professor timothy c. limcalifornia state university, los firstname.lastname@example.org
an introduction―In the period between World War I and World War II, the majorchallengerto the realist perspective was idealism. Idealists questioned manyof the basic tenets of realism and suggested that it wouldbe possible to transform the world of power-seekingand war into one in which peace and cooperationamong state might prevail.‖before going any further, it would be useful, evenessential, to discuss the connotations of the word―idealism‖ …
the meaning of idealismsome questionsso, what does the term ―idealism‖ suggest to you?is idealism the same as utopianism? does the worditself give an advantage to realists in the competition fortheoretical dominance?
the meaning of idealismkey pointthe core meaning of idealism can be found in the first fourletters of the word:
the meaning of idealismapplied to world politics, an idea is a mental construct, a belief abouthow things should or can be in the worldmore importantly, ideas imbue people with a senseof purpose, with a rationale and motive for action,with a framework for understanding the worldin short, idealism tells us that ideas matter; evenmore, it tells us that ideas have power, evengreat power
the meaning of idealismto see the importance of ideas (in the socialworld) and to see their power, let‘s consideran underlying message in the film,V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta andidealismkey pointsin this depiction of idealism, it is clear that ideas arepowerful and deadly forces in the world: ideasmatter and not in a utopian, ―tree-hugging,‖pacifistic senseideas matter by motivating and organizing human andsocial action—what we do is a product of what we think!
idealism and liberalismas the author tells us, idealism (partly due to the connotations of theterm) has been replaced with different labels, the two most commonof which are _________________ and __________________liberalism constructivism―Liberalism is currently the most well-developedparadigmatic challenger to realism. Unlike realists …liberals believe that significant global cooperation ispossible and that we can move beyond the power politicsat the heart of the realist paradigm‖
the liberal paradigmof course, it is critical that we not simply know what liberalism asserts;rather, we must know the basis for liberal assertionsthis means we must understand the assumptions and basic tenetsunderlying the liberal perspective; in addition, we must understandthe implications of these assumptions and tenetslet us turn to these issues next …
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalism―For liberals, the key assumption is that peace and cooperation amongstates can produce absolute gains for all. As long as a state isbetter off as a result of cooperating with others, the gains of othersshould not matter‖how does the liberal assumption of absolute gains differfrom realism—that is, what do realists have to say on thissame basic issue? why is the difference important?and who is right?
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismreview: absolute versus relative gainsone way to understand the difference between relative vs. absolutegains is to consider the notion of ―keeping up withthe Joneses,‖ which suggests thatwe cannot be satisfied with more andbetter stuff if our neighbors have evenmore and even better things …is this true? does it have to betrue?and what‘s the basic issue anyway?
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthe debate over absolute vs. relative gains is only one of many issues;liberals also argue that realist assertions about the lack of trust inthe international system is also problematic ...
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismto support their position, liberals draw from the same game-theoreticmodels used by realists, one of the most salient of which is theprisoners’ dilemma. if you recall, realist use the prisoner‘s dilemmato suggest that cooperation is unlikely because of theinherent lack of trust between two actors …yet, liberals have shown that the prisoner‘s dilemmascenario is unrealistic: it is based on on a singleinteraction between parties. in the real world, however,parties interact on a repeated (or iterated) basis
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalism―The key is to think in terms of what [Axelrod] calls an ‗iteratedprisoners‘ dilemma‘ in which the game is not a one-time event butone in which the same players repeatedly play the game. What hefound is that one can elicit a good deal of cooperation in the gamefollowinga ‗tit-for-tat‘ strategy. One starts out with a cooperativestrategy, and from there one mimics whatever the otherplayer does. If the other player selects the cooperativeoption, you do the same. If the other player defectsand fails to cooperate, you do likewise …‖
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthe last sentence in the foregoing passage (‖If the other player defectsand fails to cooperate, you do likewise‖) is key …why?short answer. failing to cooperate, in an iterated game, hasclear negative consequences. for this reason, an overarchingauthority is not necessary—thus, the problem of anarchy can bemitigated in an international system in which the key actors are requiredto interact with each other on a constant, repeated basis!
