The Paul Collier’s Liberal Approach Critique

Critique of the Collier’s Liberal Approach

Political theorists have espoused liberalism as a political theory and practice that should be adopted by the whole world. Liberalism strikes an appealing chord to people because it tends to offer citizens of a given country total freedom from any kind of oppression since it is portrayed as standing for equality and liberty. Principles of liberalism include individual freedom, political participation, personal ownership of private property, and equality for opportunity. Collier’s book is written from a liberalist point of view with the aim of making the world a better place by freeing people of the so-called ‘bottom billion’ from development traps that pull them behind the rest of the world.

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In Collier’s view, the problem of the bottom billion countries will soon spread to the developed countries like infectious diseases if not checked properly. This case might bring down all the achievements that the developed countries have strived to make. According to Collier, “this problem matters not just to the bottom billion people who are living and dying in the 14th century conditions…It matters to us” (3). He therefore suggests that developed countries should lend support to the third world countries to pull them up from their development traps. In its raw form, liberalism advocates for sovereignty of states since the representation of the people in leadership should derive its mandate from the people themselves. This suggestion can be viewed as to have been made without regard to all factors. Though the people in these countries need sound leadership as compared to developed countries, their countries do not have the structures to achieve the changes.

Most of the developed countries took so many years before they came up with the political standards that they have today. With the advantage of hindsight, they understand the reasons for having these standards today. Liberalist ideas can be a stride too wide for them to walk when prescribed to these nations due to the lack of structures that are needed to achieve them. Therefore, there is a need to improve on the side of intervention by developed countries. In fact, they should be applied as ways of enabling them achieve some of these standards in a bid to move out of the hole they are in. On the contrary, tenets of liberalism advocate for total sovereignty of nations with each nation having to run its affairs without external interference. On the other hand, bottom billion countries are feared to spread their problems to the already developed countries. Thus, as a way of insulating themselves from this kind of infection, the developed countries have to help the bottom billion.

Classical liberals believe that international institutions should be used to bridge uncertainties among nations to develop mutual trust among different states. Collier takes this view when he recommends institutional solutions to the bottom billion countries by recommending the intervention of such institutions like the World Bank and the international monetary fund to step in and make recommendations besides supervising the execution of recommendations to the letter. Classical liberalists believe that international institutions can bridge the gap of uncertainty to improve mutual trust between states for the purpose of sustainable peace and development of the society. In fact, this revelation stands out as the sole reason Collier is relying on in his proposal to engage the international institutions in programming the policies of the bottom billion countries.

Though Collier advocates for institutional interventions, he does not tell what happens to countries, which do not have an economic background that can be propped to lift the countries up. Some countries in the bottom billion suffer from economic problems simply because they do not have resources that they can put in the international market and trade to boost their balance of trade. In his view of liberalism, Collier’s ideas are concentrated mainly on countries that have an economic backbone that can be improved using policies. However, one would ask, ‘how are these policies applicable to these countries without an economic backbone?’ Collier notes, “The experience of people does not matter precisely because they are poor – their income is negligible” (8). Collier advocates for military intervention to change regimes that are running their countries down as a way of enhancing regional peace among countries. In fact, countries only apply military interventions after conducting a thorough cost benefit analysis that will indicate their gains after the intervention.

For instance, the international community neglected Somalia for a long time. For that period, anarchy reigned. To most international countries, no benefit would result from investing a military intervention in Somalia because of lack of resources that could be exploited to recoup the military investment. It therefore took the cost of piracy for the international community to rethink about Somalia because piracy was slowly making sea transport a very expensive affair. Therefore, Collier’s solution to military intervention can only happen when the intervening nations have something of commercial interest to secure from these countries. Collier has come up with some approaches that do not measure up with liberalism in that his ideas defile the fundamental liberalist tenets that make liberalism what it is despite there being put across from a liberalistic point of view. In the first place, liberalism in its raw form advocates for effective sovereignty of nations in all that they do. This sovereignty should be devoid of any kind of external interference whether despots are leading the country or not.

Therefore, when Collier advocates for international intervention to bring about regime change, he is going against the same spirit of liberalism that he upholds. In fact, he states, “military intervention has an eminent place in helping societies at the bottom” (Collier 124). Forcible democratization of nations too is not an original liberalism ideology. The modern day theorists whose thinking is biased towards the countries they come from have brought about this revelation. They will thus try to push their administrations’ ideas through scholarly writings that will be used as a backup to their government’s selfish motives. Ideally, liberalism advocates for other forms of indirect intervention like trade, aid, and investment, which in the end will grow the societies only for them to create a need for governance after some time, which can then be attained by the individual states themselves. Theorists have concluded over time that intervention and introduction of democracy has seen much more turmoil in some nations in relation to when they did not have democracy. A good example to this case is the Libyan case.

