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Realism and liberalism in International Relations: An Analysis

In international relations, in foreign policy, a great deal has to do with historical circumstances, a great deal has to do with the sense and perception of people.--Salman Khurshid

The Theories of international relations are cluster of different ideas that explains how this system of IR works, which are supported by bold evidences. These theories are not merely random ideas which exist in the universe rather they are a reflection of phenomena, which are sketched to explain and show how they all are related to one another in a meaningful and astute manner. Such theories help in research by providing proper explanation and divination. There are some theories which may be grand in nature but they do not provide any generalised principles and hypothesis with that stamina, so that they can be considered as the foundation for any comprehensive theory which can be universally accepted. Any endeavours to build theories for IR began with the first grand debate between the factions of Realists and idealists.

The push was made in 1940s, where growing interests in research, teachings and analysis due to latest methodologies and techniques to further develop the process of building theory. Similarly in 60s new avenues were opened for research purposes due to behavioural revolution. To explain international political behaviour psychological, biological, sociological, economic, anthropological inputs were taken into consideration with other social sciences Till date, IR is influence by three theoretical perspectives of international politics i.e, realism, liberalism and world system theory. Political realists obtain their pivotal ideas from philosophic thinking of different philosophers and believe that mankind is self-entered and competitive and not benevolent at all.

How International Relations Evolved?

Evolution of liberal approach
The advancement and development of the means of transport and communication that will lead to the reduction of distance have made the world a global village and there is growing interaction between states. This has led to more important international relations today than ever before. However, a kind of IR was in vogue in earlier times in states such as Greece, Egypt, China and India, who have developed a code for the conduct of relations between them.

This was essentially based on morality and was not scrupulously followed by states. In addition, these relationships generally cover states in the same region and can therefore be appropriately described as regional relations. It was in 17th and 18th Century that states established relations with other states beyond the region marking the beginning of the IR. Improvements in transport and communication and the industrial revolution have brought states closer together and have contributed greatly into the evolution of �international Relations� . Wilson's 14 Points speech to US Congress in 1918 was an expression of the sentiments of the idealist exposition. This lead us to discuss the proposals put by such thinkers and how they have helped in the construction of state, masculinity and of mental warrior. Chief advocates of idealism were Woodrow Wilson, Norman Angell and James T. Shotwell.

In 1919 Wilson became chair of Woodrow Wilson's international policy chair at the College of Wales. Sir Alfred Zimmern was the first holder of the prestigious chair. Montague Burton also provided international relations chairs in Jerusalem (1929), Oxford University (1930), London School of Economics (1936) and Edinburgh University (1948). His firm belief was that by promoting the study of international relations it would be possible to achieve the the systematic study of international relations would lead to greater support for international law and the League of Nations. Despite several shortcomings in liberal thinking, Zimmern, Wilson and Davies laid the foundation for the Study of going as academic discipleship.

The study of going to post-World War I was mainly based on a legalistic-moralist approach. Liberals were highly descriptive and prescriptive and tried to establish high moral ideals by ignoring the harsh realities of international relations. The optimism and ideals of liberal thinkers collide with the outbreak of World War II (WW-II) in 1939.the failure of idealists to answer questions about the failure of the League of Nations to prevent war and also the behaviour of certain states with respect to some others, That aggravated situations similar to conflicts in the inter-war period, ultimately culminating in World War II, caused severe criticism of the Liberal approach to studying go!Contrary to Wilson's hope of spreading democracy, fascism and Nazism are growing in Italy and Germany and so on has been the rise of authoritarianism in Central and Eastern europe.

The first world war has caused unprecedented destruction and devastation from almost every country in question, With millions of lives lost-perhaps a correct estimate can never be done. Total economic collapse, widespread famine and widespread famine continued to increase the number of deaths, many years after the battles ended, even for the victorious nations, It is from this traumatic experience of the World War I that the inspiration to study IR began as a separate school discipline.

