Liberalism vs. Realism

Topics: International relations, United Nations, Liberalism Pages: 10 (1903 words) Published: October 19, 2014
Instr. Harding
IRLS210
Mar 31, 2013

Liberalism vs. Realism: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

One of the biggest questions posed in regards to world politics is why can world peace never be an attainable goal? Many theorists assume that the reason this goal cannot be reached is because of opposing views on how people see the world. There are many theories and political stances such as Constructivism and Marxism, but the two most influential political beliefs in the international system come from the philosophies of Liberalism and Realism. Liberalists see the world’s problems totally different than realists; liberalists tend to always look at the world with an optimistic approach, while realists’ views are ever the pessimists. The answer to world peace is through plurality, not solidarity, which is the reason why liberalism has become the most socially acceptable philosophies to date. Liberalism conveys the message that all men are created equal and that peace is indeed more powerful than war. Liberalism gives preference to an open society, based on plurality and democratic state rule, with ultimate condition of human rights protection. This research paper stands to prove that the world will better benefit from cooperation and peace, than from competition and war. International Relations is defined as the study of the relations of states with each other and with international organizations. IR is related to a number of academic disciplines other than political science such as geography, history, economics, law, sociology, psychology, and philosophy, but was ultimately created with the goals of reducing armed conflict and increasing international cooperation. These goals stand as the rift in between realists and liberalists on how IR should be should be governed. Realism is a philosophy that was brought about centuries ago in 404 B.C.E by the political theorist Thucydides, who witnessed and wrote about the events of Peloponnesian War. Thucydides’ account of the onsite of war by two opposing side from his realist perspective also influenced future political theorist such as Machiavelli to the notion that “power prevails over justice in international politics…in both cases, necessity is the agent that overcomes moral obligations, necessity found both in the structure of international politics and in human nature” (Forde, 1995, p.141). Realism is still very relevant to this day because of its stance on human nature, power, and security. Dealing with IR, most realists’ states adhere to “Power Politics” and security of individuals states. Liberalism on the other hand, is a philosophy that originated from the “Age of Enlightenment” in the 17th and 18th century in which western economists and philosophers helped to establish democracy in opposition to the unitary system of regimes that did not separate church and state. Liberalism was created, in essence, to “increase personal, civil, social, and economic liberty of the individual” (Martin, 1948 p.295). This philosophy can be argued by many to be the very reason for the American, French, and other revolutions against unitary powers. Powerful states in that era such as Great Britain were seen as tyrannical due to lack of equality and freedom of religion, which is why liberalists fought for the rights of individual human beings to be heard, thus creating the ideology of democracy. So In the case of IR, liberalists see the conflicts between states as opportunities to cooperate with one another to bring about social reform and peace. There are many reasons why these two totally opposite views of Realism and Liberalism conflict with one another, but the foundation for both arguments rest upon three key elements which are Anarchy, The Control of States(Actors vs. Non-State Actors), and Human Nature. Anarchy

One of the strongest arguments that liberalists and realist have concerning IR is the absence of government control in the International system....

References: Martin, A. Boyd. “Liberalism.” The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 Sep. 1948: Published by: University of Utah. p 295
Forde, Steven. “International Realism and the Science of Politics; Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Neorealism.” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2 Jun. 1995: Blackwell Publishing. p 141
Wikipedia contributors, "Liberalism," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Liberalism&oldid=547963025 (accessed March 27, 2013).
Jumarang, Bea Kylene. "Realism and Liberalism in International Relations." .e-ir.info. 07 2011. Web. 03 2013. .
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