth and conflict, as the primary explanation of international behaviors. Other explanations included a weak growth-conflict relationship as one of several dynamics, each contributing the influence of a separate structure or process.
Accepting that international economic behaviors and political conduct could affect each other, trade-related classical mercantilist analyses had reflected powerful positive relationships between growth and conflict, reminiscent of "armed trading," "privateers," and "merchant adventurers." Commercial