IR as a school discipline was studied only after the horrors of World War II experience-I.Prior to World War I, IRhad always existed as a branch of history, law, philosophy, political science and other related issues. But World War I resulted in a loss of 20 million lives, demonstrated the bankruptcy and limitations of traditional European diplomacy as a method of maintaining world order, and the momentum has increased to alternatives. The horrific experience of World War I gave birth to liberal approaches to go that are often referred to as collectively idealism or sometimes Utopianism

When league of nation couldn�t handle the states : Russia and Germany always had a tense relationship with the League.Germany joined the League in 1926 and left in the early 1930s. In addition to their invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Japan left the League and Russia joined the League in 1934 and was expelled in 1940, following his attack on Finland. Britain and France never had views for the early League.USA could not join it due to The Senate's refusal to ratify the League Pact, as well as its intention to pursue its old policy of Isolationism.

Unsuccessful-ness of liberal approach - The severe economic crisis of the 1930s again forced States to follow zealously the politics of protectionism rather than interdependence. The situation was like each country by itself, each country was trying its best to take care of its own interests, if necessary, to the detriment of others. It was a 'jungle' instead of the zoo. Therefore, the stage was ready for a more critical and in-depth understanding of IR.

What liberalist theory stands for - thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, Emmanuel Kant, Rousseau, John Stuart Mill and John Locke etc were the chief advocates of the tradition of liberal political though which was developed into the liberal theoretical approach, mainly during the world war 1 during which thinker like Alfred Zimmern and Norman Angell etc promoted it. Carr in 1939 called them out as utopians but these philosophers were known as �liberal idealists� or in general terms only idealists.

The core understanding of this approach is that solution of human rationality, logic and morals believe in reforming the institutions and put pressure on human progress. The heart of this concept is that human are rational creature who likes to build trust and faith , and because of this humans would realise that things like wars is undesirable and irrational because liberals rejects what realist say on the matters of IR changing it�s basic dynamic and fundamental realities. David Sidorsky said that liberalism is firstly a �conception of man who desires freedom and is cable of exercising rational free choices. Secondly it is an opinion to reconstruct social institutions to fulfil individual needs and thirdly a view of history of social institutions which is progressive and continuous application of human reason to it.�

The liberals projected positive aspects of humans and payed less vehement about the social conflicts that individuals put on themselves inevitably. Liberals believe that they can extract great amount of goodness when asked in large numbers to benefit all and create an order which could increase the freedom, economic harmony and material prosperity of the individuals. This concept in literary sense be called as harmony of interests.

Wittkopf and kegley presents basic assumptions of liberalism:

  • People are capable of mutual Aid and cooperations as human nature is altruistic.
  • Their concern for others welfare makes their progress possible.
  • The evil institutions leads them to make bad behaviour and not because they are flawed. This evil institutions encourage them to act selfishly to harm others.
  • Though war is not inevitable but it�s destruction can be reduced by reforming institutional arrangements.
  • War is an international problem which requires collective efforts to avert it.
  • To eliminate war nations would recognize International society and make its governance democratic and full of self-determination to pacify with other fellow states.

Liberal internationalism this factions believes that freedom and justice could be delivered by putting faith in human reasoning. They laid importance of reformation of individual development which has good consciousness, promoting free trade, abolishing war, creating up a international government and preserving peace & harmony.

Idealist believe that international institutions should be established to construct prosperity and peace manually which do not just appear naturally. The chief supporters of this view encouraged that creation of league of nations United Nations and the implementation of new international economic order and human rights. Liberal institutionalism faction believed that merger of regional and international institutions would help to solve the common problems if more stress is laid down in increasing the cooperation between European states.

Criticisers consider it to be utopian, impractical, ethnocentric and culture-centric. The principles tend to portray western values and attempt to force them on non-western ones. Subjects of International politics such as free trade, democracy, interdependence are controlled and dominated by big and powerful states who have vast economic, military and political means. Attempts of peace and efficacious tries to instal International organisation and disarmament have not been that successful and the concept of idealism have been condemned by taking the realities (human nature and politics) into consideration. Morality have evidently established that it is not useful in arena of politics and self-interest becomes the whole guiding principle to carry out state and individual activities.

