Globalization and the International Political Economy

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Realism, Liberalism, Marxism

and the Phenomenon of Global Integration


Various theories and perspectives have been proposed by theorists and international relations observers in explaining International Political Economy (IPE). The most salient among these perspectives are Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism. These paradigms or ways of looking at IPE enables international relations students to study the forces at work in the international realm and analyze how these factors interact to create the state of affairs of the IPE. Through these perspectives, people can also take a look at how human nature, individuals, society, states, and markets relate to the economy and how they make it work.

This paper presents an overview of three significant theories in international relations—Realism, Liberalism and Marxism and how they view the phenomenon of global integration. While Realism is the oldest of the three theories and Marxism is the youngest, Liberalism is the most influential today. Global integration is a phenomenon in international relations that has come to the fore in recent decades. As such, the three lenses of Marxism, Realism, and Liberalism diverge upon different factors and elements affecting global integration. These three theories therefore give varying thoughts and principles on the areas of development, trade unions, international organizations, multinational corporations, international crime, and the sovereignty of states versus the globalized economic process.

In order to better understand how these conceptions of international political economy can explain global integration, it would be necessary to understand each paradigm and how one is different from the rest. Through this understanding, a student can get a good grasp of what each theory is all about, what are its explanatory strengths and weaknesses, how useful is the theory in explaining phenomena in international political economy and what kinds of developments to look for in the international relations field. Their differences can also be highlighted so as to get a comparative understanding of which theory has better explanatory utility.


Realism is perhaps the oldest among the three views in International political economy. It used to be called statism and mercantilism when it was in its early stages of development. Its rise as a theory coincided with the advent of big powerful sovereign states that in the fifteenth century. During those times, these states protected their own interests in dealing with other states and governments. Protectionism, therefore, was their economic policy. The main intention of these states was increasing wealth, power, and protecting their own national interests. They viewed other states as competitors and downright enemies (Doyle 44).

National interest also coincided with political and economic power so as to secure the nation against threats from the outside. Economic power helped these states secure their territories because it fueled their economies, provided employments and helped them sustain an army that would A national interest where state economic policy must meld with power. Because it is economic power that wins trading wars, defeats blockades, staves off pirates and enables the nation to continue to industrialize and promote employment (Doyle 50).

There are a number of theories that fall under the collective category of realism. Yet, these theories share common assumptions and viewpoints in looking at international relations. The international system has no law enforcement agency or a legal governing body. Hence, it is characterized by anarchy. As such, the states involved in the international realm should arrive at relations and agreements by themselves. No higher authority will make it happen for them. Given the anarchic situation of the international arena, the sovereign states are the main actors and movers. Although there are...
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