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Possibilities for peace in the international system: realism versus liberalism - Essay Example

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Possibilities for peace in the international system: realism versus liberalism

Walt writes that policy-making - or making a sound policy to be precise - would be a really tough task in the present-day welter of information if one missed the organising effect of a valid theory upon his own ideas and basic principles about how the world works (1998). It rings equally true for both policymakers who disregard the very concept of ‘theory’ in the real world of politics and those practitioners who conduct foreign policy, more often than not dismissing – whether with good reason or not - the academic theorists as a whole (Walt, 1998). On the other hand, as Walt further specifies, it’s just as hard to construct well-founded theories without an explicit and sufficient knowledge of the real world (1988). Therefore, relation between the abstract theoretical world and the real world of policy appears the unavoidable corollary of their clash; being more or less modified - either eased or aggravated – by the myriad of competing ideas, principles, and approaches that are endeavouring to capture the complexity of contemporary global politics (Walt, 1998). Other authors, like Brown (1997, 2001) for instance, point out that this is not a one-way relationship, or in Brown’s own words, “how we understand and interpret the world is partly dependant on how we define the world we are trying to understand and interpret” (Brown, 2001).Three theoretical traditions appear dominant over time – realism, liberalism and radical approaches, whose boundaries are described as rather fuzzy (Walt, 1998). Two of them are particularly examined for the purposes of this paper – realism, which, broadly speaking, is seen to emphasize the enduring tendency for conflict between states, and liberalism, which is generally identified with ways of mitigating the propensity for conflict. Having originated in different social and political realities, and experienced important refinements, both traditions, along with the radical one, or rather, the debates within and between them are thought to have shaped the study of international relations (Walt, 1998). Liberalism and Neoliberalism – Tenets, Concepts of Peace and Applicability According to Panke and Risse, all classical theories of international relations are founded upon the core principle that domestic structures or actors powerfully influence the foreign-policy interests of states, and therefore, their actual behaviour in the field of international relations (2007). From liberal theorists’ point of view, domestic properties – institutions, actors, or practices – are considered crucial explanatory, or independent, variables. If Waltz’s ‘three-images’, or ‘level-of-analysis’ terminology is applied to International relations, liberal theories of International Relations are seen to be second- image approaches (Waltz, 1959), which means that explanations of international processes and outcomes are located at the state level (Panke and Risse, 2007). The vast range of liberal approaches include such that regard domestic actors, or rather, their interactions in the societal, political and economic spheres, as the most important explanatory factors (variables), as well as other, predominantly focused on political constitutions, economic systems or dominant ideologies as domestic structures (Panke and Risse, 2007). Second-image approaches are also seen to comprise different dependant variables, namely foreign-policy decisions of single states and the dynamics of interactions between states; hence, there would be discerned two dimensions, as suggested by Panke and Risse, to which the differing liberal theories could be attributed – theories of action and interaction, and the choice between structures and agents (2007). According to this classification, the first dimension appears to ...Show more


Walt writes that policy-making - or making a sound policy to be precise - would be a really tough task in the present-day welter of information if one missed the organising effect of a valid theory upon his own ideas and basic principles about how the world works (1998)…
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Possibilities for peace in the international system: realism versus liberalism essay example
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