Handout – Lecture 3, The Mainstream
▯ What ideas and social context underpin the paradigms of liberalism and realism?
▯ What are the similarities and differences between different theories of liberalism and realism?
How does each theory explain the assumptions?
Concepts and Definitions
Paradigm: Set of theories that share a set of common assumptions including assumptions about
epistemology and ontology.
Assumptions shared by realist theories:
▯ States are the most important actors in world politics
▯ Outside states, there is anarchy
▯ The most important interest of states is survival
▯ Survival can only be achieve through self-help
Assumptions shared by liberal theories:
▯ individuals are not necessarily power-seeking
▯ individuals are motivated by their self-interest & rationality
▯ co-operation in the international system is possible
Classical Realism: the self-help nature of the international system is explained by the selfish, power-
seeking nature of individuals.
Neorealism: the self-help nature of the international system is explained by the anarchy of the
international system. States are undifferentiated units.
Neoclassical realism: States are not undifferentiated units; domestic politics matters. What matters is