By Jill Steans, Lloyd Pettiford, Thomas Diez and Imad El-Anis
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Extra resources for An Introduction to International Relations Theory Perspectives and Themes Third edition
As we will see, so-called liberal pluralism has been very influential in International Relations, although the usage of the term ‘pluralism’ in this context is slightly different. We will return to this point later in the chapter. In addition to the utilitarian conception of rationality, there is another strand of liberal thought which, while committed to the principle of liberty and wedded to notions of progress, has a rather different view of human autonomy and rationality. Rather than viewing rationality in means–ends or cost–benefit terms, the essence of ‘reason’ is seen to be the ability of human beings to understand moral principles.
Assumptions The main points of the liberal world view or perspective can then be summarised thus: 1. 2. 3. 4. Rationality and inherent good nature are the defining characteristics of human kind. Rationality can be used in two distinctive ways: ■ in instrumental terms, as the ability to articulate and pursue one’s ‘interests’; ■ the ability to understand moral principles and live according to the rule of law. While people rationally pursue their own interests, there is a potential harmony of interests between people.
Moreover, there are also powerful élites within the government bureaucracy, the military and so on which might work to advance their own interests. However, liberals deny that the state reflects the interests of one, overwhelmingly dominant social class, or any one élite group. It is absolutely central to liberal thought that the state is seen as an autonomous body. In this context autonomy means that the state is fair and impartial, functioning as a neutral arbiter in disputes and policing the citizen body.
An Introduction to International Relations Theory Perspectives and Themes Third edition by Jill Steans, Lloyd Pettiford, Thomas Diez and Imad El-Anis