To what extent, and in which aspects, are Realism and Liberalism similar and different from each other?
Realism and Liberalism are the two most prevalent ideologies in practicing and analyzing International Relations in the last two centuries. They are playing important roles in the states. They will directly affect the decision making of the governments and bring effects to the peace relations among countries. Realist mainly put a focus on state, power and national security. It was especially quite dominant in the first phase of the Cold War. On the other hand, Liberalism pays attention to people’s freedom and rights. It rose up after the World War II also the end of Cold War. From my point of view, to a large extent Realism and Liberalism are different from each other. They are quite opposite in theory. The differences between Realism and Liberalism outweigh the similarities. In this essay, I would elaborate these two ideologies in different aspects to talk about.
Similarities between Realism and Liberalism
Firstly, for the similarities, both Realists and Liberals believe in anarchy nature of international system that it is leaderless in the world system. ‘The major theories of international relations embrace the view that the international system is anarchic’ (Adem 2002: 19). Both admit that there is no sovereignty, rules or systems in the international system. However, these two ideologies got very different perceptions towards what they believe the states should do under this anarchic situation. The differences will be articulated below.
Differences between Realism and Liberalism
The views towards human nature
For the differences, the first is that the Realists and the Liberals hold different beliefs towards human nature. Realists mainly are pessimistic and conservative. ‘It is essential not to have faith in human nature. Such faith is a recent heresy and a very disastrous one’ (Butterfield 149: 47). Realists believe in evil human nature. People are born with hatred and envy, had original sin, war occurred constantly. They think that natural passion of human kind will bring out struggles among countries, ‘conflict is inevitable’ (Niebuhr 1932: xv). This can be manifest in the armament race in World War I. Every country tried to maximize their amounts of weapons and expand their armed forces at that time. Especially Britain and Germany, their relationship was worsened as there was a dreadnought building competition between them. Conflict is then occurred, paved the way to the World War I. Apart from this, during 1860s, the United States forced Japan to open its market at the threat of attack, which was beneficial for America only (Sr And Teresa 2013:16). Hence, they also perceive human are self-interested, interest is the most important thing of the state. Political action of the government is judged based on national interest (Morgenthau 1978: 4-15). Realists think that national interest is the most important thing of the state.
On the contrary, Liberals mainly are optimistic and progressive. They interpret goodness exists in human nature. People are born to be kind, caring and helpful, willing to build trust with others. Apart from this, Liberals stress interdependence, believing cooperation can be enhanced in countries in order to reduce conflicts. Many intergovernmental organizations and institutions are formed in the late 19th century. They are made up of member states. For instance, European Union and World Trade Organization, they enhance political and economic cooperation among countries. Institutions enhance the economic cooperation and reducing the transactions cost among states (Keohane 1998: 82-94). Apart from this, the formation of United Nation was also a symbolic intergovernmental organization of Liberalism, providing a more understanding of human rights and reinforcing the protection of it. Therefore, witnessing the comparison above, the differences are...
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