International Relations: Approaches to the Study of International Relations Neo-Liberalism

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Liberalism or Liberal Theory

  • Liberalism is a theory of both government within states and good governance between states and people worldwide.
  • Unlike realism which regards the international as an anarchic realm , liberalism seek to project values of order, liberty , justice and toleration in international relations.
  • Domestic and international institutions are required to protect and nurture these values.

Core Ideas of Liberal Thinking

  • Immanuel kant and Jeremy Bentham the two leading liberals of Enlightment, both were reacting to barbarity of international relations , or what Kant graphically described as ‘the lawless stage of savagery’ .
  • Their abhorrence of lawless savagery led them elaborate plan for ‘perpetual peace’ .

There are three elaborative strands of liberal theory-

  1. Liberalism of early 17th and 18th century, Enlightment
  2. Liberalism after the great world war.
  3. Neo-liberalism , the contemporary stage.
  4. Liberals puts individual at the center of the universe and considers individual as the important international actor, but this does not mean that states are relegated to marginal status in liberal perspective.
  5. Modern liberals view states as the most important collective actors.
  6. The interests of the states are not static but dynamic and are both self-regarding and other regarding.
  7. Both individual and state interests are shaped by a wide variety of domestic and international conditions.
  8. Mutual interests can sustain cooperation in international system, this is because of the growth of liberal democracies , interdependencies , knowledge , international social ties and international institutions, liberals have come to believe that cooperation can be possible among states without resorting to coercive means.

Neo – Liberalism

  • In the study of international relations, Neoliberalism refers to a school of thought which believes that states are, or at least should be, concerned first and foremost with absolute gains rather than relative gains to other states. Neoliberalism is a revised version of liberalism.
  • Alongside neorealism, neoliberalism is one of the two most influential contemporary approaches to international relations; the two perspectives have dominated international relations theory for the last three decades.
  • Neoliberalism is a response to neorealism; while not denying the anarchic nature of the international system, neoliberals argue that its importance and effect has been exaggerated.
  • The neoliberal argument is focused on neorealists՚ alleged underestimation of “the varieties of cooperative behavior possible within … a decentralized system.”
  • Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, in response to neorealism, develop an opposing theory they dub “Complex interdependence.” Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye explain, “… complex interdependence sometimes comes closer to reality than does realism.” In explaining this, Keohane and Nye cover the three assumptions in realist thought: First, states are coherent units and are the dominant actors in international relations; second, force is a usable and effective instrument of policy; and finally, The assumption that there is a hierarchy in international politics.
  • Neo- liberals as they came to be known, conceded that the core assumptions of neo-realism were indeed correct: the anarchic international structure, the centrality of states , and a rationalists approach to social scientific inquiry .
  • Where they differed was apparent primarily in the argument that anarchy does not mean that durable patterns of cooperation were impossible: the creation of international regimes matters here as they facilitates cooperation by sharing information, reinforcing reciprocity and making defection from norms easier to punish.
  • Neo-liberals argued that actors would enter into cooperative agreements if the gains were evenly shared.
  • Neo-realists dispute this hypothesis: what matters is question not so much of mutual gains than relative gains.

Two things that set neo-liberals apart from democratic peace liberalism and liberal idealists of the inter-war period:

  • Academic enquiry should be guided by a commitment to a scientific approach to theory building. On the methodological divide they took a positivist look by setting separation between value and fact.
  • Second writers such as Keohane are critical of the naïve assumption of 19th century liberalism that commerce breeds peace. A free trade system according to neo-liberals , provides incentives for cooperation but does not guarantee it.


1. the term ‘perpetual peace’ is related to?

  1. Keohane
  2. Nye
  3. Kant
  4. Spencer

Ans. C. Immanuel kant

Explanation: Immanuel kant and Jeremy Bentham the two leading liberals of Enlightment. Both were reacting to barbarity of international relations , or what Kant graphically described as ‘the lawless stage of savagery’ . Their abhorrence of lawless savagery led them elaborate plan for ‘perpetual peace’ . Although written over two centuries ago , theses manifestos contains the seeds of core liberal ideas , in particular the belief that reason could deliver freedom and justice in international relations.

2. The founders of Neo-liberal school of thought are________?

  1. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye
  2. Waltz
  3. Bentham
  4. Doyle

Ans. A. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye

Explanation: The founders of Neo-liberal school of thought are Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye . Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye (1972) argued that the centrality of other actors, such as interests՚ group , transnational corporation , and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) , had to be taken into consideration. Here the overriding image of international relations is one of a cobweb of diverse actors linked through multiple channels of interaction.

3. Who said – ‘cooperation is not automatic but requires planning and negotiations’ ?

  1. Nye
  2. Waltz
  3. Mearsheimer
  4. Keohane

Ans. D. Keohane

Explanation: Writers such as Keohane are critical of the naïve assumptions of 19th century liberals that – ‘commerce breeds peace’ . A free trade system, according to neo-liberals , provides incentives for cooperation but does not guarantee it. Here he is making an important distinction between cooperation and harmony. ‘cooperation is not automatic’ , Keohane argues , ‘but requires planning and negotiations’ .

4. Who among the following identify anarchy as the cause of war?

  1. Liberals
  2. Neo-liberals
  3. Realists
  4. Neo-realists

Ans. C. Realists

Explanation: Realists argue that the basic structure of international politics is one of the anarchy, in that each of the independent sovereign states considers to be its own highest authority and does not recognize higher power.

5. Who wrote ‘End of History’ ?

  1. Hoffman
  2. Doyle
  3. Clark
  4. Fukuyama

Ans. D. Fukuyama

Explanation: in 1989, Francis Fukuyama wrote an article entitled ‘the end of history’ , which celebrated the triumph of liberalism over all other ideologies, contending that liberal states were more stable internally and more peaceful in their international relations.

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