Describe a Theory of International Relations. What Does This Theory Tell us about Relations Between States in World Affairs?

Erik Ford
3 min readSep 27, 2020

Liberalism is a theory of international relations and is one of the major five theories of international relations. Theories of international relations are a variety of different aspects that try to explain the reasons behind certain situations that have happened, and, or are happening around the world. Five key theories are most relevant to current world situations, and they are realism, liberalism, Marxism, constructivism, and feminism. Through the analysis of one theory, you understand how the relationships between states are founded and shaped. Liberalism is a theory that to understand, you must first look at what it is based on, and secondly, you must analysis the concepts which are divulged from these assumptions.

The first pinnacle assumption of liberalism is that it believes that society is constantly developing new ideas and technologies, through the process of modernisation. The second being that it views individuals and groups are the primary actors in the international system, not states (Slaughter 1995). Thirdly, it believes that individuals possess impulses that bring about cooperation through joint gains via trade, bargaining, and negations. Fourthly, liberals believe that through the process of modernisation, societies naturally drift towards a democratic and market-orientated society. Lastly, liberals are fixed on the idea that society is morally improving, learning from not so moral decisions of the past and attempting to prevent them again (Grieco, Ikenberry, Mastanduno 2015).

Now, out of these assumptions comes the concepts of the theory. The first being the notion that greater economic relationships between states create a pacifying effect. Where the two states become so invested in each other that conflict would be too great to comprehend, this notion is coined as commercial liberalism. The second proposition is that a democratically elected government, with freedom of speech, the ability to have private ownership, and a rule of law, tend to avoid conflict with other like-minded states. Another proposition is that states will operate around international law and institutions. Born from this is the idea of functionalism, where institutions become instruments for states to pursue effective forms of cooperation. The fourth proposition revolves around and has forever been involved in is transnationalism, and is the concept that involves…

Erik Ford

Post-graduate student at the University of Sydney, enrolled in the Master of Teaching (Primary) Program. I was previously an undergraduate at UWS enrolled in IR