In an attempt to offer a better explanation to international political economy, observers in international relations have made use of diverse theories and perspectives.
Among the most notable theories include Liberalism and Marxism. The two theories differ with regard to varying factors and components that impact on global integration. They include the thoughts and principles on such areas as the trade unions, international organizations, state’s sovereignty, multinational corporations, globalised economic processes, and international crime.
Liberalism is based under the idea that giving people maximum freedom and liberty would help eliminate authoritarian political regimes, achieve higher levels of democracies, reduce civil wars and civil unrests and as result achieve global peace and prosperity. In Liberalism the government applies little control over freedom. It is also leveled at the same degree of moral standards as its citizens.
Liberalism is aims to achieve democracy, peace, free trade as well as international integration. Liberalism calls for commitment to tolerance as well as giving opportunity for right self-determination by citizens. It favors constitutional government which expresses the people’s democracy and that which applies collective rule of law.
Liberalism requires that citizens in a state be given the opportunity to realise intellectual and economic liberty; this should form the basis for political order which applies minimal government regulation. In this case, the government’s role is to protect and promote the citizens economic and intellectual liberty. Liberalism also gives individuals the opportunity to follow their own initiatives (Evans and Newnham 1998, p.46).
According to Evans & Newnham (1998 p.61) liberalism is founded on four core beliefs in international relations. Liberalism believes that peace can be best achieved by developing and strengthening democratic institutions on a global basis.
It founded on the ideology that treaties and laws should be consensus-oriented and that state preference and not state capabilities should be the principal determinants of the conduct of every state. This implies that each state is given the opportunity to carry out an analogy into its domestic level concerning individual motivation of its citizens while pursuing positive international relations.
It also believes that a natural harmony would enable nations and individuals make rational calculations which help integrate international interests and national interests. Thus liberalism encourages tolerance of preference through democratic institutions which are strengthened by enlightened educational institutions. This would help promote rational calculations individuals and states and hence reduce the chances of wars.
It acknowledges that preferences usually vary in states depending on the type of government, economic system and the culture of the country. Since it is governments that make war and not the people, establishing governments which represent the popular will of citizens and governance systems which employ democracy is most likely to encourage peace (Evans and Newnham 1998, p.62).
It is also founded on the belief that disputes are better solved through established judicial procedures which are instituted and operate under the rule of law. Since the rule of law applies to states just the same way it applies to individuals, it is therefore fundamental to establish a voluntary international judicial organization to fulfill international legislative functions.
This system should be able to preserve tolerance by encouraging as much independence and freedom among nations as possible. Finally, its other core belief is that collective security measures would effectively substitute the notion of self-help among states.
The ideology of liberalism believes that the international community is able to identify belligerents by putting in place an effective alliance of law-abiding institutions and nations to oppose such forces. Thus liberalism is the ideology under which the United Nations and the League of Nations were established and have developed (Evans and Newnham 1998, p.62).
Liberalism also believes on devising and implementing cooperative international economic institutions so as to enhance integration of international markets (Garrett 2000, p.108). Such actions are also aimed at achieving international economic stability.
This has been the basis of foundations for institutions for fixed exchange rates and international monetary institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and international economic organizations such as World Trade Organization. In achieving effective international economic institutions states should have the autonomy to pursue their social and economic objectives while ensuring the rules and policies of the international relations (Garrett 2000, p.108).
Marxism is founded on the idea that change and improvement of society can be best achieved by implementing socialism. In Marxist regimes the majority population spends their lives working to benefit the few rich wealthy ruling class. It applies the ideology of imperialism which integrates economic and geopolitical competition among nations (Prichard, 2007, p.409).
Marxist political economy is closer to the economics as compared to the political economy of states. It was founded on the basis of internalisation of capital, interpenetration of private capital as well as nation-state (Harvey 1999, p.242).
Marxism isolates the predispositions and laws of capitalism so as to understand the direction of capitalism; and in this case the direction of capitalism is in four phases which include the beginning, maturity, decline and finally death (Harvey 1999, p.242). This helps it identify the transition and the successor to the particular society. This implies that Marxism has a period of inherent instability as it has decline and death phases (Prichard, 2007, p.409).
In Marxism, financial capital plays a major role and as such states are rated and treated in accordance with their financial capital. It is more dependent on capital and imperialism (Prichard, 2007, p.430). Marxism employs various pragmatic measures to ensure that the finance capital achieves its goal. Marxism requires that regulations are imposed to control economic activities while pursuing the goal so as to ensure maximum profit in the least possible time (Prichard, 2007, p.430).
Marxism is characterised by; division of class, state promotion of social mobility; and provision of support to medium-sized and small businesses. These are aimed at making the social order more stable by exercising control over the poor majority. In countries that employ Marxism ideologies, regionalism, racism homophobia, xenophobia are bound to be experienced although developed states have laws prohibiting such kind of discrimination (Prichard, 2007, p.415).
Marxism integrates capitalist systems of control to achieve surplus productions (Prichard, 2007, p.415). Forces are only applied during crisis in mature systems particularly when the system is threatened. In Marxism, states labour exists in an abstract form aimed at creating quantities (surplus) for sale.
Thus the forms of control on production put in place according to Marxism are only concerned with quantity and not the welfare of the workforce. It ensures that the forms of control is particular to the means of production and is also in line with capitalistic ideals. Marxism states that competition should aim at reducing labour to its homogenised form (Prichard, 2007, p.415).