Evolution of Realist approach

WWII outbreak (1939-1945) -idealists blamed for their utopian thinking liberal-moralist legal assumptions were alleged far from the realities of power policy. IR was soon occupied by a critique of the idealism-liberal of this criticism, it appeared a new model called realism-also known as Realpolitik-an anti-thesis of idealism.

The difficulties posed by these realistic scholars and their efforts to come out with an alternative led to the emergence of the first great debate in the post-World War II period. Realism as a political theory, it is realistic in the sense that it is hard and devoid of unpleasant thought and devoid of moralization. Realism with its vigorous expotion soon became the dominant model of IR understanding. Although we focused on the difficult realities of human nature, dissatisfaction also arose the flaws of the realistic paradigm around the 1960s and 1970s.

Dissatisfaction was more with the language and method of learning IR. This was largely due to the behavioural revolution in the social sciences. The main importance was the application of study. New scientific methods with the outbreak of the word the second war challenged the effectiveness of the liberal approach for the Study of IR which led to the emergence of the first major debate to the IR, The difficulties posed by the behavioural revolution to realistic thinking in terms of language and method led to the emergence of the second major debate in IR.

The Second Great Debate was different from the first in the sense that the first Great Debate was related to IR topic or content, while the second was purely a methodological movement focused on the mode of analysis in IR. Thinkers tried to replace subjective belief with verifiable knowledge and wanted to supplant Impressionism and intuition with verifiable evidence along with an effort to replace data and reproduce reproducible information by mere opinion. The Second Great Debate was not won by the behavioralists or traditionalists and gradually backward, and the Second Great Debate was not won by the behavioralists or traditionalists and gradually the controversies backed down, leaving a lasting impact on IR scholars.

This led to the reformulation of both realism and liberalism, which were greatly influenced by behavioural methodologies. The new avatars of liberalism and realism in the form of neoliberalism and neo-realism once again fermented the renewal of the first major debate in the 1970s. He also triggered another great debate between "neoliberalism" and "neo-realism." This 'neo-neo' debate came to be known as Third Great Debate on IR.

What Political Realism theory stand for?

It is the oldest and vastly accepted theory which was adopted in IR. the word �realism� possess disparate meanings in subjects of science, literature, philosophy and arts. Realism is primality related to political power of the world, which is a dominant school of though & tradition than the rest of the approaches. It informs the �statesman what he must do to preserve the health and strength of the state.� After world war 2 realism rested on a classical and older tradition of though, while tracing itself back to thinkers like Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau.

It still continues to hold importance in todays time. Realism is based on three principles of statism, self-help and survival:
  • The state outside of its borders operates in a position of anarchy and hence International system is anarchic.
  • Sovereign states are the main and rational unitary actors in this system, where they act only for their own national interest, which includes national security, increasing national power and survival. It guides the actions of state in pursuance of international relation.
  • This national power and other capabilities of state determine it�s relations among other fellow states.
The origin of realism can be traced back to the political writings of philosophers like ancient green historian- Thucydides who wrote he history of Peloponnesian war , Chanakya�s book Arthashastra, Machiavelli�s II Principe & Hobbes� Leviathan. Understanding of these thinkers in terms of realpolitik has intensely influenced the perspective of political realists with respect to world politics especially in the point of human nature and state.

E.H. Carr, N.J. Spykman & Keneth W. Thopson are the chief proponents of this notion. E.H. Carr opined that technological and scientific aspects on politics has been clear from beginning and it arose from disastrous war with purpose of domination and inspire explorers of science. This obviate recurrence of the disease of international politics. Outcome of this was marketed by utopianism.

