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International Relations’ Theories Realism vs. Liberalism

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Social humanitarian sciences focus on studying global political processes and the object of its research are social phenomena, which are defined as “international relations” in the world we know. International relations are comprised of many different categories, such as foreign policy, international politics or world politics. However, the central issue of international politics is the international relations. The term “international relations” has been first used by English philosopher J.

Bentham at the end of 18th century. It is important to note that it is not accidentally that the term appeared at that particular time, as the border line of 18-19th centuries is marked by evolution of the international relations’ phenomenon.

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By the time the term emerged, most of the Europe has been divided into sovereign states, refusing monarchy, and thus, changing inter-monarchial relations to that of independent sovereign state to state interactions.

World politics is the leading self-developing element of the international relations, though it does not cover the whole international relations structure; international economic relations are also part of the structure, based on the world economic relations and are an outside part of the structure.

It is clear that interconnection between world politics and international relations is complicated and dynamic, though it is considered to be a young discipline, despite of the fact that it can be dated back a thousand years, as international relations are politics in its core nature. 1~ The needs for study international relations as a science came with the start of the World War I, as this war has taken such a scale, encompassing most of the world, and lead to unthinkable amount of deaths and destruction, that international community realized that there is more to the politics of 19th or earlier centuries, than already known. The World War I gave start to many scholars and political actors to start questioning and analyzing in detail the system of world politics, with emphasis on international relations.

There is a variety of theories present in the world politics science today; however the leading theories remain as follows: realism (including classical realism and neo-realism), liberalism (traditional idealism and neo-liberalism) and neoMarxism, each of those is based on its own understanding and view of the nature and character of international relations.

Though, the last 30 years have been marked by the development of “sub-theories” under the main three mentioned: trans-nationalism, institutionalism, constructivism and postmodernism, the world political economy is becoming more independent alongside the sociology of the international relations. Nevertheless, the most popular theories of neo-realism and neo-liberalism, with their paradigms, remain prevailing in the global theory of world relations.

Thus, this paper will focus on the two predominant in times world theories of realism and liberalism. Political Realism Illusion that World War I was the “last war” in human history was disappearing fast while approaching 1930’s, giving a feeling of a new global armed conflict to break out. The start of the World War II has sharply increased the views of many to the resolution of conflicts by force, adapting the traditional or “realistic” view. Central issue of the realism theory, of which most authoritative representative is considered to be G. Morgenthau, is the meaning of interest, defined in terms of power and the connected to it meanings of balance of power and geopolitical strategy, and etc. Though, in the neo-realism theory, mainly formulated by K. Waltz in 1970’s, these accents are somewhat shifted. Upholding structural understanding of power, neo-realism does not accent on military force only, but includes economic, informational, financial, scientific and industrial components.

Neo-realism seeks new conditions for realism’s paradigm, including clauses of inter-dependent and non-territorial nature of new, more effective, type of power – the power over ideas, credits, technologies, markets, etc. However, the core of realism theory, with its understanding of world politics remains the same – uncompromising struggle between states for power and influence, and not moral and legal principles that define the foreign policy of a state. One of the baselines for political realism is the clause of the anarchic nature of international relations.

From this point of view, the anarchic nature of relations ~3~ differentiates between international and intrastate relations, which are built on principle of hierarchy, subordination, supremacy and obedience, formalized legal norms, out of which the monopoly of government on the abuse of power within its sovereign territory state prevails all other. Anarchic nature of world relations, from the viewpoint of realism, is defined by two aspects: firstly, lack of unitary ruling party in the world structure, where orders by such party are to be carried out by governments of all the states implicitly.

Secondly, the imminence of each state to rely on itself only, when standing up for its interests creates the anarchy. The followers of the political realism theory base its belief on the absence of the supreme power, legal and moral norms, capable on the basis of mutual agreement effectively regulate interrelations of main actors, and thus, avert so destructible for them and the world wars and conflicts. Moreover, realism is based on a very negative and unchanging conception of human nature – bad or evil human nature. Humans want to survive, will seek to accumulate wealth and force to enable them to survive.

It is believed by realism followers that there is not a trace of good or altruism in people or states and thus they act only in their own selfinterest. Furthermore, realists believe that since the times of Thucydides, N. Machiavelli or T. Hobbs the nature of international relations did not face any really dramatic changes, thus all the hopes on reforming of the given sphere, building world order, based on legal norms and collective security can be abandoned. The state alone is interested in its security, strengthening of which means ~4~ trengthening the government and its ability to influence other states, leading to state security remaining the core element of the national interests. In the framework of the given paradigm, the main issue for the realism theory is the study of wars and conflicts, while the central problem is the state security. Important to note, that security is seen in terms of the military power and centralgovernance viewpoint, where attention is concentrated on “security dilemma”, in accordance to which the higher security of one state leads to lower security of another.

