Constructivist and Liberalist Argument on State Shared Value

According to realism, relations between states in the anarchical world is doomed to the state of constant conflict in which states can only count on themselves. Whatever cooperation exists in the world they prescribe it to the hegemonic order. This means that hegemon, creates institutions which facilitate cooperation but that these institutions are carriers of hegemonic interests and their existence is related to the existence of a hegemon.

Representatives of liberal school deny the abovementioned argument and point at contemporary networks of cooperation in many fields which they see as a positive current in the world politic. Realists and liberals agree that the status of international system is anarchy and sovereign states  make up the international order.  As Alexander Wendt stated in 1992 in his article[1]: “neorealists and neoliberals share generally similar assumptions about agents: states are the dominant actors in the system and they define security in “self-interested terms”[2]. As for the Liberals, they underline the importance of international institutions and cooperation between states thus placing a principle of the shared values in the center of state-behavior.

Constructivist Argument

According to Alexander Wendt, concept of “power politics” is socially constructed: “If self-help is not a constitutive feature of anarchy, it must emerge casually from processes in which anarchy plays only a permissive role. This reflects a second principle of constructivism: that the meanings in terms of which action is organized arise out of interaction”[3]  Wendt views “self-help” as something not given by nature but instead, socially constructed. Having in mind the fact that “power politics” is socially constructed means that it can be transformed by human practice. Furthermore, constructivists look at international arena as a constructed structure which is built by socio-cultural practices, ideas, domestic and international interactions. According to Wendt, “the basic tenets of constructivism are the structures of human association that are determined primarily by shared ideas rather than material forces, and that the identities and interests of purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by nature”[4].

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According to the theory of constructivism the effect of anarchy on the state is proportionate to the state’s perception of anarchy, identity and interest.  If in the state of Anarchy state A perceives the rise of power of state B as threat to its security, then a security dilemma is created and states apply to the self-help principle. But, if state A and state B view their security in the form of cooperation and collaboration, then a security dilemma is not formed, thus not establishing logical grounds for self-help principle to develop. Alexander Wendt in his article “anarchy is what state make of it: The social construction of power politics” states that: “the nature of international anarchy appears to be conflictual if states show a conflictual behaviour towards each other, and cooperative if they behave cooperatively towards one another. Therefore, it is states themselves that determine anarchy’s nature.”[5]

Liberal argument

Representatives of liberal theory agree with realists on a notion that international system is anarchical. But unlike realist, liberalism mitigates the risks coming from the nature of anarchy with cooperation and collaboration between states.[6].

While liberalism agrees on an anarchical condition of international politics, it provides three main mechanisms that can explain a state behavior in order to avoid the risks coming from the anarchy: “consolidation of democracy, economic interdependence, and transtational institutions”.[7] In order to mitigate the threats and risks coming from the anarchy representatives of the liberal theory believe that states should become more interdependent with each other. Shared democratic values and economical interdependence significantly reduces the risk of military confrontation between states. Free trade relations between states, which result in a close economic ties between its citizens, excludes the chance of military confrontation with each other. According to Michael W. Doyle: “Wars occur outside the liberal zone because conflicts of interest are deeper there.”[8]

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Liberalism also allows a probability of the world peace despite the anarchical  feature of  international politics. If the state behavior is prone to establishment of international organizations and institutions then this behavior may lead to the long term cooperation between the member nations which share the same values. According to the liberalism military conflicts are not inevitable but can be prevented through collaboration. The development of an international organization such as United of Nation, NATO and European Union are the examples of cooperation between states that could promote stability.

 A central claim of this theory is that once created, institutions tend to persist, because it is cheaper to maintain institutions than to create new ones. Therefore, when confronted with new sets of problems, states seek to modify an already existing institution to meet new challenges. Thus, institutional liberal theories have easier time explaining why NATO persisted after the end of the Cold War even when the enemy that it was supposed to counter disappeared.

Liberalism underlines the significace of the shared values between states. The principle of shared values can explain state behavior as they create alliances and develop joint capabilities, rather than focusing only on the development of their own.

[1] Alexander Wendt, Anarchy is what states make of it: The social construction of power politics

[2] Alexander Wendt, Anarchy is what states make of it: The social construction of power politics, p392

[3] Ibid., p403

[5] Ibid


[7] Bruce Russett, Peace and economic interdependence, Security Communities p.370

[8] Michael W. Doyle, Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, p.224

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