The liberal doctrine of harmony of interests appears to be indefensible because common interests present are noting more than an expression of power with a vested interest in conservation of current situation. Political realism reached its zenith during the time of J. Morgenthau in his politics among nations : the struggle for power and peace. In his book he provided 6 principles. Politics is governed by laws that are objective and which have roots in human nature hence it is possible to develop a logical theory that reflects this laws which remain unchanged.

This theory couldn�t remove certain ambiguities and ignored the impact of moral values on states. For this theory state were the only important factors, due to which some feminist criticism approach has also arisen expressing the point that no women involvement was present through out the discourse as it only depicts masculine factors of war and peace. Women were merely stated as bystanders which later fuelled several writings in 1980s. Realists do not take account of the anarchic symptoms of the national interest which in practicality cannot be used to critics as it would be an incomplete analysis and take it as laborious. Pluralists tend to see the world with lenses of American political system, to whom other faction of pluralists refuse to accept. Critics find this approach to be enduring from American ethnocentrism.

Emergence of Neo-liberalism

The realist school suffered a backdrop due to spread of Neo-liberalism which was challenged by �pluralism�. As the debate arose that state after all might not solely be a centric actor in IR. This challenge was met by works of Kenneth Waltz which came up with the idea of neo-realism. He suggested that in absence of any higher authority the only way to thrive is through self-help which leads to the dilemma of security because the main difference between int. and domestic politics lies in the structure of international system and not in war and conflict. He uses the theory of game in answering to balance of power.

Hence all the thinkers given above thinks that human nature is selfish unless it�s given correct circumstances. Realism prevails in dominance than nay other school of thought and during the period of cold war it provided �intellectual frame for the foreign policy�. It emphasised the autonomy of political action and model of billiard ball until it was challenged by the revolution of behaviour. But in the 1970s this surfaced again as �Neo-realism�.

Now the concepts, perspectives and arguments of liberal thinkers found Pluralism which emphasised the role of individuals and took the perspective into account that non-state acts such as international organisations does not perceives the presence of state as actors. They also dwelled into the presence of intra-state actors which influences the foreign policy and role making decisions. This assumes state to be monolithic as projected by realist like T. Allison & Alexandra George. Transnational actors who have formal authority can be private or governmental, may cut across boundaries of state, may come in conflict with leaders of the state. They recognise the multi-faceted character of IR and emphasise the complex-interdependence of nations which is against realist�s notions of self-centric dimensions.

The neoliberals renewed old liberal ideas about the possibility of progress and change, but dismissed idealism. They tried to formulate theories and apply new methods that were scientific. Among several lines of neoliberalism, the most prominent, which sought to meet the realistic challenge, was generally known as pluralism, and associated with it was the Model of Interdependence of International Relations. The main proponents of the neoliberal approach were E. Hass, Robert O Keohane and Joseph Nye. neoliberal school's main line of thinking was the plurality or multiplicity of actors.Neo-liberalists rejected the singularities of simplistic approach that considered states to be the the only major players in international relations.

The new liberal thinking placed greater emphasis on the plurality of actors and their activities in international relations. In addition to states and state actors such as United Nations and other regional organisations. Like the European Union, ASEAN, the African Union (AU), emphasised the growing importance of non-state actors, such as MNC, IMF, World Bank, several international non-governmental organisations such as the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Amnesty International and a number of other non-state actors. They argued thatthese actors operate between the national and international spheres, thus transcending States and making boundaries irrelevant to some extent.In additionto political relations between States, there are other forms of connections between societies, including transnational links between corporate corporations.

Independence in global politics refers to situations characterised by reciprocal effects between states and non-state actors operating in different countries. It's a situation where all actors depend on each other. An actor's policies and actions have a profound impact on the policies and actions of other actors and vice versa. Interdependence doesn't just mean peace and cooperation between actors. It also includes conflicts.Complex Interdependence is a theory that emphasises the complex ways in which states and transnational actors become mutually dependent, vulnerable to the actions of others and sensitive to the needs of others. As an economic nationalist concept that assumes that States are not the only important actors, social welfare issues share the focus with security issues on the global agenda, and cooperationis seen as a dominant feature of international policy as much as conflict.

