Yes, I Am A Liberal…IR Theorist Pt.1

reposted from my Facebook notes from July 23, 2009
It’s a shocker, but after reading Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World”, I finally have the conviction to assume this identity. After a year of reading academic peer-reviewed articles and university textbooks, listening to professors and churning out some three papers on international relations theory/affairs, I think I have found a theory that reflects my tastes to have an adaptable view of the world and theorize predictions accordingly.

Before my political buddies rejoice over my form of “conversion” (which is strictly political), I would like to briefly reassert that domestically, I am still a Canadian conservative, which roughly translates to a classical liberal. However since I am an international studies student, I have decided to open my mind in the analysis of world events, since Zakaria has a point that American power will face challenges with the peaceful rise or economic booms of China and India, among other former developing countries.

I find it hard to swallow the realist perspective in an increasingly globalized world. To accept realism would also hinder any development in my global governance theory which I have aspirations to formulating, especially if I continue a masters in international affairs or even international law. I mean to hold states and non-state actors accountable for their actions (yes, I am an idealist and I like it). The word multilateralism is music to my ears and I utterly reject nuclear and WMD deterrence theory, as championed by some neo-realist theorists (neo-realists cause me to shudder visibly). The constructivist theory only brought to light minority viewpoints and don’t get me wrong, but I think feminist and postcolonial and green IR theory all make valid contributions. I just think that liberal IR theory could encompass those concerns as it looks at the increasingly important role of non-state actors in power politics, especially within political economy. Groups like Greenpeace and OXFAM and human rights commissions are all institutions championed by neo-liberalism that advocate the visibility of those suffering in collapsed states, women, and environmental concerns.

Now for those of you still reading this exhaustive epiphany, I would probably classify myself as a neo-liberal (to clarify: sociological liberalism, liberal institutionalism IR theory), because I’m not too crazy about Fukuyama’s End of History and I’m a little cautious about how the word “free trade” gets thrown around, especially with the acknowledgement of non-state actors like MNCs. But one thing that my friends often accuse me of (I prefer attribute) is liking institutions. I’m an institutional kind of girl because the good ones last with the test of the time, while others decay and other rise according to major historical events where humanity becomes aware of its leaps and slumps. State cooperation should be seen as the first step to breaking the anarchic order of the international sphere, a feat which is (at present) only made possible by transnational institutions.

The Post-American World is a brilliant book by an author who truly understands the meaning of “global history”. His insight should be food for thought for global actors, since it proposes changes to be implemented in terms of state identities, expectations of the American hegemon, and “the rise of the rest”. I would recommend you to read it (it only have 7 chapters, who knows you may have to read it anyway this year in class). He was recently on the Colbert Report promoting his book and it’s nice to see an IR Theorist who is still alive and proliferating works.

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