Man, this post of Stephen Walt’s really makes me nostalgic for my days of serious IR theory nerdery, when I’d read the articles he lists for fun. Finnemore & Sikkink are favorites, as is Wendt’s “Anarchy is What States Make of It”, which is one of the few articles that I find consistently valuable in thinking about real-world international relations.
That said, I’m kind of surprised that Walt didn’t even give an honorary mention to what’s still my favorite theory article, Andrew Moravcsik’s “Taking Preferences Seriously”. The basic premise seems merely intuitive on first glance (international relations is the aggregation of foreign policies, and foreign policies are determined primarily by the nature of domestic politics and institutions) but it quickly becomes clear that Moravcsik is proposing a type of IR research that departs pretty radically from most of what’s been done before and since. I still don’t think the liberal research program he calls for has been explored sufficiently, and if it were would be a lot more policy-applicable than much of the field (which ought to make Joe Nye happy).