Essay on the Belief in Liberalism

Published: 2021/11/16
Number of words: 923

In the scholarship of liberalism, the term liberalism conveys different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. However, even within these multiple contexts, there is a consensus that liberalism advocates for greater civil liberty, political freedom, private property rights, and equality, all considered precursors to peace and stability (Bell, 2014). In the dynamic realm of security studies, liberalism focuses on how individual progress and greater freedoms facilitate peace and security in a society. While liberals often agree that progress toward peace and security is an eventuality, differences on the pace and extent always emerge creating alternative liberal view points.

The Democratic Peace Theory

Just as realist thinkers believe the balance of power is central to peace and security, the democratic peace theory is critical to liberalism’s understanding of peace and security. Liberal thinkers such as Paine and Kant articulated the importance of functional democracies in realizing peace and security along with their peaceful nature (Dafoe, 2013). In common sense, liberal writer and thinker, Paine observed that democracies (republics) tended to be peaceful because of an ability to negotiate and reach a compromise (Paine, 1992).

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Similarly in the Rights of Man, Paine acknowledges the sole power of peace and war as being vested in the people. By granting people a nation’s war powers, Paine posited people become averse to wars and tend to avoid the catastrophic costs of war and instead pursue peace and cooperation (Paine, 1992). In Kant’s perpetual peace, democracy is again promoted as a precursor to peace and security with assumptions that democratization will make people free and with freedom, people are more likely to be rational, fraternal, and accountable for national security decisions (Kant, 1991).

While the democratic peace theory holds in liberal societies, its feasibility in other non-liberal states perhaps exemplifies the limits of democratic peace theory, concerns shared by Kant who was skeptical about the rapid transition to democracy which he pointed out was not a precursor to peace and security, democracy instead was a gradual process that needed time to mature along with the institutions it created. Liberal interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan designed to promote democracy as an essential component of security management underscores the failure of the democratic peace theory to realize peace and security( Dafoe, 2013).

The Liberal Peace Theory

The Liberal peace theory is founded on two assumptions that liberal democracies are averse to the costs of wars waged against other liberal democracies and that over time liberal democracies have pursued peaceful mechanisms for solving political conflicts and are likely to pursue peaceful resolution of a conflict . By promoting liberal values such as democracy, international cooperation, the respect for the rule of law, expanded human rights, and independent public institutions individuals are safeguarded from the threat of violence, the liberal peace theory guarantees security and peace ( Dafoe, 2013).

Perhaps as an outstanding example of the liberal peace theory application, Europe is today more prosperous and more secure after. Proponents of the liberal peace theory support its generative value and stable character in Europe and recommend it as a successful case study for maintaining global peace and security. By liberalizing the world with its liberal values, the liberal peace theory removes substantial incentives for violent conflicts.

Institutional Liberalism

Institutionalism is a school of thought in liberalism that pays attention to institutions and their unprecedented capacity to protect individual rights and protect individuals from the threat of violence and deprivation (Keohane, 2012). Understood from a broader context, institutionalism advocates for independent and effective institutions that guarantee stability and certainty in the social, economic, and political life of people.

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Institutionalism also advocates for international cooperation through effective international organizations and engagements governed by democratic principles and international law. Weak and failing states are seen by institutional liberalists as having dysfunctional institutions that fail to protect and safeguard people from the threat of violence and deprivation (Keohane, 2012). To safeguard global peace and security, institutionalism pays a particular focus on the importance of international cooperation through institutions and provides a peaceful mechanism to solve disputes both at an international and domestic scale.

Economic liberalism

Economic liberalism as a distinct school of thought within liberalism focuses on the economy as an important component in the global peace and security matrix (Mousseau, 2000). Proponents of economic liberalism cite economic inequality and imperfect markets incapable of building shared prosperity in weak and failing economies as significant drivers of violent conflicts. To build prosperous economies that guarantee a basic share of prosperity, economic liberalism promotes a free market economy and greater international trade as being essential approaches to global peace and security.

Greater international trade is promoted for its stable effect as it creates greater dependency among states reducing significantly the incentives for violent conflicts.


Dafoe, A., Oneal, J and Russet, B. (2013) The Democratic Peace: Weighing the evidence and Cautious interference International StudiesQuarterly 57(1) 201-14

Keohane, R.O. (2012) Twenty years of Institutional Liberalism, International relations 26(2) 125-38

Mousseau, M. (2000) Market prosperity, Democratic Consolidation, and Democratic Peace. Journal of Conflict Resolution 44 (4): 472-507.

Bell, D. (2014) What is Liberalism? Political Theory 42(6): 682-715

Paine, T. (1992) Rights of Man, ed. G. Claeys, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing

Kant, I. (1991) Perpetual Peace, H. Reiss (ed) Kant’s political writings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 93-130

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