This paper attempts to answer the question whether liberalism is simply another tool to maintain western hegemony. Liberalism is one of the most dominant theories in international politics and emphasizes on equality and freedom and most importantly the rights inherent in individuals as human beings such as right to life, liberty, and property. …
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In the modern world, most peoples’ thinking is dominated by liberal ideas and most political systems especially in the west are founded on and shaped by liberal principles and values (Ramsay, 2004). Liberal democracies ensure the will of the people is reflected in government policies by ensuring free and fair elections with full participation of electorates and minimum intervention in private affairs of citizens. However, liberal theory is accused of masking actual inequalities in power, wealth and abilities of individuals in liberal society. For example, if an individual has the freedom to pursue his interests but has no resources, then the freedom makes no sense.
The liberal theory in international politics focuses on achieving lasting peace and cooperation in international relations. The debate surrounding this issue is whether cooperation among sovereign states is possible bearing in mind that each state is rational and utilitarian. Most scholars argue that trade and economic interdependence among nations can lead to cooperation among states (Keohane 1980; Chandler, 2010, Weber, 2010). However, though the interdependence among states brings relative gains to members, it is used as a means to maintain western supremacy over the rest of the world since the west has the resources and power to influence other states especially developing countries.
The developing countries consent to the western ideas and incorporate them in their policies due to gains from the cooperation. The essay in trying to answer the question is divided into 3 sections. The first section will deal with defining the key concepts used in the essay as well as the ideas underlying the liberalism theory of international relations. The second section will be to explain how liberalism is used as a tool to maintain western hegemony. The first argument will focus on free trade as a tool to gain consent and maintain western hegemony. This is because most third world countries are lured to accept western liberal values through free trade which guarantees them economic growth. The second argument will focus on international institutions that are used to gain consent through cooperative regimes hence maintain western hegemony. I will also argue how globalization has been used to spread western ideas hence maintain western hegemony. The last section is the conclusion whereby the main points will be highlighted. DEFINING KEY CONCEPTS The liberal theory of international relations is based on various ideas from different liberalists but they all agree on various key ideas. The concepts mostly used in this theory include; liberalism, freedom, equality, justice, rights, public society and private society. Liberalism is derived from the concept of human nature which views individuals as autonomous beings with equal natural rights, intrinsic dignity and equal worth (Ramsay, 2004). Individuals are considered as rational beings able to pursue personal interests and find the best way to satisfy those wants. In this case, public interest does not exist although neoliberals argue that individuals can give up their interests for the good of others since they are impartial. They encourage cooperation among states so as to achieve joint absolute gains for the good of all. Freedom refers to the “intrinsic dignity and equal worth of each individual” (Ramsay, 2004: 17).It can be negative or positive liberty but negative freedom is more emphasized and entails non- interference. For example, freedom of speech means other individuals should not restrict one
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