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismlet’s consider an example mentioned in the video ...say, the US and the Soviets agree not to build new types or moredestructive nuclear weapons … what happens if one side cheats andthe other side finds out? does cooperation over time tend to leadto more cooperation and trust?
logic of iteration in cooperationAgreementT1CheatingT2No CheatingT2Resumption of arms buildupT3Cont. CooperationT3No CheatingT4Cont. CooperationT5Trust-based Rel.T5,T6, T7 …
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthe foregoing conclusion leads to another, less obvious assumption inliberalism, which revolves over fundamental disagreements aboutthe nature of anarchy …realists assume anarchy to be an unchanging and unchangeableelement of international relations, while liberals consider anarchy to bea scope condition, that is, a condition that can exist in various forms,with varying strength—e.g., anarchy can be weak or strong,hostile or friendly, etc.
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismkey implication. if anarchy is relatively ―weak‖ and ―friendly,‖ thestruggle for power among states may become a secondary or eventertiary, rather than overriding concern—it may simply not mattermuch… and when the struggle for power becomes less important, the natureof international relations is subject to significant change (considerrelations between the US and Britain or between Germany andFrance)consider, for example, the
x x xbasic assumptions and tenets of liberalism…in the dynamics of the world today, there is no arms race amongmajor powers; there is no balancing or significant rebalancing ofpower taking place; and there is no clear-cut struggle for poweramong the major countries; instead major powers cooperateacrossa range ofimportantissueslet‘s considera few otherpoints …
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismliberals have always been skeptical of the overriding power attachedto anarchy; but, they have also been skeptical of the assumption ofstate rationality and coherence.* they tell us that …states are not monolithic and statescannot be isolated from their societies; thismeans other actors (within and outside thestate) have always played a role inshaping international relations or worldpolitics—these assertions have importantimplications. in particular …* introducing material not in the text
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismliberalism tells us that a range of actorswith varying interests and degreesof power plays different roles inshaping state policies andinterstate relationsmoreover, in this view, we shouldexpect that the range, power, androles of various groups variesdepending on regime type (wewill return to this point shortly)InternationalRelationsExecutiveBranchCongressTNCsNGOsMediaSocialMovementsVariousstateagenciesSocialclassesPoliticalparties
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthe last slide introduces an important analytical element of liberalism(one that is largely missing from realism)…this element revolves around the concept of ____________which at a generic level, simply tells us that multipleactors play a role in shaping international relationsthis is an important notion, but it is incomplete:we also need to know something aboutthe actors themselves …InternationalRelationsExecutiveBranchCongressTNCsNGOsMediaSocialMovementsVariousstateagenciesSocialclassesPoliticalpartiespluralism
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismsome questions are all actors motivated by the same basic set of interests? do all actors exercise power in the same way? are they allequally powerful? in short, are all actors basicallythe same?the short answer to all threequestions is simply ―no‖
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismnote. in pluralism, there is an assumption of rationality—or self-interest–among actors, but there is also an understanding that theirself-interests are not premised on the same overriding ―nationalinterest‖simply put, different actors have different interests,meaning that actors‘ interests are notnecessarily the same as the ―nationalinterest‖this has important implications inexplaining world politics …
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalisma few implications actors compete to shape policy and influence the state state policies may lack coherence in terms of a singleoverarching national goal the competition to shape state policy, in otherwords, may lead to contradictionsand inconsistencies, whichmakes predicting world politicsmore complex and contingent.let‘s consider an example …
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthink about US-China relations today …before discussing, let‘s watch a short video that gives a sense of someof the issues liberals are focused on (note: the points are notnecessarily obvious, so think carefully about how the video—actuallythree different news reports—reflect liberal ideas and principles.there are additional questions at the beginning of the video itself)
US-China Relations: Compilation of Rinsert video here
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismkey points …on the one hand, we have those who believe China represents afundamental threat to the long-term interests and security of the US:they propose a hostile non-cooperative relationshipon the other hand are those who benefit from trade and economicexchange with China: they propose deeper, closer economicintegration and cooperation. others are primarily concerned abouthuman rights…advocates of these and other competingpositions seek to and often do influence andshape policy ...
