The module is Theorising Politics and International Relations. Sources used should be relevant to Marxism and classic realism and should be books and academic articles.
In many government systems across the globe, human rights and freedoms are highly prioritized and protected. As a result, many governments are founded on a political doctrine that perceives the protection of the freedom of individuals as the central problem of politics. Liberal political systems identify the government’s role in protecting the rights and freedoms of members of society from any violation while considering the fact that the government can also pose a threat to liberty. To ensure that members of society are protected from any social, economic, or political manipulation by the government and other parties, liberalism advocates free market and civil liberties while emphasizing limited government, economic liberty, and political freedom. However, the ideology is associated with multiple social, political, and economic challenges. For example, liberalism brings about political uncertainty and contributes to the excessive exploitation of natural resources, market inconsistencies, and unfair business activities (Browning 2016, p. 198). Consequently, various political strategies are implemented to criticize and eventually overcome the potential implications of liberalism in an economy. They include Marxism which examines the implications of liberalism on labour, productivity, and economic development. Classical realism also criticizes the implementation of liberalism by emphasising human nature and domestic politics as the key factor in explaining the causes of social separation. This study investigates which of the two traditions provides a more convincing critique of liberalism. Classical realism offers a more convincing critique of liberalism than Marxism.
Marxism examines the effects of liberal politics on productivity and economic development. Developed by Karl Max in the mid-19th century, the theory identifies the potential for expansion of income and wealth disparities following the implementation of a political system that guarantees economic freedom of the private sector (Browning 2016, p. 277). According to the theory, allowing too much freedom for the private sector creates an avenue for economic exploitation, which impedes equality and development in the long run. For example, when a government system allows business owners to retain their autonomy without restrictions, workers may experience manipulation as their employers make absolute decisions regarding their remuneration and terms of work. Similarly, private businesses may engage in unhealthy resource extraction activities due to a lack of government regulation, which may result in serious social and economic challenges. Moreover, the prolonged application of liberalism results in the emergence of social classes as individuals who lack control over resources lives in extreme poverty while business owners gain wealth. Marxism, therefore, posits that the struggle between social classes defines economic relations in society and inevitably leads to revolutionary communism.
Marxist ideology also seeks to hedge various social inequalities that result from a prolonged application of liberalism. As liberalism prioritizes liberty, it overlooks the potential for the emergence of various economic, social, and political inequalities in society. The political ideology observes that no one is inherently entitled to enjoy the benefits of a liberal society more than other members since all people are equal before the law. However, the ideology is blamed for paving the way for economic inequality in society. For example, according to Davidson (2018), a lack of government regulation on minimum wage rates and recruitment protocol may allow companies to pay fewer wages and favour certain groups in society when recruiting. As a result, economic inequality thrives in society as some groups gain greater access to opportunities and economic resources than others. In response to such challenges, Marxism seeks to create a system of true equality in which every member of society has access to the available resources and opportunities. Karl Max envisioned a world in which the social difference between those who own productive products and those who sell their labour is eliminated. His theory specifically points out the unfairness of ordinary workers’ exploitation by holders of means of production, which results from a lack of government regulation over the private sector due to the application of liberalism. Therefore, Marxism criticizes various inequalities that result from applying liberalist political ideologies.
Marxism seeks to address the social implication of excessive exploitation of resources that may result from applying liberalist ideologies. As liberalism is implemented to promote freedom in society, fewer regulations on resource extraction and industrialization activities are developed. As a result, multiple social issues arise to impede community development and cause a decline in the quality of life among members of society (Hua and Galway 2018, p. 315). For example, a lack of regulations regarding industrial activities may trigger social challenges as fewer companies implement environmental-friendly production processes. Eventually, environmental inequality thrives as less fortunate members of society experience the health implications of pollution. Conversely, wealthy members of society utilize their economic possession to leverage strategies to keep themselves safe from the negative effects of pollution, despite their participation in detrimental production activities. Under Marxism, a sovereign government develops regulations to promote equality and protect the rights and freedoms of all members of society. The government regulates profit maximization and resource utilization initiatives by businesses to ensure that the available resources benefit the whole society. The ideology, therefore, points towards minimizing social challenges, such as environmental inequality, resulting from a lack of government control over resource extraction and utilization by the private sector.
The Marxist tradition also seeks to promote social cohesion and mobilize members of society towards a common objective. Unlike in liberal societies, where members strive to achieve development at a personal level, the Marxist theory identifies the role of unity in promoting community development. Under Marxism, communities work together to achieve development. The government establishes regulations for effective collaboration between different sectors of the economy to ensure a steady flow of factors of production and support growth in the long run. However, critics of Marxism have blamed the tradition for delaying economic growth as it limits autonomy among private businesses. Under Marxism, the government retains control over private property ownership and production activities (Thompson 2019, p. 391). As a result, many investors hesitate to engage in production activity due to the existence of strict government regulations, which delay economic growth in the long run. Although Consequently, Marxism is criticized for contradicting its promise of rapid economic growth.
Marxism is also observed to support liberalism and communism in the long run. As the ideology advocated for government regulation of economic activity, it is blamed for offering too much power to governmental legislators. As a result, the application of Marxism leads to the development of an economic system in which the society owns the factors of production while the government controls them, leading to communism. Such a political system would also eliminate the occurrence of a free market as the government assumes control over trading activities, which would disregard free market will in the long run. Moreover, although Marxism seeks to promote equality in society, it is constructed on the belief in exponential economic growth, which concurs with the liberalists’ perception that a country is an economy to be exploited and not a traditional society. When a profit is made out of people, both Marxists and liberalists’ desires are satisfied, which portrays the ineffectiveness of Marxism tradition as an alternative approach to liberalism. Moreover, both liberalism and Marxism support internationalism and an international economy. Both ideologies, therefore, perceive profit-making as the only value that matters within an economy. Like liberalism, the Marxist ideology may, therefore, be implemented to support the autonomy and productivity of the private sector to stimulate profits and exponential economic growth.
