Political Philosophy Essay: Realism and Liberalism

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1696 Words
Date:  2022-02-21

In the political opinion, realism and liberalism are two fundamental paradigms used to explain the complexities of international relations globally. The two foundational theories have a significant influence on the political decision making in the United States of America. The realists majorly focus on the state power as well as the internal security whereas liberals are for the freedom and people's rights. Realism believes that different states pursue their diverse interests whereas liberalism belief that countries can cooperate and have strategic agreements. As much as the two schools of thought may have some similarities, their differences to a greater extent outweigh the similarities. The paper is set to discuss the different aspects of the two ideologies, bringing out their similarities and differences with regards to international relations.

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Realism as a theory can be divided into three main groups including, modern, classical and the neo-realism. They are associated with the different writings of the various philosophers but share core principles. Their thought is pessimistic about human nature. Liberalism, related to the writings of Kant, Bentham, and Locke, emerged during the time of European enlightenment. Kant in particular, debated for a federation of Free states in a situation he described as a lawless state of savagery, in connection to international relations. Liberalism is, therefore, a normative theory with the aim of promoting peace and peaceful coexistence among nations.

In the last two centuries, the two theories have been in place, explaining whatever has been happening in the international arena, while at the same time suggesting solutions for conflict resolutions and peace-making between and within states. Realism practically thrived during the cold war, whereas liberalism came after when there was a need for state unions and international trades. The cold war was mostly viewed in a realist perspective by both the politicians and the scholars. The United States and the Soviet Union did not trust each other and therefore searched for allies for extra military power. The two superpowers had a thirst for power and would only focus on their interests. Realism, however, continued to dominate even in the administration of George Bush.

In the 1970s some scholars started arguing that realism was out-dated. It, therefore, marked the birth of liberalism. They thought that states could no longer make their decisions based on the single power politics as there was already globalization, the rise in international trades as well as the advanced communication and other forms of technology. The international ties have reduced the military power as it has been made difficult to define national interest. States are therefore more potent in unions as such unions look into the welfare of the individual states. Non-governmental organizations, as well as the international cooperation, were thus seen to be significant.

It has been argued that realism has been the dominating approach to international politics. Realism as a discipline was developed by the philosophers such as Thucydides and Machiavelli as the most straightforward way through which the policymakers could tackle matters in the international arena. Realism, therefore, would act as a guide to how states relate. Liberalism on the hand is for the thought that every arising issue within the international realm can be solved through diplomacy. Liberalism is based on the assumption that if everything were right, then human together with the associated elements such as the political units would live together in harmony and cooperation.

Both theories have a significant weakness in turbulent times. They both lack ability to predict change. The realism, for example, was not able to predict the end of cold war. Liberalism, on the other hand, is stronger in predicting what happens after the states have become democratic. It, however, does not predict the timing of the democratic transitions among states. Neither does it predict how to make a peaceful change. They only focus on the result which is peace and the satisfaction of the individual states. When carefully examined, the two paradigms are similar in some of their thoughts but also have different views with regards to certain aspects.

Just to pinpoint, both the realism and the liberalism believe that there is no world government in place which would prevent states from engaging in a war. They, therefore, conclude that conflicts between nations are inevitable as any of them can decide to go to war with another. The world is, therefore, a dangerous place as one country can destroy the other in combat. There exists a state of anarchy in the external borders of the nations, and therefore every country should find a way to defend itself, even though the two theories differ on how the states should achieve this. They both agree that every state should know what is best for them, making decisions with regards to the best possible outcome.

They also trust in the importance of the military. Both the realism and the liberalism schools of thought advocate for countries to have their military powers to avoid being abused by other states with the stronger military. According to the liberals, even as a state gets into the international unions, its security is never guaranteed without their military army. For the realists, a country is only safe and in the position of attaining the necessary power if they ensure that they have absolute perfect military force in place. For the liberals, the military is one of the essential power of a state. For the realists, the military is the only significant power that a country should have.

Both the two ideologies aim at achieving peace though through different means. The realists hope to attain peace with a balance of power whereas the liberals strive to make peace through international organizations and cooperation. It is clear that they both have peace as the ultimate goal regardless of the path taken in negotiating the peace. Even as the realists think of the greedy and selfish nature of the human beings, they believe that tranquility forms the ultimate center of existence. The liberals believe that peace can be achieved through dialogues.

With regards to their differences, liberals believe in the importance of soft powers like the economy as well as the moral powers of a state. They do not give much credit to the military as a more significant power even though they recognize its importance. When a country can engage in international trade, then the realists consider it to be sturdy enough. Realists, on the other hand, believe that military power is the only relevant power needed by a state. They think a country to be robust as long as it has a military force regardless of its economic status.

Regarding state collaborations and unions, the realists believe that there is no need for international institutions and unions, implying that such unions can never force a state to comply. In opposition, the liberals think that the international institutions such as the United Nations are of great importance as they provide ways for different countries to cooperate with one another and therefore can get each other's trust in return. The realists believe that states are motivated by self-interest and therefore would not want to be taken for granted or ignored. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that states are driven by ideals and would, thus, cooperate for a positive change.

Their third difference is with regards to what the states want or the state's interest. For the realists, all countries in the world have the same interest. Getting their power is what seems to be every nation's interest and desire, according to the realism school of thought. Liberals on the hand, base their argument on the fact that, not every state is interested in power gains as they have several aspects about which to think. According to liberalism, nations have interests in various sectors such as the economic growth, social and political stability among others.

The two also differ in the aspect of democracy within states. The liberals believe that democracy can bring peace since countries with democracy will not fight each other. The realists, on the other hand, argue that states pursue their interests. States would not stop at anything as they seek for power regardless of whether they are Democrats. Even if the opponent states are both democratic, they will not stop at anything in their quest for power.

Realists believe that only the state matters whereas liberals believe in the importance of non-government organizations as well as the individual leaders. For the realists, the means of getting power, which marks the center of their thought, relies solely on each state. According to them, the well-being of a state can only be dictated by that particular state. It is upon the country to look at its interest.

Realism argues that the moral behavior is hazardous and can hinder the state from getting its interests. Trying to act morally may prevent the individual states from attaining the ultimate power. Realism, therefore, discards moral obligations from their thinking. In opposition, liberalism argues that it is always right for a state to have noble goals and to behave ethically in the international arena. An immoral behavior at the personal level should also be considered unethical in the foreign policy and should, therefore, be shunned out from the international relations.


In conclusion, it is clear to state that the realism is for the argument that it makes an honest assessment on how states connect with each other while liberalism on the other side has interest on how countries should relate with each other while ensuring the best possible outcome for everyone. The realists consider human nature as evil and cannot be subject to any reasonable change. Human is always egocentric and only thinks of himself. Having international cooperation will, therefore, be a zero gain for the weaker states. For the liberals, however, a human is good and is subject to quantitative change over time. The liberals are therefore optimistic about international cooperation as states can respond positively. Based on the discussion, it is certain that realism and liberalism are two opposing paradigms based on the fact that their differences outweigh the similarities. They are therefore used in political philosophy as the rival ideologies when explaining international relations.

Cite this page

Political Philosophy Essay: Realism and Liberalism . (2022, Feb 21). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/political-philosophy-essay-realism-and-liberalism

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism