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Liberalism and Grand Theories of International Relations


Neoliberal institutionalism, developed by Robert Keohane, and liberal
theory of international relations elaborated by Andrew Moravcsik,
nowadays represent two grand International Relations (IR) theories drawing
on liberalism as one of the main theoretical approaches in this discipline.
However, Keohane conceived of neoliberal institutionalism as a synthesis of
realism and liberalism and Moravcsik proceeds from a specific
understanding of liberalism and defines liberalism by the criteria of
empirical social science. This essay examines, therefore, whether neoliberal
institutionalism and liberal theory indeed involve and assemble together
the main ideas of liberalism. The perspective applied in the essay is based
on the intellectual history of liberalism and, in this way, regards the
assumptions about the most fundamental actor in international relations
and about the evolution of international relations as the intellectual core of
liberalism. According to liberalism, individuals and collective social actors
constituted by individuals (social and bureaucratic groups) are the most
fundamental actors in international relations and international relations
undergo transformation, in the course of which cooperation gradually
prevails over conflict. Neoliberal institutionalism considers the state to be
the most fundamental actor in international relations and assumes that the
nature of international relations transforms and they acquire a more
cooperative character. Liberal theory claims that individuals and social
groups are the most fundamental actors and that international relations
undergo transformation that is marked by the growth of cooperation.
Consequently, whereas neoliberal institutionalism involves the intellectual
core of liberalism only to some extent, liberal theory implies that there is a
grand theory that subsumes the main ideas of liberalism.


International relations, theory of international relations, liberalism, neoliberalism, institutionalism, international actors

PDF Research Article (Czech)