A History of the Idealist Approach to International Relations
International relations as a field of study is guided by a number of major principles, theories and approaches, which hold varying ideas on how the international system is to run. Of these, two major theories guiding International Relations are: Realism and Liberalism (also known as Idealism). These two theories are at variance with each other with respect to their assumptions on: human nature, the nature of international system, inter-state relations, warfare and military wherewithal.
Idealism is largely interchangeable with liberalism; they are synonymous terms in international relations. The idealist approach has a history traceable to the 1600s with the intellectual contributions of John Locke, which drew up standards on how international relations should operate, based on liberalism. John Locke was an English philosopher and also an advocate for: equality, individual liberty, optimism towards human nature, peaceful human and inter-state relations. These constitute the premise on which modern day idealism is built.
Moving down the timeline of history, there were some other philosophers, thinkers and leaders who gave much thought and more light to idealism. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher who assessed the idealist approach to International Relations, from the standpoint of liberal internationalism. From this standpoint, Kant introduced a new liberal/idealist paradigm in inter-state relations, which was aimed at ending wars and promoting global peace.
Kant upheld a world political community, hinged on the same principles Locke advocated for. He believed that through this, politics of cooperation would be built rather than conflictual inter-state relations. It can be said that Kant built upon the foundation that was laid by John Locke with respect to the Idealist approach to International Relations.
Through the 19th and 20th century however, the world political system...