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Compare And Contrast The Approaches Of Realism And Neoliberalism To Global Politics

Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

Following the First World War, a wave of liberal thought swept over the Western world. Led by the crusading US president Woodrow Wilson, the political will existed and was harnessed to attempt to produce a world where the carnage of the Great War would never be repeated. They would stop the secret diplomacy between elites of government; they would stop the balance of power politics that had sucked every nation of Europe into the conflict; they would promote a free world order where states could always trade freely and without tariff barriers used to 'beggar thy neighbour', and they would allow national ethnic groups to live under their own governments (Wilson, 1918).

Yet it was left to the realists like E.H. Carr to point out the realities. Instead of focusing in an idealist and naïve way on what should be done, he instead insisted that we actually reflect on what men actually do (Carr, 1939). This emphasis on real actions, instead of ideals, is at the heart of Realism, and has helped mould it into the powerful theoretical narrative that has survived for so long. For realists, practice creates theory.

Grieco summarises the debate between neoliberalism and realism as being one about the probability for cooperation and the emphasis placed on conflict. He argues "…that even if the realists are correct in believing that anarchy constrains the willingness of states to cooperate, states nevertheless can work together and can do so especially with the assistance of international institutions (152:1995)". However, Jervis (1999) has suggested that this is in fact the wrong view of the debate; it is not about the amount of conflict or cooperation that happens, but about how unnecessary conflict is given the goals of states.

In popular thinking, realism still holds sway as the de facto thought process for quickly analysing global politics. But Keohane and Nye have shown the importance of alternative methods of exerting power, and how valid these are. In a globalised world where mutually assured destruction is also possible, the neoliberal paradigm has far more to offer the modern policy maker. Yet the neoliberal model is not perfect, with particular reference to the economic variant, which has overseen massive increases in global wealth inequality (Economist D, 11-12:2007).

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