However, it would be wrong to see political realism as a pure return to the traditional views on world politics and international relations; the Second World War has shaped a new reality for many. One of the most important factors of new reality was the birth of a nuclear weapon; the existence of such would inevitably lead to the re-shaping previous views of the international politics and world order. Such reconsideration has been done by H. Morgenthau, where he presented four paradoxes of the nuclear states’ strategies.

The essence of first paradox lies in understanding that alongside with aspiration to use nuclear or other power in international relations, there is a clear threat of universal nuclear catastrophe. Second paradox is connected with urge to develop a nuclear policy with the help of which, one can avoid possible consequences of the nuclear catastrophe. The third paradox was seen by Morgenthau in the continuous nuclear arms race and attempts to end such. Lastly, the fourth paradox consists that with existence of nuclear power the relations between allies are changed in core.

Thus, in conclusion ~5~ Morgenthau stated that: “any attempt, despite of its ingenuity and foresight, aimed at tying up nuclear power with targets and methods of state policies, gets negated by the unusual destructive force of nuclear power”. Being a popular school of thought in United States, realism found its followers in Europe as well; though, at large European scientists employed Morgenthau’s views and concepts only to explain various global phenomena. The French school of thought has been a leader on European continent, with its leading representative, R. Aron.

Aron, was not an orthodox follower of the realism theory, rather he critiqued and opposed the realism postulates, though ironically coming at the end to the same conclusions. However, the main differences proposed by Aron, was the availability of the industrial power as means of war, providing justification for a maximal gain of prospering economically state against a war torn country, not matter the outcome,. According to Aron, the value of military force is diminished, while economic, ideological and other non-violent forces in international relations have grown considerably, but the threat of military conflicts remains.

Aron states, that the reason for such, is the preservation of natural order in international relations, and an effect of such is the possibility of incompatibility, conflict of national interests, mutual mistrust and fatal mistakes in foreign policy decision making. Nevertheless, by the belief of realists, despite of cardinal changes in the world system and international relations, the stereotypes in the minds of political and military leaders of the times when military force was the only way to resolve the conflict or ensure state’s security, remain intact. Liberalism

Phenomenon of liberalism has its special place in spiritual and political lives of many societies in modern times. Liberalism has quite a long history of existence, existence not passive, but an active one, in the form of active public movements, functioning of numerous parties, etc. Liberalism has no equal in terms of its spreading in the modern world: it is hard to find a state where liberalism would not be present in one form or another. The essence of liberalism is freedom, which can achieved only through prioritizing the man, thus the main issue for a liberal is not society or any its part, but an individual himself and his will.

However, the term “freedom” is vague in its nature; at different times in history, representatives of various ideologies and social movements have used this term in different, sometimes opposing definitions. Thus, it can be said that liberalism as term is quite substantive and meaningful in it nature. The modern world sees liberalism as historical philosophical movement, as an ideology, basing programming guidelines for defined social layers as well as, organized social political movement.

The bottom line of liberalism is recognition of natural legal rights of a human being for life, freedom and ownership, interpretation of human rights and understanding the principle of equality. Liberal international relations theories are based on the idea that humans are ~7~ perfectible, in contrast to the greedy man of realism or even the survival man of realism, liberal theories believe in progress and tend to see man as rational as well as learning, striving, and improving over time. Moreover, liberal approaches often also see man as tied to fellow man by a common humanity.

Therefore, the limits imposed by state boundaries are artificial, leading to ideas such as the pursuit of human rights violators across state boundaries, seeking to engage in development assistance. As opposed to political realism theory, liberalism sees state of nature more benign, where humans can learn to cooperate in order to improve their lives. While world may be anarchical, there are contacts across borders, something like the germ of an international society. For liberals, peace is seen as a preferred condition and therefore ways should be found to foster peace among states.

This allows man to focus on the substantive things that make up the good life: food, art, culture, literature, farming, families. Everything but weapons and the fighting of war, as war stems from misery, poverty and inequality. Also, it is believed in liberal doctrine that war stems from inadequate institutions or misunderstandings, so liberal approach prevents war by crafting better institutions and eliminating the possibility of misunderstanding through education and discussion. There are two types of liberalism: classical liberalism and neo-liberalism.

Classical liberalism is usually connected to the “negative” understanding of freedom, meaning the “freedom from” – freedom of individual from any limitations from the government. Basic value for liberalism is the freedom of individual; ~8~ spiritual freedom, right to choose any favorable religion; material freedom, right of ownership, right to buy and sell with private interest; political freedom, obedience of law and right to express itself. It is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of an individual, including freedom of eligion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets. The backside of this view is the economic concept of laissez-faire, the principle of free market without intervention of government forces. Another main principle of liberalism is limited supreme power. Hobbs was arguing that supreme power cannot be absolute, while Locke opposed this idea by stating that supreme power cannot be limited. One of the problems liberalism is faced with is the definition of what is allowed for the supreme power.