Marxism discourages the establishment of trade unions or company unions and therefore adopts several strategies to contain the workforce either by making concessions to them or even through direct repressions. It believes that such unions have political effect and can therefore lower quality and the quantity of production and as such limit the ability of firms to expand (Prichard, 2007, p.428).
Marxism does not apply social democracy since it is likely to threaten their rule. It applies various strategies to prevent unionisation of workers. Such measures may include casualisation of labour, creating divisions between long-term and temporary workers among many other tactics.
Marxism also discourages establishment of legal institutions which promote human rights either through direct oppression of human rights groups or through other illegal forms which weaken the human rights groups. It promotes the growth of the middle class since this group would enable implementation of authoritarian regimes whenever the movement of the society favoured their class (Prichard, 2007, p.428).
Marxism ensures political controls by applying bureaucracy and by applying political-legal forms of control on recruitment into the civil service (Prichard, 2007, p.410). A few individuals who control the political economy of such states control the forms of communication to ensure that vital political information are channeled through privately owned media so as to communicate agendas that favour them.
They also apply economic pressures over the individuals in the nation especially the majority low class population. Such states have highly autocratic political economic systems which are practised under the guise of democracy. In such systems, only individuals in high positions in the state are consulted. They are also not ordered on what to do but are assumed to know the best options for the system.
Such states also work to preserve a flourishing small business sector. This is mainly controlled by the public sector and the few professional middle class group thus ensuring that this group climbs up the social and economic ladder. Such states promote more and more privatisation of the public services.
Marxism encourages monopoly in the economy since the rich firms and entrepreneurs supply the small businesses with almost everything. The regulations and laws defending competition are not very effective. Such policies which protect the interests of a small rich majority are bound to bring polarisation in such states. Marxism applies socialisation of labour and production. These are bound to destabilise the internal political economic systems (Nealon 2008, p.61).
In Marxist regimes, markets are more regulated and are limited in their operations (Nealon 2008, p.54). The markets are determined by the pool of labour and the surplus production. It believes that opening up the market for the international community is bound to threaten the national economic stability and that of the few rich individuals who monopolise the economic sectors of the state.
In imperialism, free trade is destructive and is a potential cause of inter-imperialist conflict (Prichard, 2007, p.417). States which practice the ideology of imperialism or Marxism in that case believe that having direct control over the spigots where the most essential commodity in the global economy would certainly enable strengthen their economic positions and therefore have an edge over their key rivals (Garrett 2000, p.116).
Marxists regimes are likely to apply political and military wars in attempts to solve their economic crisis. Geopolitical rivalries form part dynamic imperialism. Inter-imperialist conflicts normally lead to warfare. Thus unlike liberalist states, such regimes do not believe in forming voluntary international judicial system for solving inter-state or international conflicts. Thus internationally, imperialist states dependent more on their military strength to defend their political economies (Garrett 2000, p.116).
Liberalism is bent towards political economy while Marxism is more concerned with economics and maximization of profits. Liberalism believes in equal rights and individual liberty as Marxism supports the ideology of differentiation of social class and struggle to achieve higher order social class.
States which adopt liberalisms in their governments and governance structure believe in democracy and giving individuals economic and intellectual freedom while Marxism believes in authoritarian rule where individuals are controlled by applying economic pressure on them.
Liberalism promotes democracy through institutions to encourage human rights while Marxism discourages establishment of institutions that promote individual rights. Institutions such as trade unions are seen to affect the capacity of the state and the regime to achieve maximum production and profit.
Liberalism promotes liberal democracy which promotes active political participation by all the individuals and encourages their participation by enabling access to information. Marxism applies discriminative active political participation by applying bias in recruitments in political activities and public service. Marxism does not promote free flow of vital information to the general public and instead the wealthy ruling class use private media to present information which are subjective and which work for their benefits.
Liberalism also encourages free trade through formation of international economic communities and international economic policies. It applies minimal policy regulations on trade. Marxism on the other hand is bent on protecting economic monopoly by the wealthy class and therefore views economic integration of states as destructive to the economic stability of the state. It therefore works to excessively regulate trade activities.
Liberalism believes in achieving international justice through voluntary international judicial institutions which apply the rule of law while at the same time ensuring independence and freedom of individuals and states. Marxism believes in achieving solutions to geopolitical conflicts through political and military wars.
In order to achieve democratic societies which respect the rule of law and promotes human rights governments and the international community should aim at implementing the ideals liberalism. Marxism is more authoritarian and would encourage more oppression on individuals as well as civil and international wars. Adopting the ideology of liberalism globally would encourage peaceful coexistence and stable economic growth to individuals and states.
Evans, G., & Newnham, J., 1998, The Penguin dictionary of international relations. New York: Penguin.
Garrett, G., 2000, Shrinking states? Globalization and national autonomy. In the political economy of globalization. ed. Ngaire Woods, 107-46. London: Macmillan.
Harvey, D., 1999, Limits to Capital. London: Verso. Pp. 239-324.
Nealon, J.. 2008. Genealogies of Capitalism. Stanford: Stanford UP. Pp.54-73.
Prichard, C., 2007. Responding to class theft: Theoretical and empirical links to critical management studies. Rethinking Marxism, Vol.19, No. 3, pp. 409-421.