Liberalism_Realism - POL208 Theories in IR Social...

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POL208, May 26, 2004 Theories in IR Social scientists construct different theories to make international events understandable. Reasonable people see realities of the world differently. Reasonable people make different assumptions. No shortage of theories. Decision-making theory, Long-cycle theory, Dependency theory; Hegemonic Stability Theory; World-system theory. (There is even “Golden Arch Theory of Conflict Prevention”) Each theory has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some theories shed light only on particular aspects of global politics. Some theories have lost their appeal over time (e g. Dependency theory). Development of theories have been greatly influenced by major world events, such as WWI, WWII & the Cold War. Two core perspectives or “grand” theories: Liberalism and Realism (Variants: Neoliberalism and Neorealism) It is fair to say that 20 th century world politics have been dominated by the Realist and Liberal perspectives. Each ascended and descended in popularity at different times depending on major events. Together Liberalism and Realism constitute “mainstream” thinking about global politics. They are more than worldviews or even schools of thought, for they have also motivated the vast majority of theorizing and research on international relations. (Non-mainstream theories: Constructivism & Feminist perspective They are, in other words, the field’s dominant paradigms. Paradigm: A dominant way of looking at a particular subject, such as international relations. Fundamental assumptions scholars make about the world they are studying. 1
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Liberalism (Idealism) Liberalism and liberal are not to be confused with the terms as they are used to mean left-of-center in domestic politics in the United States or Liberal Party in Canada. Rather, liberalism has a special meaning when applied to an understanding of international politics. Reason and universal ethics can be applied to international relations → to create an orderly, just and cooperative world. Based on liberal idea that emphasizes equality, dignity and liberty of the individual. Moralistic, optimistic and emphasis on universal values , such as democracy, freedom and human rights. (These ideas go all the way back to liberal philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill) Main concern: How to achieve peace? Politics: Struggle for consensus than a struggle for power and prestige. Assumption: Humans are basically “good ” and it is social institutions that drive them to immoral acts. Human beings seek equality dignity and liberty → People are capable of mutual aid and collaboration. Solution: Perfecting social institutions is not only possible, but is the key to promoting cooperation and peace in the global society. More cooperation than conflict → War is not inevitable.
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