basic assumptions and tenets of liberalismthe upshot? US-China relations is not a product of a setof unified policies where everyone shares the same goals andmotivations, but instead reflects negotiation, compromise, power-brokering, and so onimportantly, this is likely much more the case in the US than in China …but why would this be the case? (hint. think about the different typesof political regimes in each country.)with this broad introduction in mind, let‘s moveon to a brief discussion of ―subgroups‖ orvariants within the liberal perspective
variants of liberalismopening notethe variants of liberalism are not fully consistent with one another onbasic principles vis-à-vis realism. for example, some variants mostlyaccept realist assumptions, but assert that there is room at theedges for liberal principles to work; other variants argue that liberalprinciples can supplant the anarchy of realism completely (albeit,not in the short-run)let‘s begin with the most ―limited‖ variant of liberalism,liberal institutionalism ...
variants of liberalismliberal institutionalism―Proponents of liberal institutionalism look to international institutions toreduce the anarchy of the international system. By institutions, theymean ‗the rules of that govern elements of world politicsand the organizations that help implement those rules.‘Central to this institutionalist perspective is a formal systemof international law that regulates and constrains thebehavior of states and thereby limits their sovereign abilityto act as they wish in some areas …‖
variants of liberalismliberal institutionalismliberal institutionalism, as the name implies, asserts that institutionsare important; however, they see the role of institutions as generallylimited under conditions of anarchyinstitutions, in this regard, are a functional substitute for anoverarching sovereign power in the international system; they canameliorate anarchy by allowing cooperation to takeplace in areas that states are willing to cedesovereignty, but they cannot function in those areasthat states are unwilling to relinquish sovereignty
variants of liberalismliberal commercialismliberal commercialism suggests that commercial—or economic—interests create common bonds across borders that makeinternational cooperation possible. in the present era, scholarshave focused on the continued expansion anddeepening of economic ties through theprocesses of globalizationquestionin what way does economic globalizationcontribute to greater peace and cooperationamong nations?
variants of liberalismliberal internationalismliberal internationalism refers back to the notion that regime type hasan important affect on the nature of relations between andamong states; it based on the Kantian notion of ―perpetualpeace,‖ which tells us that, ―in places where government isbased on consent of the citizenry, there will be a reluctanceto go to war because of the hardships that war invariablyimposes on those citizens. In fact, Kant‘s federation of freestates was premised on the assumption that its memberswould be republics with this domestic disincentiveto go to war‖ || consider the following figure
variants of liberalismusing proxy categories fordemocracy developed byFreedom House, this tableshows that full democracies(i.e., liberal democracies) donot engage in violence witheach otherwhat else does the table show?