The principle of freedom is an absolutely necessary addition to the liberal demand of limitation, as without one the demand is not feasible; in other words, the principle of freedom demands from law not only universality and quality, but protection from compulsion, i. e. the protection of freedom itself, as freedom is the absence of compulsion. Moreover, from a liberal view, the government has only one role to carry out – protection of its citizen from violence of other citizens or groups of citizens and expansion the frame of individual freedom.

Over time, a new branch of liberalism evolved, called neo-liberalism. Neoliberalism is a form of liberalism and one of the most powerful ideologies of the 20 th century. Formation of neo-liberalism can be said to have been put by F. Roosevelt, where reconsideration of the economic and social role of the government has taken ~9~ place. The “negative” understanding of freedom was replaced by “positive”; freedom did not mean only “to do anything one wants”, but was connected with a rational limitation of individual activity for the benefit of the society.

Liberalism moved to concept of “social government”, the government as a helper in realization of individual rights and freedoms, to the government of “universal welfare”, it was as of that moment that the active social politics reformation started, and this is the core difference from the traditional liberalism views. Neo-liberalism has turned to the ideas of democracy and equality, developing idea of “equal opportunities”; new liberal favored ideas of limited national sovereignty in order to strengthen international political organizations, like United Nations, and to expand the sphere of its influence.

Furthermore, neo-liberalism emerges from the point of view that the mechanism of free market creates the most favorable preconditions for effective economic activity, regulation of social and economic processes, while on the other hand constant interference of government into the market is necessary in order to support normal conditions of market functioning.

Neo-liberals keep emphasis on institutions; liberal approaches have fostered much of the growth of international organizations, where international organizations are seen as ways of mediating conflict among states, establishing bases of cooperation, establishing rationallegalistic codes of conduct under which all will be better off. Some liberal internationalists see the evolution of international organizations, the development of international law, and the growth of cross-national civil society groups as ~ 10 ~ vidence that the state is being transgressed, or at least having its capacity for war-generating action reduced. Moreover, economic linkages and communication technologies in the eyes of neo-liberals finally make it possible to be one world with common humanity. All linked together, states cannot go to war without causing hardship to all.

This has been developed further in the 1990’s to a school of thought which sees globalization as rendering war among major powers as impossible, believing that if started, war would impoverish everyone, thus no one has an incentive to rock the globalization boat. Under liberal rule, there is also a significant rise of non-state actors: new non-state actors becoming more influential than the old states of realist international relations discourse. These corporations and organizations are breaking down the state, establishing common interests across borders and generally, foster peace.

International organizations are seen by liberals as sort of analogy to domestic state at the international level; as in the domestic state where the government provides some order to relations among citizens, so international organizations can provide some stability, security, and predictability to inter-state interactions. They can prevent states from being trapped in the security dilemma, can foster and build on areas where cooperation is helpful to solve mutual interests, can provide cooperation reinforcing. States can learn through international organizations’ cooperation and change their preferences and behaviors.

To conclude, political freedom is one of the key conditions for liberalism, as liberalism cannot exist in a state that totally controls economy not leaving a chance for an individual initiative. Ideal liberalism is the one where society is free for each human being, where the power of government and church is limited, where law is supreme, where private property and private enterprise is a norm. Modern liberalism is giving preference to an open society, based on plurality and democratic state rule, with ultimate condition of human rights’ protection. Conclusion

The world is changing; not only the technologies and innovations are available to the citizens of the globe, but the need for new ideology is present in the atmosphere. Though, realists may argue that the decorations have changed, but the idea remains, it clear to see that in the era of globalization things are really not the same and so are the rules of the game. The mentality of people worldwide has been changed, creating a need for something else, something that was not needed yesterday, and if state wants to survive it better provide for those needs.

It is not new to say, that personal factor is the one of the core factors in the world politics of the modern times, it is the main path in the study of international relations – the study of methods and means to the foreign policy decision making. Obviously, supported by most of the global community, the views of realism theory are dying and become more irrelevant to modern way of how things stand and work, while liberalism prevails on the world scale.

Ideologies change, tomorrow liberal ideas may become as outdated as realism; but before that in order to keep its integrity, the state has to provide its citizen with desired needs, which are shaped by the world political fashion, and so it happens the fashion that is most demanded and heavily promoted these days is the one that provides peace and security without employing force, stability and economic growth, human rights recognition and more importantly provides equal opportunities for each and every one citizen of our planet.

Cite this International Relations’ Theories Realism vs. Liberalism

International Relations’ Theories Realism vs. Liberalism. (2017, Mar 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/international-relations-theories-realism-vs-liberalism/

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