ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

International Relations - Liberal Idealism

Updated on March 23, 2013

Introduction

Liberal Idealism had been in the works from the early 1880's, however it only emerged in 1919 after the end of the First World War. It met with a competing theory of Realism which formed the basis for the first 'Great Debate' in international relations theory. Following the First World War, Liberal Idealist ideas were used to establish a League of Nations which would attempt to manage and prevent future conflicts between States. However, by 1939 this system had fallen apart as troubles in Europe dragged the world into the Second World War. This marked a victory for Realism over Liberal Idealism in the first great debate of I.R. and paved the way for descendant theories. Liberal Idealism is no longer considered one of the major theories of international relations. It has almost entirely been usurped by its descendant theories.

Liberal Idealism has also been called, or referred to as Liberal Internationalism, Wilsonianism (Named after the U.S. diplomat and President, Woodrow Wilson), and Wilsonian Idealism.

Liberal Idealism's View of History

Liberal idealism views history as the progressive advancement of human society. Heywood writes that it is best viewed as, "humanity moving from dark to light, by virtue of reason. Reason emancipates humankind from the grip of the past..."1 Thus Liberal Idealism believes that co-operation between States for the common goal of the advancement of humanity is the rational choice which would always be made.

1. Heywood, A. ‘Historical Context’, in Global Politics, Chapter 2, p.31

Significance

The significance that Liberal Idealism has played in international relations is confined mainly to the 1920s and 1930s. During these years it partook in the first great debate of intentional relations against Realism, shaped postwar politics, and led to the creation of rudimentary international governance in the form of the League of Nations.

However, it would be incorrect to say that it's significance ended in 1939 as it has had an enduring impact in other policy areas. For example, the modern day United Nations drew upon the successes and shortcomings of the League of Nations in its creation. In addition to this, many modern Liberal I.R. theories draw upon, and are influenced by, the original Liberal Idealist model.

Woodrow Wilson, Diplomat and 28th President of the United States.
Woodrow Wilson, Diplomat and 28th President of the United States. | Source

Characteristics

Liberal Idealism sought to maintain peace in the world. It believed that as humanity was rational, nations would work together to co-operate. To assist this Liberal Idealists sought to create international institutions of global governance, like the League of Nations. However, for a number of reasons, such as a lack of universal participation from the beginning, the League of Nations failed to last.

Key Theorists and Characters

  • Sir Alfred Zimmern
    Zimmern was a political scientist who helped design the League of Nations and UNESCO systems. He was a staunch beleiver in utopian and idealist thought.
  • Woodrow Wilson
    Wilson was an American diplomat and the 28th President of the United States. He was a supporter of Liberal Idealism.
  • Lord David Davies
    Davies was a chair of international politics at Aberystwyth; he also worked extensively on issues of international relations. A couple of examples of his work are his book 'The Problems of the 20th Century' and the New Commonwealth Society that he established.

Criticisms

E.H. Carr, academic mind of the Realist international theorists was extremely critical of Liberal Idealism. It was him who turned the word "idealism" into an insult, and who accused the Liberals of holding unrealistic Utopian beliefs.

Indeed, the failure of Liberal Idealism to either prevent or manage conflict in 1939 was its downfall. This is the point at which Liberal Idealism lost the first great debate.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Chip Shirley profile image

      Chip Shirley 

      5 years ago

      so pick a side!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)