In this interdependent structure, nationscooperate in their own common interest and the direct result of this cooperation is prosperity and stability in the system International. Neoliberals believe that "States are not motivated solely by the national interest defined in terms of power.Unlike realists, neoliberals claim that international politics can no longer simply be divided into'high' and 'low' policies that create a hierarchy between issues. While the high policy of national security and military power is still important and relevant, they argue that low policies, especially economic, social, and environmental issues, are also high on the international agenda. The neo-liberals have not attached much importance to military power. It was no longer seen as a key instrument of foreign policy.

A very important aspect of "complex interdependence"is that it is a combination of two opposing views, integrates both the elements of power politics and economiccooperation. It takes into account both the cost and benefits of the relationship between dependencies. They argued that in the world of "complex interdependence,"despite increasing economic cooperation and environmental interdependence, the possibility of international militaryconflict should not be ignored. However, unlike the traditional power-political model proposed by realist scholars, the policy of economic and environmental interdependence in "complex interdependence" involves competition, even if cooperation offers great net benefits.

� Neo-liberal Internationalism : this strand liberalist theory was dominated by its democratic peace advocates who at its heart thought war does not happens between liberal states. Francis Fukuyama in his work �the end of history� backed strongly that liberalism victory could be achieved over all ideologies and concluded that liberal states were internally more at peace, strength and stability, through establishing pacific union in which war becomes implausible.

� Neo-idealism : this faction through supporters like Danielle Archibugi and David Held conceived that global politics should be democratised and a cosmopolitan model should be prescribed instead of Westphalian and UN models. This will amount to the creation of regional parliaments, spreading authority of regional bodies like EU and UN.

� Neo-Liberal institutionalism : Axelord, Nye and Keohane were the proponents of this idea who gave response to the theory of Kenneth Waltz in his work theory of international politics. This faction assumes that international environment is anarchic and only states are the most important actors. But they try to advocate more and more the job of starting and maintaining cooperation between the states under the anarchic situation.

The neo-liberals argued that interdependence should not be fully described as"balanced mutual dependence". They argued that "it is the independence of asymmetries that ismost likely to provide sources of influence for the actors in their relations with each other. Less dependent actors can often use the interdependence relationship as a source of power to negotiate an issue and perhaps to affect other issues. Therefore,the neo-liberals have highlighted a non-military model of international relations and have consistently advocated for peaceful competition and cooperative international relations.

Revival of Realism to Neo-Realism

The pluralistic and complex interdependencies arguments put forward by the neo-liberals quickly attracted the attention of the realist scholars and they tried to renew realism to neo-realism. It was Kenneth Waltz who tried to build on the principles put forward by Hans J.Morgenthau and tried to draw Classical Realism these elements of a theory that was appropriate to the world of the late twentieth century and links it conceptually to other theoretical efforts.

Waltz's labor theory on international politics (1979) laid the foundation for the neo-realist debate. Focused on the structure of the international system and on the consequences of this structure in the international system. For neo-realists, international politics has become more than the sum of foreign policies of states and the external balance of other actors. In addition to the structure of the international system, waltz insisted on motives between actors in an anarchical.

He system argued that states were concerned about seeking power and security, and not because the Human nature was considered normal by classic realists, But because the structure of the international system forced them to do so. Therefore, the neo-realists have not neglected the prospects for cooperation between states. But they argued that while cooperating with each other, states tried to maximise their relative power and maintain their autonomy. Thus, the neo-realists once again managed to put the neo-liberals on the defensive in the 1980s.

Towards Synthesisation

During the 1980s, several scholars made efforts to bring the two schools of thought closer together. Attempts were made to synthesize neo-realistic and neo-liberal positions of institutionalism and introduced the concept of in-depth structure means that the political structure encompasses anarchy and hierarchy and not only includes power and institutions, but also rules and rules. They believed that anarchic society produced states that were sovereign but that in no way meant that anarchy was incompatible with cooperation.

