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Realist and Liberal Theories

As the key theories to analyze, realist and liberal ideas are invoked, which offer distinctive perspectives on the world. With regard to the causes of World War II and both its premises and consequences, liberal theories present the most convincing explanation. According to Moravcsik (2010), the liberal approach presupposes globalization and cooperation, which were instruments in the struggle between the two warring camps. The unification of fascists and the attack on communists was the result of the globalization of German, Italian, Japanese, and other forces. The states that were part of the anti-Hitler bloc, in turn, formed a reciprocal coalition, which, as Moravcsik (2010) argues, corresponded to the principle of collective security and fit into the concept of liberalism. However, the signing of trade agreements, such as NAFTA or WTO, despite its nature, may be explained from the standpoint of realist theories. For instance, Keohane (2008) states that “key negotiations in WTO are made in close sessions” (p. 92). This means that the power resources used by the participating countries are not global and rather hidden than explicit, which proves the relevance of realist theories in relation to these agreements.

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When evaluating the aforementioned international institutions from the perspective of liberal and realist theories, one can pay attention to different interpretations of their effect and purpose. According to Keohane (1998), realist concepts explain the activities of such institutions in the context of competing interests and individual paths to obtain benefits, despite the union nature of such agreements. However, the author notes the positive effect of international institutions because they create opportunities, and each member implements these possibilities individually (Keohane, 1998). Liberal theories, as Doyle (1986) remarks, also explain the goals of such institutions and interpret the creation of alliances and groups to strengthen a unified system of trade, politics, and other aspects of interaction. At the same time, the effect of such approaches can be distinctive in view of the distinctive forms of liberalism that Doyle (1986) mentions – imperialist, pacific, and some others. Nevertheless, under both liberal and realist theories, international institutions matter as mechanisms to build power, either collectively or individually, depending on a specific approach to regulation.


Doyle, M. W. (1986). Liberalism and world politics. The American Political Science Review, 80(4), 1151-1169. Web.

Keohane, R. O. (1998). International institutions: Can interdependence work? Foreign Policy, (110), 82-194. Web.

Moravcsik, A. (2010). Liberal theories of international relations: A primer. Princeton University. Web.

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