Date of Award

Spring 6-2-2016

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Bradley Murg

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Caleb Henry


International Relations Theory, International Political Economy, Philosophy of Science, Social Science, Political Philosophy, Liberalism


This paper summarizes the liberal theory of international politics offered by international relations theorist Andrew Moravcsik, and its development in relation to the insights of key liberal thinkers from the republican and commercial traditions. A discussion of the current status of a liberal paradigm of international politics is followed by a summary of the basic structure of Moravcsik’s theory. Moravcsik’s insights and their origins are then explored through the political philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kant’s impact on the development of the tradition of republican liberalism into a liberal theory of international relations is evaluated and its language is compared to that of Moravcsik. Similarly, the insights of commercial liberalism are considered through the lens of Adam Smith’s economic philosophy and the subsequent contributions of Joseph Schumpeter. Common conclusions of republican and commercial liberalism are compared before turning back to Moravcsik’s core argument for a structural and systemic liberalism. Ideational, commercial, and republican liberalism are then analyzed as the substance of Moravcsik’s theory before considering the broader implications of a paradigmatic reframing of liberalism. This paper then concludes by explaining the relevance of Moravcsik’s project to contemporary theories of international politics, its applicability, and its faithfulness to liberalism as a political philosophy. Not only does liberalism leave a coherent legacy on international affairs, its testable insights are faithfully codified in Moravcsik’s positivist model of international politics.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program

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