By Jill Steans, Lloyd Pettiford, Thomas Diez and Imad El-Anis
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Extra resources for An Introduction to International Relations Theory Perspectives and Themes Third edition
While the application of Kantian thought to international relations has been dismissed as ‘utopian’, it is important to note that Kant recognised that, in order to achieve a just world order, certain conditions were necessary, including the establishment of republics, as opposed to monarchies or dictatorships (and, perhaps, a near-universal commitment to liberal democracy). Indeed, Kant held that only civilised countries, those countries which were already governed by a system of law and in which people were free citizens rather than subjects, would feel impelled to leave the state of lawlessness that characterised the international state of nature.
However, Kant is frequently interpreted as suggesting that countries where people were not free citizens, but rather subjected to the rule of a monarch, perhaps, or a dictator, were much more likely to be belligerent and warlike. If this was the case, log- Origins | 27 ically it followed that a world federation would only be achieved when all states were republics. Just as Kant believed that a state of ‘perpetual peace’ would not be realised in the near future, contemporary liberals are under no illusions about the barriers to achieving justice and the rule of law under conditions of anarchy, but, like Kant, many insist that this is an ideal to be striven for.
Our justification for doing so is that, despite some differences in the ‘versions’ of liberalism, there are, nonetheless, prevailing and constant liberal principles and core assumptions. It is useful first to offer a few qualifications and clarifications. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the term ‘liberal’ has been applied to the political beliefs of a wide variety of people. Liberals have views about the economic organisation of society, for instance; here we can detect a division in liberal thought between those on the political ‘right’ who believe that individual liberty must extend into the economic realm: that is, people must be free to buy and sell their labour and skills as well as goods and services in a free market which is subjected to minimal regulation.