I take it you mean realism and liberalism in international relations. What's the difference between Constructivism and Realism in International Relations?. Structural Realism - International Relations (1/7) - Duration: OpenLearn from The Open University , views · Play next; Play. Liberalism and realism are two of the most important theories in the field of International Relations. They are different from one another in a number of ways.
Thus, we now have the opposite of realism itself, the liberal school of thought. Liberalism, in stark contrast to realism, believes in the measurement of power through state economies, the possibility of peace and cooperation, as well as the concepts of political freedoms, rights and the like.
Francis Fukuyama, quite notably, believed that progress in human history can be measured by the elimination of global conflict and the adoption of principles of legitimacy and observed the extent to which liberal democracies have transcended their violent instincts Burchill: That having been established as core assumptions of liberal international theory, can it be supposed, that since there are observable limits to human nature and altruistic action, as in the realist school of thought, liberalism is therefore overly idealistic in its belief in human capacity and the eventual obsolescence of war as the measure of state power in the international system?
As I believe, liberalism offers the possibility of peace even as states amass power, on the basis that power has now taken a less destructive form, from guns to bank notes and exports. In my opinion, there need not be an overarching stress on the frailties of humanity even if world peace seems too lofty of an ideal.
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This shift creates the need for greater linkage therefore, the new emphasis on globalization as well as increased cooperation. For this reason, states still amass power even under the liberal system, the main difference being the fact that power is now better accrued if more cooperation is realized within the framework of international politics.
As it stands, in my opinion, liberalism operates under real-world conditions, reflecting state interest and aggrandizement, if only that such advancement results in peace instead of the expected dose of conflict. Still, the debate continues as to which school remains the most relevant and timely, with regards to the interpretation of the international system. Some will always say realism is politics as it is while liberalism is an example of politics idealized.
The Difference Between Realists and Liberals – Foreign Policy
Whichever way we choose to justify or to answer those questions, despite their polar difference, realism and liberalism are both reflections of various aspects of the international system, which we seek to understand. The significance of both lies in their capacity to explain opposite phenomena, and though both are clearly antithetical, perhaps the answer to the question of how the world operates will lie not in the thesis and antithesis, but in the synthesis of both.
In my opinion, for all the disagreement that has been in existence with both schools of thought, perhaps the true path lies in combination. A state of anarchy as a condition but peace as a result, and a world that knows the obstacles confronting all of its inhabitants, but knows as well that humanity has always been great at overcoming what seems insurmountable.
Power, whether absolute or relative, is seen by both theories in terms of material capabilities, regardless of the meaning attached to them Hopf Overall, any similarities or differences between Realism and Liberalism at this point come from a narrow a selective approach to IR theory, that of the Neo-Neo debate, which flooded the academic realm from the s up to the s. It is the historical relevance given to the Neo-Neo debate that meant a rapprochement between Realism and Liberalism.
The Difference Between Realists and Liberals
On the other hand, Social Constructivism appeared in the early s as a reaction to the narrowed and agreed Neo-Neo debate. Neorealist assumptions of the existence of given principles in the international system with causal powers, such as anarchy or the balance of power, were highly criticised by Constructivism, which claimed that this features were socially and historically constructed.
Moreover, the focus on capabilities over intentions lead to a dismissal of the formation of interests, later picked up by constructivists Baldwin This came together with the critique of neorealist materialism, in which power, defined in term of capabilities, is purely material Waltz Constructivists revisited pure materialism emphasizing the importance of meaning, socially created, in the impact of material objects on outcomes Hurd It is the interaction between units that creates the structure at any point, and at the same time this structure affects the way states interact.
Still, some common ground also exists between Constructivism and Neorealism; Sampson Wendt himself has later argued against the traditional conflict between rationalism, the methodology adopted by the neo-perspectives, and constructivism, trying to find common ground among them.
Ultimately, although particular similarities between Neorealism and Constructivism exist, they cannot be compared in the same terms as Neorealism and Neoliberalism. As Neorealism broke down into its offensive and defensive variants, new approaches to Realism increasingly acknowledged the methodological impact of Constructivism in IR theory. This is the case of Neoclassical Realism, a term coined by Rose to refer to the new developments in Realist thinking, in which constructivist ideas can be traced even if they are subtle.
But it is their consideration of a third element, perception, operating between material capabilities and foreign policy behaviour, that closely relates with constructivist thought Rose It is humans, not perfect rational actors, who ultimately take foreign policy decisions, and as such they give meaning to the material capabilities they and others possess.
His approach rests in a view of Constructivism as methodology rather than as an IR paradigm in itself Barkin By including the study of the impact of norms and social rules in their analysis of power, realists could go beyond previous assumptions of materialism and individual rationalism, and consider the social aspects in the construction and formulation of power Barkin As such, power stops being instrumental, an idea which traces back to Classical Realism, and becomes important in itself in the construction of social structures Barkin Others as Beyer Ultimately, the engagement of Realism with Constructivism can facilitate a rapprochement between Realism and Liberalism in traditionally contested issues, such as the relation between power and morals, through the study of the construction of both and of their mutual influence.
Understanding theory as a product of a specific context and time, we can better track the evolution of such wide traditions as that of Realism, which keeps evolving and being constantly reinterpreted.
Realism and Liberalism in International Relations
Realism is no more than that which the prevalent academic sphere, influenced by particular historical events and trends in the social sciences, makes of it. It is for this reason that the similarities between Realism and other IR theories has shifted through time, as the interest of mainstream theorizing evolved.
A long time has passed since Classical Realists such as Carr and Morgenthau wrote, and their words, so influential to later realists, can be now read through a constructivist lens. Realism is now engaging with new ways of thinking, be it Constructivism or Critical Theory, and it is from this dialogue than IR theory can most enrich.
Bibliography Baldwin, David A.