In this article, you will know about the “theory of Liberalism in International Relations. Liberalism is a school of thought within international relations theory that revolves around three interrelated principles: Rejection of power politics as the only possible outcome of international relations; it questions security/warfare principles of realism. Mutual benefits and international cooperation.
If realism offers dominant solutions to the collective good problems of international politics, several other theoretical approaches draw mostly on the reciprocity and identity principles.
Although realism is regarded as the dominant theory of international relations, Liberalism has a strong claim to being the historic alternative.
Theory of Liberalism in International Politics
Like political parties, Realism is the natural party of government and Liberalism is the leader of the opposition, whose main function is to silence the clamoring heads of power politics for their hardened gloom. And like historic parties of the opposition, Liberalism has occasionally found itself in power when its ideas and values set the agenda for international relations.
The essence of Liberalism is self-restraint moderation, compromise, and peace, whereas the core concept of international politics is just the opposite which is troubled peace, or the state of war. The realists present that there can be no progress, no law, and no justice where there is no common power.
The fact that historically international politics has not been friendly to liberal ideas should not be understood as a surrender to the power politics by the liberals.
Liberals claim that power politics itself is the product of ideas that can change, therefore, if the world has not been friendly to liberalism, it does not mean that it cannot be transformed into a liberal world order. Liberalism is, therefore, described as the tradition of optimism.
There could be three definitions to give a clear picture of liberalism. Liberalism is an ideology whose central concern is the liberty of the individual. Liberals see the establishment of the state as a necessary part of preserving liberty either from harm by other individuals or by states.
The state must always be the servant of the collective will, not the master, and democratic institutions are the means of guaranteeing this. Here it should be noted that Liberalism is primarily a theory of government, one that seeks to reconcile order (security) and justice equality) within a particular community.
In the theory of Liberalism, Liberalism is essentially a project to transform international relations so that they conform to models of peace, freedom, and prosperity enjoyed within constitutional liberal democracies such as the United State.
Indeed, the United States has been the leader in promoting the liberation of one kind or another in the twentieth century.
While Liberalism seeks to achieve its lofty goals, three stand out as particularly worthy of attention. First commercial liberalism promotes the idea of free trade and commerce across state borders on the assumption that economic interdependence among states will reduce incentives to use force and raise the cost of doing so.
Secondly, Republican Liberalism is directed at the relationship between states and their citizens. Republican liberalism endorses the spread of democracy among states so that governments will be accountable to their citizens and find it difficult to pursue policies that promote the sectional interests of economic and military elites.
Finally, Regulatory or Institutional Liberalism operates at the level of the international political structure. At this level Liberalism stands in contrast to the realists’ insistence that the structural anarchy of the international political system must always subordinate collective interests to national interests.
Many liberals believe that it is possible to promote the rule of law and develop international institutions and practices that moderate the security dilemma among states. The theory of Liberalism is fundamentally reformist than revolutionary.
It does not transform the basic structure of the state systems, but rather moderates those elements that realists have identified as the fundamental causes of war.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Liberalism confronted many challenges out of which three are the most formidable and fearsome. The general theories of international politics are stuffed with contradictory notions. All liberals are convinced that there are fundamental disagreements.
In the theory of Liberalism, the Liberals offer radically different answers to what they take to be the preeminent dilemma in international relations, such as why wars take place and do they occur due to imperialism, the balance of power, or undemocratic regimes.
Furthermore, liberals disagree on whether peace is the ultimate goal of world politics or a system to be achieved. And how this should be achieved, through collective security, commerce, or world governments? Finally, liberals are poles apart on the issue of how liberal states should respond to non-liberal states by conquest, conversion, or toleration.
Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham were two of the leading liberal internalists. Both reacted to the cruelty of international relations, or what Kant described as the lawless state of savagery at a time when domestic politics was at the pinnacle of a new age of rights, citizenship, and constitutionalism. Their aversion to the lawless savagery led them individually to draft plans for perpetual peace.
Liberal theories of international relations try to explain how peace and cooperation are possible. Immanuel Kant, 200 years ago, gave three answers. His first response was based on the reciprocity principle.
By this, Kant tried to convey that the states could develop organizations and rules to promote cooperation especially by forming a world federation like the UNO of today. This explanation forms the basis of present-day liberal institutionalism.
Kant’s second response was that peace depends on the internal character of the government, particularly on republics with a legislative branch that can hold the monarch in check which will be more tranquil than autocracies. This answer along with Kant’s assertion that citizens of all countries deserve to be taken care of in any other country relies more on the identity principle. It explains the state’s preferences based on the social interaction within the state.
Kant’s third answer is that trade promotes peace, is based on the presumption that trade gives a boost to prosperity, cooperation, and global well-being and reduces the possibility of conflict in the long-term because governments will not like to disrupt any process that adds to the wealth of their states.
“Realists are skeptical, however, arguing that one state, reliance on another creates more tensions in the short-term because states are nervous that another actor has an important source of leverage over them.”
“However, the critics of the trade-brings-peace theory note that World War I followed a period of high economic interdependence.” “For Kant, the imperative to achieve perpetual peace required the transformation of individual consciousness, republican constitutional and a federal contract between states to abolish war (rather than to regulate it as liberal realists as Hugo Grotius had argued.) This federation can be likened to a permanent peace treaty rather than a superstate actor or world government.”
Jeremy Bentham discussed the tendency of states to resort to war as an instrument to settle international disputes. He contends that a common tribunal is set up and the possibility of war will disappear forever as the difference of opinion will no longer prevail to resort to war.
Bentham further discussed that federal states were able to change themselves from their conflicting stand-off to more peaceful federations as he argued between the interests of nations, there is nowhere any real conflict.
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