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Idealism And Realism In International Relations

1539 words - 6 pages

In regards to the recent events in Ukraine, international relations (IR) have become a popular topic among people again. However, not many truly understand what the term ‘international relations’ entails. Unlike what we usually see in TV dramas, it is more than just people sending representatives to different countries to visit or negotiation about debatable agreements. International relation, sometimes known as ‘world politics’, began after the First World War. This field of academic study concentrates on the, as its name suggests, the politics on the global level with states as the units, relations between states, and maintaining peace in the international system. Areas of international relations include diplomacy, international law, international finance, etc. Within this field of study, idealism and realism are two main theories. The two rivaling theories have been on a great debate, or discussion, since the emergence of international relations. From interpretation to decision-making, they are on distinctive stand from each other. On one hand, idealism focus on what ‘should’ be rather than the reality, while realism focus on what ‘is’ rather than the ideal outcome. In this essay, I will discuss about the characteristics of the two theories and compare the proponents each theory is trying to achieve.
After the rise of total war in War World I, the president of United States, led the US in1917, despite the long fight he had put up to maintain United States’ status as a neutral party, into the war in hopes for peace by defeating those that are responsible for the conflicts. This is the beginning of idealism in international relations. Also known as liberal theory or liberalism in IR, idealism is a positive view of human nature compared to the rather tragic realism. In their optimistic view, humans are constantly progressing and learning instead of repeating their past mistakes. They are improving their lives by making better decisions that are beneficial for the future and the well-being of humanity as a whole, not circling around the poor choices made in the past. The League of Nations is a product of idealism. Originally, the League is created to ensure the weak are protected and prevent a second world war. However, it was too idealistic (such as asking the Germany, which was economically weakened, to repay all its debts) that some argue it partially caused World War II to happen.
Another important aspect of idealism is self-determination, such as the right to freely determine a state’s own policies and practices, for the citizens to determine their own governance and set of policy options, and to secure political autonomy (Garner, Ferdinand, Lawson, MacDonald, 2013). With self-determination, peace can be achieved because no one country can control another, and as mentioned above, people only want the best for the well-being of all (under the view of idealism), and therefore, there will be a trend of interdependence between states instead of...

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