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After the ouster of Gaddafi, Libya has seen more turmoil and strife in relation to what was initially anticipated despite its being a stable country before then. This claim holds because the international community attacked the nation and thereafter retreated to the safety of its borders thereby leaving the Libyan people with no one to help them. This exposition is a stark point that military intervention of introducing democracy is not always a solution. It also proves theorists’ point that democracy is not a solution to all societies’ problems. Some societies thrive well under autocracy. Therefore, introducing democratic space will only be a way of ceding ground to radicals who do not espouse democratic views and principals in the end.

Therefore, Collier’s view towards military intervention should not be viewed as the solution per se but one of the workable solutions, which vary from one case to the other. It should be applied only when it is deemed the right option. On the other hand, military intervention should be used as the last resort to any country’s problems. In most cases, theorists have established that liberalists are always at peace with each other. They tend to get in to war with non-liberal countries. This case indicates that liberalists use war as a way of changing political systems so that whatever comes in place suits them. Therefore, Collier’s suggestion that military intervention should be used is simply an extension of liberalistic expansionist campaign aimed at remote controlling other nations.

Criticizing Collier’s Liberal Approach Using Constructionist Theory

As a hypothesis in international relations, constructionist theory tends to try to explain that the way the world appears today is the result of social constructs since people brought themselves to where they are, as opposed to the claimed works of nature. In relation to Collier’s work, constructionists depart from Collier’s point of view when they paint the world between the bottom billion and the other developed countries. They try to lay blame on some issues. For instance, constructionist theorists will claim that, before colonization and subsequently civilization of some of the bottom billion countries, life existed with the people of these nations being fully satisfied with the life they were living before. It is only after the introduction of new standards of measuring life that they are seen to be poor and at the bottom.

Constructionist theorists will therefore argue that the present day stratification of the society is simply a social problem introduced to poor nations by other countries with pressure for them to move up. Under the international constructionist theory, anarchy is a social construct. Largely, despotic leaders are usually chosen using credible means of elections. A given example to this is Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Though he is a despotic leader, he has always been chosen by his people overwhelmingly thus mocking the democratic process as envisioned by liberalism. This proves the constructionist theory as valid since problems afflicting the society always have a social bearing. Collier suggests in his book that institutional interventions should be employed as a way of pulling some of these countries out of the bottom billion. Most of these institutional interventions as suggested by Collier usually take up a fiscal approach to solutions before embarking on a social approach (Collier 8). In constructivist theory, the preference would be put on mending the social problems first because all societal problems have a social bearing and origin. Fiscal solutions will tend to favor first the countries with exploitable economies.

Therefore, countries without such economies will always receive a cold shoulder from the international community. Constructionist theory states that the most prominent role of the international relations should be social and not material. This exposition is a departure from what liberalism theorists like Collier believe. On the other hand, liberalism theory of military intervention should be viewed as neocolonialist because it tends to force other countries to subscribe to it. The major powers of the world have used this reason to force countries that do not subscribe to capitalism in the past to adopt it with the excuse that it will boost their lives. However, it is their way of opening up these countries’ markets for their own exploitation. When compared to constructivist theory, this move is a departure to the social needs of the society because the step is fundamentally material. Military solutions to social problems always lead to further social problems worse than before (Collier 179).

In Collier’s views as a liberalist, military intervention should be applied as a way of enforcing democratic and liberal views. When the society needs are examined carefully, such things like democracy would not make sense as long as the society is in harmony. The demarcation of society into states has created a problem to the existence of the society in that the movement of people has been restricted thus creating an artificial dependence on others for the sake of survival. The effort has been coupled with liberalism theorists who strongly advocate for sovereignty of each state, a case that actually comes with restrictions.

Criticizing Collier’s Liberal Approach Using Feminism Theory

Under the international relations, feminism theory tends to focus on how international political affairs affect both men and women in society. In particular, it tends to view the international politics in terms of women in society. When the society suffers, women are always the most vulnerable group that should be protected. Therefore, any policy adopted should always have this angle. Collier’s liberalism solutions to bottom billion take the view that countries should protect themselves against the problems facing bottom billion countries. However, in a feminist view, this is a mean way of trying to find solutions to problems. Feminism way of finding solutions takes a paradigm shift by introducing new ways of looking into problems. Feminists advocate for freedom from coercion. Therefore, when compared to Collier’s views on how bottom billion countries should be uplifted, this qualifies as a total departure because Collier’s view of institutional assistance to the bottom billion countries is a way of forcing these countries to adopt measures prescribed by external forces whose interests might not be known.

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Institutional intervention sounds good on paper. However, behind the scenes, so much has to be ceded by the host nation for countries to get this help (Collier 49). The saying, “there is nothing such as a free lunch… someone somewhere has to pay” explains everything. The case reveals why feminists take it from this view by putting in the picture the suffering that some of the people of these countries will undergo if liberalism has its way. The effects of military intervention are painful to the society because military interventions always end up with lots of suffering by the people who are simply collateral damages in military terms. The suffering that the society goes through during this time is what feminists are against, as it hurts the same society it is meant to protect.

Works Cited

Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why The Poorest Countries are Failing and what Can Be Done about It. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

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