International Relations/International Liberal Theory

Both International Liberal Theory and International Realism Theory take for granted the state of anarchy: no world government exists, therefore each state acts on its own. International Realism Theory focuses on predicting how a rational state would behave in its own interests. It is hoped that, if every state can predict how other states will react to its actions, armed conflict can be avoided.

Liberal theory, on the other hand, focuses on ways to avoid interstate conflict be regulating state behaviour. Therefore, Liberal Theory focuses on international institutions and systems.

Liberal International theory is comparable to the "social contract" of Rousseau. States value their freedom to act in their self-interest, but they realize that they lose some of that freedom to act if they are in constant conflict with other states. Therefore, they voluntarily give up some of that freedom and create international institutions. These institutions create contacts for interstate co-operation and rules to resolve interstate conflicts. Liberal theorists often study institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States.

One of the most influential believers in International Liberal theory was U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. He pushed for the creation of the Legaue of Nations after World War I as an institution that could provide a forum for resolving international disputes. The failure of the League of Nations to prevent World War II is one of the often-cited examples used by critics of International Liberal Theory. Nonetheless, International Liberal theory is strongly evident in the creation of the United Nations and the European Union, two of the more successful post-World War II international institutions.