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International Relations Theories

The international relations theories refer to ideas explaining how the global system functions. International relations theories differ from ideologies because they are backed up with pieces of evidence. These theories allow individuals to understand the world and try to make sense of everything surrounding them through different lenses representing various theoretical perspectives.[1]. The most known international relations theories include realism, liberalism, and feminists. Most international relations argue that everything the states do is per their interests or national interest. This paper will describe how feminists, liberals, and realists differ in their analytical approaches to world politics and their implications for world politics.


Realists argue that every state works only to have its power increased more than those of others. They also suggest that the world is hazardous and punitive, with power being the only certainty. Powerful states will, at all times, outlast and outdo their weak competitors. They consider military power as the most consistent and significant type of power. Self-preservation is the primary interest of every state, meaning that states must look for power and always can protect themselves. There has never been an overarching power that can punish lousy behavior or enforce global rules. The ability of states to defend themselves can be undermined by moral behavior, and the international system encourages every state to apply its military power. Although leaders might be honest, foreign policy should never be guided by ethical concerns. When a neighboring state misbehaves, nobody should call the police. Classical realists refer to this as human nature. By nature, individuals are sometimes insecure and greedy and behave accordingly. An excellent example of realism in action is when W. Bush in 2003 convinced the Congress in the United States that it was right for him to send Iraq US soldiers to capture Saddam Hussein. Realists argue that international relations have competition between states that drive them, and therefore, states should try and do anything possible to further their interests. Political realism or realism is an international political view that stresses its conflictual and competitive side.[2]. There is no force or power that law and international organizations have but exist just because the states accept them. Politicians have practiced realism since the states existed. During the cold war, several politicians and scholars used the realist lens to view international relations. Neither the Soviet Union nor the US trusted the other. They both sought protection from their allies, who helped them increase their military and political influence abroad.

International theories influence people’s political practices and thinking. Realism international theory has its implications and consequences. Practically, the nineteen-thirties realists who Carr gave intellectual support were opposed to the collective security system that the League of Nations had embodied.[3]. They worked within foreign establishments during that time, leading to their weakness. After weakening the League of Nations, they began pursuing the accommodation and appeasement policy with Germans as a collective security alternative. After the Czechoslovakia annexation, when the conservatives who were anti-league realists assembled at Neville Chamberlain, they did everything they could to rebuild the coordinated security system that they had demolished before. They labeled every individual who supported collective security as an idealist.


Unlike realists, the international relations theory of liberalism argues that states can co-exist peacefully and are not on the brink of war at all times. Individuals worldwide do not wake up early in the morning and begin chanting that “Americans should be killed” while trying to look out for other states to bomb that morning. According to liberals, relations between countries aren’t a zero-sum game at all times. Zero-sum games refer to situations when a specific state gains and the other automatically considers it a loss like realists do[4].

The liberalism developments began in the nineteen seventies after some educationists started claiming that realism was old-fashioned. The rapid rise of communications technology increased globalization, and increased international trade meant that every state had the opportunity to be self-reliant instead of relying on simple power politics in making decisions. International relations liberal approaches are, for this matter, also known as complex interdependence theories. According to liberals, there are other forms of power apart from military power because social and economic forces are also fundamental. Those exercising military power have by far defeated states that exercise economic power. International organizations and rules can foster prosperity, cooperation, and trust among states despite having different primary interests. For instance, relations complex interdependence (liberalism) is mainly seen among the Western Powers because the US disagrees with its Asian and European allies over policy and trade. Still, it cannot be imagined to have a situation whereby the US uses its military power to harm its partners. Instead, the US depends on economic incentives and pressure to achieve its policy aims.

Liberalism theory has several implications in the world of politics. It emerged in the 18th century as a political philosophy and has since then been advocating for democracy, collective security, and free trade instead of autarky, aristocracy, and the power system balance.[5]. Liberalism has promoted the states’ self-determination and the non-intervention principle, mainly practiced by the United States in the 19th century, along with the British government that practiced it irregularly.[6]. Liberalism has also led to the separation of powers analogy and the checks and balances that are domestically applied, which is an influence and power distribution called pluralism at the international level. Liberals have ensured that power lies among different actors, including international organizations, NGOs, MNCs national governments, among other pressure groups.


Feminists view international relations through the gender relations prism without forgetting that women have been sidelined and relegated in government and political roles, which is not wise because more than half of the world population are women. However, males have dominated international relations study and practice, which has been made possible by women’s roles as mothers, workers, and wives. Sometimes, the feminist theory suggests that when more women are in powerful positions, things could change because they are in peace, which may be brought through international cooperation. Women’s approach to issues can be one of the things that can avoid conflicts and bring peace since their involvement in violence and crime is minimal. In some parts, women are sold into prostitution and slavery, with men taking complete control of their lives. Margaret Thatcher, a female politician and a former British Prime Minister, led militants from her country to fight Argentines to reclaim the Falkland Islands in nineteen eighty-two.

Feminism has had several implications in politics because it has resulted in the rise of women in power and politics in the last sixty years, making men feel more threatened. It also has exposed the marginalization of women and gender violence in global politics. Feminists have also challenged women’s gendered constructions as inherently peaceful victims or individuals who need protection.[7]. Feminists have ensured that women are not sidelined or marginalized when fighting for political power as they used to before. They apply the terms patriarchy and gender while analyzing situations that have been made for women to be excluded from international politics. For instance, candidates seeking political offices were required to have served in the military to qualify, which disadvantaged women since they mostly never had military experience.[8]. Such instances limited the chances of women getting national positions in the government, especially those involved with international security and defense issues.


Commons. “Theories of International Relations.”, 2023.

Julian, Korab-Karpowicz W. “Political Realism in International Relations (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 2017.

McGlinchey, Stephen. “International Relations Theory.” E-International Relations, January 9, 2017.

Ruiz, Tricia. “Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism,” 2005.

Smith, Sarah. “Introducing Feminism in International Relations Theory.” E-International Relations, January 4, 2018.,of%20protection%20or%20as%20victims..

Vuskane, Linda. The Impact of Liberalism in International Politics. GRIN Verlag, 2019.

[1] Stephen McGlinchey, “International Relations Theory,” E-International Relations, January 9, 2017,

[2] Korab-Karpowicz W Julian, “Political Realism in International Relations (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy),”, 2017,

[3] Korab-Karpowicz W Julian, “Political Realism in International Relations (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy),”, 2017,

[4] Commons, “Theories of International Relations,”, 2023,

[5] Linda Vuskane, The Impact of Liberalism in International Politics (GRIN Verlag, 2019),

[6] Linda Vuskane, The Impact of Liberalism in International Politics (GRIN Verlag, 2019),

[7] Sarah Smith, “Introducing Feminism in International Relations Theory,” E-International Relations, January 4, 2018,,of%20protection%20or%20as%20victims.

[8] Tricia Ruiz, “Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism,” 2005,


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