variants of liberalismliberal internationalismthere are other important elements of liberal internationalism of whichwe must be aware, and these are nicely summarized in thearticle by Michael Doyle, ―Liberalism and World Politics‖quick pointMichael Doyle is generally considered one of the leadingliberals in IR scholarship; he developed the notion of thedemocratic peace thesis, an extension of Kantian thought
variants of liberalismDoyle on liberal internationalism―Despite the contradictions of liberal pacifism and liberal imperialism, Ifind, with Kant and other liberal republican, that liberalismdoes leave a coherent legacy on foreign affairs. Liberalstates are different. They are indeed peaceful, yet theyare also prone to make war, as the U.S. and our ‗freedomfighters‘ are now doing …‖in this passage, Doyle mentions three liberal approaches;the first two of which are contradictory (part of hisaim is to reconcile these competing views) …
variants of liberalismwhat is liberal pacifism?based on ideas espoused by Joseph Schumpeter, whoargued that capitalism and democracy are forces forpeace: in capitalism, peoples‘ energies are absorbedin production, which in turn trains people in ―economicrationalism,‖ and rational people demand democraticgovernance. Democracy, in turn, prevents those whowould gain from war (war profiteers and militaryaristocrats) from going to war since ―no democracywould pursue a minority interest and tolerate the highcosts of imperialism‖
variants of liberalismwhat is liberal imperialism?based on the thinking of Machiavelli, who believed that libertyencouraged ―increased population and property, whichgrow when the citizens know their lives and goodsare secure from arbitrary seizure.‖ Secure in theirlives at home, free citizens are more willing to fightabroad to gain more for themselves and for theirstates—it is important to emphasize that Machiavelli‘sargument was premised on the realist notion that thiswillingness is based on the knowledge that there areother states with similar aims
variants of liberalismDoyle on liberal internationalismLiberalism internationalism helps to bridge the divide betweenliberal pacifism and liberal imperialism (both of which canfind support in the real world) by … doing what?answer. it recognizes that liberal states are both pacifisticand imperialistic, but that their behavior toward otherstates hinges on the internal political make-up of thoseother states—i.e., if the other state is illiberal or non-democratic, then violence is more likely; if the other stateis also democratic, then violence is less likely
variants of liberalismDoyle on liberal internationalismto repeat…liberal internationalism tells us that while liberal statesare, in fact, less likely to engage in war, this propensitytoward peaceful relations is true only between andamong liberal states themselvesliberal states, in short, create a separate peaceor a zone of peace with other liberal societies
variants of liberalismDoyle on liberal internationalismthe zone of peace, again, is limited to liberal states; outside this zone,liberal states often engage in international ―imprudence‖…in other words, in relations with non-democratic states,liberal states show very little restraint in the use ofviolence, a product, perhaps, of a ―striking distrust‖of non-liberal states :: note the implication here:under conditions of anarchy, trust is difficult toestablish between non-democracies, but mucheasier between/among democracies
variants of liberalismDoyle on liberal internationalismDoyle also identifies three ―definitive articles‖ of peace espoused byKant in his articulation of liberal internationalism. these are: the need for a republican state the creation of a pacific (i.e., peaceful) federationor union among liberal states the establishment of a cosmopolitan law tooperate in conjunction with the pacific unionfor our purposes, we need not discuss these ―articles‖ in anydetail
variants of liberalismback to Bovathe diversity of liberal approaches can be confusing, but as Doyle didwith the two competing versions of liberalism (pacifism andimperialism), it may also be possible to bring the three maincontemporary variants (institutionalism, commercialism,internationalism) together as wellin fact, scholars have already done this; one goodexample is the Kantian Triangle …
variants of liberalismthe Kantian triangleIndividually, each variant of liberalism has its limits; but, as Bovaasserts, the ―strongest statement of the liberal perspective emergeswhen we combine the essential assumptions of all three liberalsubgroups …‖this is what Russett and Oneal refer to as theKantian Triangle: international institutions,economic interdependence, and democracy
variants of liberalismthe Kantian trianglethe basic idea is simple: even if one aspect of the triangle is not enoughto guarantee peace and cooperation, when the elements arecombine they mutually reinforce the global propensity towardinternational cooperation and peacetaken together, they can replace the ―viciouscircle of fear, mistrust, and conflict‖ with a―virtuous‖ circle of mutual interests and cooperationproduced by the mutually reinforcing impact of allthree points of the triangle
variants of liberalismsumming up thus far …so, what do you think? how would you assessthe two theoretical paradigms we have examinedthus far? is one obviously more useful and betterthan the other? or, do both offer important insights?are they mutually incompatible, or do they simplyview different parts of a larger, more complicatedwhole?