It was argued that units of the international system have a different structure, which extends impacts to republics and includes state and non-state actors. Acting internationally, these units also show cooperative and competitive behaviour. This resulted in alliances, coalitions, regimes, standards and institutions of international cooperation. Change and Continuity occurred through the interaction between the international system and its units. In general, these scholars tried to retain the main elements of Waltz's structural realism but expanded it by looking at the international system as based on anarchy, but still including cooperation patron.

Analysis And Conclusion
IR today is observing new growth with steady development for several new approaches. Though many theories of IR are hung on the sense that state acts in adherence with National interest or the interest of states (which will include peace, military, economic opportunities, self-preservation, security/sovereignty, and influence over other states). Today international problems are much more difficult to handle than before due to its complexities and lack of knowledge on IR. Most sources only provide these two theories as an explanation to IR but a third component i.e, corporatism should also be taken into consideration.

Through this evolution of IR many challenges came up bu one remarkable one was the Marxist challenge which immediately faced the neo-realists and neo-liberalists, was the Marxist point of view. Marxists provided powerful insights into the origin and development of the international system dividing it into the dominant North and dependent South. Neo-Marxists comme andr� Gunder Frank (1967), Immanuel Wallerstein (1974) and others training the School of International Political Economy have greatly contributed to this debate. They have tried to locate the causes of persistent underdevelopment in developing countries in the South in terms of dominance models and addiction.

This presented two strands of structure theorists:
  • Dependency Theory
  • The World System theory
Taking an index of Lenin imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, a bifurcation of the world on the central periphery was developed by theorists. In 1970s, Immanuel Wallerstein added another semi-periphery category to the double structure model while developing the system theory of the modern world. According to these structural Marxists, the striking feature of the global system is the transfer of wealth and resources from peripheral countries to the core countries, which made the rich richer and the poor poorer. The bifurcation of the central periphery symbolizes the relative economic strength of the rich countries (i. Those in North America and Europe), which forms the core of the world economy and the poorest in the periphery, with the Soviet Union occupying the semi-periphery.

Evolution of IR in the Post Cord War Era : While the years 1970 and 1980 were completely concerned about the debate on neoliberalism and Neorealism, after the end of the Cold War, from the years 1990, there was a change in the way you saw it go. The prevalence of American scholars was reduced by giving way to the assertion of scholars from Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The school of ideas that emerged at the moment in the UK became called the School of English emphasizing in the society of states or international society. Although the school became associated with English, but its main figure Hedley Bull was an Australian. One of the principal promoters of this school was E.Carr, the theorists of international society made an attempt to provide an alternative set of premises that are neither Hobbesian nor utopian. While power and national interest are important, they argued that standards and institutions are also of great importance.

With the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the USSR, the dominant paradigms of IR seemed unable to explain the prevailing situations. Therefore, new reflective critical ideas began to gain ground, which was a departure from liberal, realistic and orthodox Marxist thought to IR. New debates have therefore arisen on methodological and substantive issues. In fact, a fourth debate has begun, which challenges the traditions put in place in IR by alternative methods. The new voices in the IR are identified post-positivist approaches and the era it announced has been identified as post-positivist Era.

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  • Hoffman, Stanley. Janus and Minerva: Essays in the Theory and Practice on International Politics, London: west view Press, 1987.
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  • Keohane, Robert. Neo-realism and its critics, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986.
  • Smith, Steve. International relations theory today, University Park: Pennsylvania state university Press, 1995.
  • Walt, Stephen. International Relations: One World, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, No. 110, Special Edition: Frontiers of Knowledge. p. 29-46. 1998
  • The ends of International Relations theory: Stages of reflexivity and modes of theorizing September 2013European Journal of International Relations 19(3):521-541 DOI: 10.1177/1354066113494327
  • Paterson M. (2000) Realism, Liberalism and the Origins of Global Environmental Change. In: Understanding Global Environmental Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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