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    Comparison between Realism vs Liberalism

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    Realism in international relations means that no matter the circumstance humans will act only to their benefit and their power-hungry mentality. Hobbes turns Aristotle’s claim on its head: human beings, he insists, are by nature unsuited to political life. They naturally denigrate and compete with each other, are very easily swayed by the rhetoric of ambition (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020).

    Realists are individuals that believe that states operate in self-interest and are an overall struggle of power. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines realism as a theory that objects of sense perception or cognition exist independently of the mind. Therefore stating that if it is not outside of one’s mind then it is not naturally real or in the real world, it is just a thought indivertibly targeting idealism.

    The Nye glossary also has a similar definition emphasizing the ‘struggle for power and security’. While Oxford Reference dives deeper into the meaning of realism and even touches bases on ‘neorealism'(which we will discuss later), again the balance of power being the main stronghold in realism.

    By acting out of security they are constantly engaging in behavior that gains strategic and material gain. Strategically focusing on what policies will benefit them the most individually, and in the international sphere whereas in the material interest the focus is in the economic realm, trade realm, and overall resources.

    All in the essence of trying to maximize power and maximize material capabilities, this will all project power and security, however, they are not focused or concerned with exporting a specific political ideology around the world; their main concern is how can they project and increase the power and security of their state.

    Idealism also known as liberalism, is the other paradigm that plays a part in international relations. They believe that states can transcend such power struggles to move towards peace and cooperation, via interdependence.

    McGraw-Hill Political Glossary defines Idealist as individuals who reject power hungry politics and instead urge for policies based of humanitarianism and interdependence with other states, much like that of the Nye Glossary definition of liberalism were it emphasizes that the states function as part of a global society.

    Oxford reference goes more in depth on the background and history of how idealism came to be, yet the overall meaning is a way to bring an end to the war and find a more peaceful approach in international relations.

    They were charged with having advocated a system of international relations that set order above justice, so favouring the dominant powers of the day against revisionist states… with supposing that desire alone could end war despite supposedly immutable realities such as human nature, national interest, the security dilemma, or history (Jones, C. 2018).

    What all entries have in common is the liberal(idealist) ideology says that states should seek to become more interdependent with one another both economically, socially and culturally, the theory behind this being if you’re more interdependent with another state you’ll be less likely to go to war with them and vise versa. Institutional building is another stronghold in idealism to make worldwide institutions like The UN, The World Bank and the IMF all very powerful institutions to increase international cooperation.

    There also is an underlying fundamental values of human rights and human dignity. Democratic peace theory is another way ideologists push for democracies in the belief that democracies are less likely to fight one another hence less warfare.

    All entries may be similar in getting the overall point across but not all entries get to the same end goal the same, meaning each entries definition is unique to their own style of presentation to the reader. As stated previously the main end goal in Idealism/ liberalism is to push the state to become more interdependent with other states in hopes that with a newly found relationship that benefits both states will then lead to peace and will be less likely to go to war with one another.

    Idealism and realism are opposing sides, yet similarities do exist. Both paradigms are philosophical terms that deal with the relationship between the mind and the world. How states conceive international order or how they see themselves in that international order really informs how they act in the international sphere. Both prioritize interest and preference whether it be with overall freedom or the success of one’s state.

    Idealism is more of an open minded individual that takes leaps of faith with educated guesses without knowing the outcome. While realists take everything as face value and what they see is what is real and natural. The most important similarities seem to be that of the want and urgency for their state to succeed.

    Realists urge for power to come to their state, with more power the more money a state has and the more money means more of the GDP goes into strengthening the military. Idealists/ liberalists urge interdependence to avoid engaging in warfare. Ultimately another similarity in avoiding warfare on both sides, yet agreeing that conflict is inevitable.

    Both paradigms have focus on analysis, major actors, and behavioral/ goals of states within their norms. Nonetheless both paradigms are meant to serve as opposites so they should not have much similarities but that does not mean the end goal can not be the same it just depends on who you ask.

    From a political scientist standpoint one may say that it depends on the individual and their political views. Often in the political arena idealists/liberalism are classified as liberalism because of their liberalal believes while realists are more on the conservative arena. Which can then be turned into democrats or republicans.

    Personally I believe that there is beauty in both worlds or a balance of power much like a realist would say. One must look to history and trial and error to see which one explains the ‘real world’ best. In history we can see that realism dominated at the beginning because there wasn’t another side really, once idealism/liberalism people were given a kind of option to pick from as to which one suited their beliefs best.

    The idealist is always looking for things that can make the world better while realists look at the world at face value and can even say that realists have their heads in the clouds. However the interesting part of it all is the existence of neoliberalism and neorealism, one of my main takeaways of the paradigms in international relations.

    Proponents of neoliberalism free market and free trade as a foundation for human flourishing, creating the most favorable conditions for individual liberties, job growth, technological innovations, and overall transnational cooperation that will promote peace. The interesting part of it all is that they reject anything that has no market competition.

    This can be an issue because they side with the effects of unregulated capitalism and the removal of safety nets often provided by the government to protect and support those that are economically and socially vulnerable.

    They argue that these hinder equal access to the benefits of free market capitalism that they imply are ‘universally shared’. When in classic liberalism/idealism the main focus is on the humanitarian side and making sure that the state acts for the people and for their safety, strangely enough neoliberalism sounds like it’s driven by money and money is power; much like that of realists beliefs.

    An ideological departure of classic realism that is based on human nature of ego and power-hungry individuals, while neorealism is more focused on structural constraints will determine the behavior in international relations. Neorealists really look at the systematic way of distribution of power aiming at polarity, looking at where power is mainly concentrated.

    It is an ideological department from human nature and focusing on balance of power, unlike realism which is mainly focused on human nature. Overall I believe that liberalism and realism both have great takeaways and balance each other perfectly and to even better suit the beliefs of individual neoliberalism and neorealism have been created.

    That is the best representation of the ‘real world’ adjusting to the ever changing landscape of international relations and politics. Both are equally as important and valid, idealism is the driving force for every single advancement in human history while realists show idealists what is possible currently and keep them in check with what is realistically attainable, it is important to have both paradigms they balance each other perfectly.

    In conclusion the analytical deconstruction of how individuals perceive how others should act in international relations with an emphasis of balance of power. From the readings it is easy to deduct that the overall definition of idealism and realism is the same at its core no matter the definition.

    Whether an individual is a realist or a liberalist/idealists should not matter as long as the best interest of both the people and the state are the main priorities. Having a sense of imagination and innovation can make you reach many new heights and developments that will help your state economically which one can then trade out to other states creating that sense of interdependence.

    While also understanding what is humanly attainable, change is good it just needs to be in increments so as to not overwhelm others.Idealist/ liberalists have the best interest of the people at heart and so do realists, though they portray it differently. Realists show their support for the people by wanting to keep them safe with power while idealists want to keep them safe through peaceful treaties and integrations with other states.

    Who is to say that you can’t have both realist and idealist views? Nobody, so long as the intent has no malice. Every individual regardless of age, race, religion or what have you is entitled to their core values and beliefs, they may not be the same as yours but that does not mean that there isn’t a common ground for understanding.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Comparison between Realism vs Liberalism. (2023, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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