Traditional Liberalism and Neoliberalism
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Although having close names, the liberalism and neoliberalism contradict each other. At present, it is hard to give a precise definition and effect of neoliberalism. Its less global (than that of realism) way of thinking and freedom to details would show its consequences when time passes.
Traditional liberalism has an imperialistic dimension in theory and in practice due to its rather intolerable attitude towards the other frameworks and distinct intention to change them. Conspicuously, the imperialism promotes the expansion and domination of the state with the direct acquisition of the territories or by obtaining political and economic control. As a state policy, imperialism involves the use of force (direct military or other similar ones). Although being considered morally indecisive, the term is often used in international propaganda to condemn and discredit an enemy's foreign policy. Concerning the comparison of liberalism and imperialism, one can notice much in common. Kant claims that economic relations can be prolific if they are unconstrained (as cited in Jahn 203). Instead, economic relations within the liberal framework are focused on changing the cultural, economic, as well as political structure of illiberal countries (Jahn 202). Thus, liberalism did not move far beyond from imperialistic values. It supposes not only defending liberal states from wrong-minded neighbors but even shows open aggression in spreading own perspectives (Jahn 203). However, the adherents of liberalism claim the opposite and insist that the face of modern liberalism is based on the hypothesis that it personifies the ethos of freedom and symmetry (Doyle 235). In such a way, liberal states are considered to be more peaceful than the other types of states by word of mouth (Mearsheimer 49). Notwithstanding, it is much more true rhetorically than in practice, as one can make such conclusion after analyzing the abovementioned arguments.
Some of the realists’ attacks against neoliberalism shed light on differences between these two concepts. Realists cling to the notion that international anarchy encourages conflicts and opposition even between countries that may have globally common interests (Grieco 485). Thus, they stand against those who see bright outlook of international collaboration and possibilities of global institutions (Grieco 485). In such a way, despite of the common roots in the names, the neoliberalism does not have the realistic background. In fact, the main author’s argument is that neoliberal institutionalism is misinterpreting the realists’ point of view on international anarchy, and this leads to misunderstanding their seeing of anarchy’s impact on choices of countries (Grieco 487). Neoliberals do not see the broad picture of realistic understanding, which leads to failing in counting all the factors of international cooperation (Grieco 487). In such a way, the realists’ attack against neoliberalism is justified to a certain extent. The theoretical groundings of neoliberalism are connected with the leading idea of benefiting the intensification and spread of the free market all over the world, both extensively (on an international scale) and intensively (in all spheres of the social life). In such a way, neoliberalism shows a fundamental relationship with the idea of globalization, especially concerning the economic sphere. The realists’ attack on neoliberalism makes even more sense when one comes to think on the matter deeper. Neoliberal dispositions have pernicious nature of solving the problems of crisis economics and maintaining social justice. Besides, the same relates to such consequences of neoliberal economic policies as significant reduction in labor standards, attack on trade union rights, and escalation of harm to the environment. Therefore, looking back to misunderstanding between realism as well as neoliberalism, one can even assume that this term comes from wrong suppositions. The realists’ attacks on the concept of neoliberalism are justified to a great extent, as misunderstanding of the roots of realism can semantically depreciate the cognominal theory.
The merits and demerits of neoliberalism are rather controversial issues. On the one hand, misinterpreting the term of liberalism and its values leads to confusion in relations between these two perspectives. However, looking back to more thoughtful attitude to liberalism may bring fruitful consequences. Grasping diverse facets of same concepts is only possible when deepening thoroughly in any perspective. Inconsiderate opinion is a vulnerability of neoliberalism. On the other hand, neoliberalism is an answer to quickly changing modern world. Despite misunderstandings between realism and neoliberalism interpretations, new concept could only appear when it was needed. Despite the fact that realism seems to be a broader and more sustainable concept, it has its weak points as well. Perhaps, it is too rough to describe transitory tendencies of the contemporary world. Neoliberalism does not take into consideration all consequences of international anarchy and globalization that realism sees, but at the same time, it gives more freedom to separate participants of international processes (Axelrod and Keohane 247). Probably, it might be useful to develop some unique spheres in global context. While realism is focused on overall picture, neoliberalism often addresses some aspects of smaller scale. Global consequences of this perspective can only be estimated when time passes. Today, one can only conclude that focusing on details may be beneficial feature of neoliberalism, but missing some overall tendencies is its weak point.
Realism can be considered rougher than neoliberalism perspective by hardly reckoning with other points of view. Despite the fact that neoliberalism is thought to misunderstand some suppositions of realism, it was created, as the world needed fresh views. The one-sided characterization of neoliberalism is unobvious before it stands the test of time.
Axelrod, Robert, and Robert O. Keohane. “Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions” World Politics, vol. 38, no. 1, 1985, pp. 226-254.
Doyle, Michael W. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs.” Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 12, no. 3, 1983, pp. 205-235.
Grieco, Joseph. “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionism.” International Organization, vol. 42, no. 3, 1988, pp. 485-507.
Jahn, Beate. “Kant, Mill, and Illiberal Legacies in International Affairs.” International Organization, vol. 59, 2005, pp. 177-207.
Mearsheimer, John J. “The False Promise of International Institutions.” International Security, vol. 19, no. 3, 1994/95, pp. 5-49.