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POSC 2200 Theoretical

Russell Alan Williams
Department of Political Science

Unit Two:

Theoretical Approaches

Liberalism: Idealism Institutionalism

Required Reading:

Globalization of World Politics, Chapters 5, 6 and 7.

Liberalism: Michael Doyle, Liberalism and World Politics,

American Political Science Review, 80 (4), pp. 1151-69. (Excerpt
available from the instructor).


Introduction to Liberalism
Key Assumptions
For Next Time

1) Introduction to Liberalism:
Most popular modern approach?

International Political Economy vs. Security????

Supported by:

Leading states, IOs and MNCs

Most scholars

Key Thinkers:

Kant & Locke Enlightenment thought


Liberalism is messy . . . less continuity than in realist


Modern Liberalism arose out of dissatisfaction with

idealism, but continuing hostility to realism . . .
=Approach often defined in opposition to realism starting point is where realists have gone wrong:
1) Anarchy is not descriptively accurate

Institutions/norms/laws exist in IR - More cooperation than


2) States are not actors in the way realists understand

Domestic politics - internal bargaining impact what states do

3) Military power is not as fungible as assumed:

Realist notion of power flawed

a) Emphasis on military capabilities overdone
b) Power is not material = ability to influence and achieve
objectives is what matters

4) Most liberals suspicious of realisms militarism and

lack of normative goals

Liberals believe war is abnormal and should be avoided at all costs

2) Key Assumptions
A) Humans are basically good . . .

Societal progress comes from cooperation = Need for

institutions and conditions that reduce conflict
Common theme = Conflict comes from bad institutions
and lack of rules

Harmony of Interests:
E.g. Liberal support for free trade individual choice,
and the free market reduce potential for conflict.

Support individualism

Liberals see a world of Absolute Gains cooperation

can make everyone better off

2) Key Assumptions
B) Identity of a state matters!

Internal political structures, societal values etc.

impact both how a state behaves and how
others see it.

E.g. the Democratic Peace?

2) Key Assumptions
B) Identity of a state matters!

Internal political structures, societal values etc.

impact both how a state behaves and how
others see it.

E.g. the Democratic Peace?

No two democracies have gone to war with one

Democracies are more likely to fight wars with nondemocracies(?)

Hotly debated, but factually true . . . A real problem for

neorealism since it should not matter.

Michael Doyle & the Democratic Peace

How do we explain the odd mix of aggression
and non aggression by democratic states?
Republican Liberalism: Democratic institutions
and values mean democracies act differently than
other states
Voters dont vote for imperialist adventure,
but they will fight for democracy . . . .
Commercial Liberalism: Democratic states
support interdependence and globalization this
ties them together and makes it costly for them to
not cooperate with one another

Bottom line domestic institutions matter . . . .

2) Key Assumptions
C) International institutions/organizations
can provide order, peace and prosperity

Two liberal approaches:

1) Traditional Idealism:

Based on Enlightenment ideas about harmony of interests

and horrors of WWI, early liberals sought to establish
rules for international politics, to reduce the role of
power and the security dilemma
Cooperation would come from shared beliefs about
how states SHOULD act . . .

Idealism is most
closely associated with
Woodrow Wilson
Fourteen Points:

Support for Self

Determination/end to
End secret diplomacy
Establishment of the
League of Nations

= Collective Security
instead of the balance of

What happened to Wilsonian Idealism?

Collective Security of the League of

Nations failed within 20 years . . . .

Many powers were either unhappy with the

status quo, or never took principles seriously.

The U.S. refused to play leadership role, and

pursued its own interests.

> > > Lost support after start of WWII

states would not simply do what was
politically right though many think
idealism is back(!)

2) Key Assumptions
C) International institutions, organizations,
regimes can provide order, peace and

Two liberal approaches:

2) Neoliberal Institutionalism: Contemporary

approach to liberalism

Neoliberalism = Normative economic policy support for

capitalism and free markets
Institutionalism = Analytical belief institutions can help
overcome relative gains

Robert Keohane (1980s) attempted to merge realism with

evidence of cooperation

India preference = DC>CC>DD>CD

Pakistan preference = CD>CC>DD>DC
Realism: If both states are rational, fear of cheating
and relative gains leads to equilibrium at (D,D)
Key Point: Rational self interest makes cooperation difficult
= But, both states worse off then they could be . . .

Neoliberal Institutionalists argue that (C,C) is

often equilibrium - Why?
1) Iteration - repeated interaction increase likelihood of
cooperation (you cant afford a bad reputation)
2) Institutions reduce fear of cheating (E.g. Surveillance
& dispute resolution)

Neoliberal Institutionalism key insights:

Same assumptions of realism leads to different conclusion

Cooperation less difficult than expected

States can seek absolute gains instead of relative gains

States can accept situations where others may gain more then
them, as long as they gain as well!!!

Most cited example is free trade . . . .

Institutions and international organizations matter!

Trade Regime - World Trade Organization (WTO)
encourages states to support globalization
UN and collective security?
States increasingly support ideal because it is in
their interest, not because they they should
E.g. Iraq invasion of Kuwait (1990)

3) Conclusions - Liberalism:
Liberalism sees a world of more than just states . . . .
A) States Neoliberal institutionalism almost as
statist as realism

Other liberals pay significant attention to substate actors

E.g. Republican Liberals

C) International Organizations major distinction

between realism and liberalism
D) Non-Governmental Organizations
E) Multinational Corporations

3) Conclusions - Liberalism:

View of individual: Humans are highly cooperative need

correct institutional environment to advance society
= Democracy and free markets

View of state: Not unitary, and not necessarily rational

However, major differences within liberalism . . . .
Neo-liberalism vs. Democratic Peace Liberals

View of international system: Governed by anarchy, but:

Globalisation changes things!
Self interest = potential for international laws, rules,
values and norms
E.g. It is possible to reduce importance of

5) Conclusions:

Increasing relevance to current world

Fukuyamas End of History
Liberal democracy increasingly the norm =
basis of sovereignty(?)
Interstate war morally unacceptable,
increasingly uncommon

Focus on economic cooperation = globalisation

Focus on domestic politics = seems more



Many variables, units of analysis . . .
Major differences within theory . . .

The shadow of the past . . .

Liberalism has been dominant before, only to
fail miserably

Perhaps the world will change again?

Are interdependence and globalisation a

permanent trend?
Is interstate war a thing of the past?

6) For Next Time . . .

Unit Two: Theoretical Approaches
September 24 & 26: Alternative Approaches

Required Reading:

Globalization of World Politics, Chapters 8, 9, 10 and 16.

Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism , Chapter

VII, Imperialism as a Special stage of Capitalism (Available from the

Alexander Wendt, Anarchy is what states make of it: The social

construction of power politics, International Organization, Vol. 46(2),
(Spring 1992), Pp. 391-425. (Excerpt available from the instructor.)