Classical realism, however, adopts a humanistic approach to demonstrate the state’s role, national interest, and power in world politics. Classical realism was developed during the interwar period as a response to the prominence of utopian and idealist principles broadly adopted in international relations. During that period, liberalists attributed the prevailing instability and persistent conflict to poor social conditions and faulty political systems. Classical realists, therefore, focused on developing an effective framework for international relations to manage the international economic and political systems (Elman and Jensen 2014, p. 34). The theory recognizes the commonalities between domestic and international affairs and identifies the role of communities in promoting social, economic, and political stability at local and international levels. Therefore, it perceives states as the main actors in the international relations systems. According to the theory, each state acts self-interested and strives to acquire power for self-preservation. As the tradition emphasizes human and domestic factors that influence a country’s political and economic stability, it portrays pessimism in the relations between states in the international system. In contrast, liberalism supports efforts put in place to enhance interaction between nation-states in various aspects of development. As such, classical realism is often considered an effective school of thought to criticize liberalism.
Classical realism exhibits the reality of international relations in which each actor utilizes various tools and strategies to outdo other players and consolidate power. As liberalism is founded on the concept of freedom, it approaches the concept of power from an optimistic point of view. Liberalists explain power in terms of the diverse activities that take place in the international environment as states interact with each other. According to them, power comprises aspects such as trade, cultural interaction, and cooperative advancements among states in which the state that demonstrates the highest degree of such aspects is perceived to be the most powerful. As such, liberalists believe states engage in fair competition in international relations, whereby each nation can assume power over other players. However, considering the multiple strategies states implement to outdo each other, liberalist ideas often fail to serve in many international relations situations. The pessimistic approach to power adopted by classical realists is backed by recent developments in the international political economy, where each state uses unique tools and strategies to consolidate power. Realism, therefore, challenges the liberalist principle of fairness in international relations by demonstrating the reality that acquisition, exercise, and consolidation of military power is the main goal of most states in the international relations environment.
Classical realism also embraces anarchism and rejects all involuntary forms of hierarchy in international relations. Classical realists believe states are independent actors in international systems who implement independent strategies to protect their resources and interests through rationality (Elman and Jensen 2014, p. 37). As the states interact through various channels, such as international trade, each strives to attain a survival position in the international arena. Such claims by classical realists criticize liberalism’s attempt to bring out a functional differentiation of the actors in the international system. Liberalism advances the idea that the international system adopts a hierarchical structure in which each actor plays a unique role. For example, as a player in the international system, the United Nations plays a critical role in liberating the global political and economic environment. However, the liberalist approach to the international system lacks consistency in situations where non-state international actors detach from the states. Classical liberalism is, therefore, perceived to be an effective approach to analysing the international system.
Classical realists also identify that liberalism may fail to address certain challenges facing states’ economic and political independence in the international systems. Critics of classical realism blame such a political ideology for underestimating the effectiveness of the balance of power. Classical realism also shares the idea with liberalism to use military power to get what they need and to protect the local economy from foreign manipulation. However, liberalism is essentially a theory of peace and encompasses establishing strategies to promote the measurement of power through avenues such as free markets, democratic societies, and international cooperation (Deudney and Ikenberry 2018, p. 16). Considering military power as a strategy to protect the local economy from foreign invasion may be inappropriate in a liberal political system. Due to the diversity of challenges in international relations, peaceful approaches may not always work, necessitating military power. Liberalism is, therefore, limited and may not effectively address challenges facing states. Since classical realism embraces the use of militaristic expansions and aggression that are prevalent in the contemporary world, it may be perceived to offer a more convincing critique of liberalism than Marxism.
Due to its broad applicability in contemporary political systems, classical realism offers a more convincing critique of liberalism than Marxism. Marxism examines the effects of liberal politics on productivity and economic development and seeks to hedge various social inequalities resulting from the prolonged application of liberalism. It, therefore, criticizes various inequalities resulting from applying liberalist political ideologies. Marxism also seeks to address the social implication of excessive exploitation of resources that may result from applying liberalist ideologies and promoting unity to mobilize members of society towards a common objective. However, the idea is blamed for delaying economic growth as it limits autonomy among private businesses. It also offers too much power to the government, which results in the emergence of a communist economic system. Classical realism, however, adopts a humanistic approach to demonstrate the state’s role, national interest, and power in world politics. The ideology exhibits the reality of international relations in which each actor utilized various tools and strategies to outdo other players and consolidate power. It also embraces anarchism and rejects all involuntary forms of hierarchy and liberalism’s attempt to bring out a functional differentiation of the actors in the international system. Since the insight offered by classical realists is relevant to the contemporary global political and economic system, the ideology may be perceived to offer a more convincing critique of liberalism than Marxism.
Browning, G.K., 2016. A history of modern political thought: the question of interpretation. Oxford University Press.
Elman, C. and Jensen, M., 2014. The realism reader. Routledge.
Davidson, N.M., 2018. The Dilemma of Localism in an Era of Polarization. Yale LJ, 128, p.954. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/ylr128§ion=22
Hua, L. and Galway, M., 2018. Freedom and its limitations: The contemporary mainland Chinese debate over liberalism. China Information, 32(2), pp.315-335. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0920203X18760849
Thompson, M.J., 2019. The radical republican structure of Marx’s critique of capitalist society. Critique, 47(3), pp.391-409. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03017605.2019.1642987
Deudney, D. and Ikenberry, G.J., 2018. Liberal world: The resilient order. Foreign Aff., 97, p.16. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/fora97§ion=76
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Published On: 01-01-1970