International Relations Political Science Term Paper

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political motive should be allowed to exercise within the context of morality otherwise the strongest will flourish at the expense of the weakest. The accommodation of morality within political decision-making is the essence of the central argument presented by Immanuel Kant in his work, "Perpetual Peace." This paper begins by summarizing Kant's "Perpetual Peace" and goes on to identify the realist and liberal aspects of his work. The paper ends by discussing the compatibility of Kant's ideas with classical realism.



The current international political environment is tilting towards a New World Order. This is due to the visible tension that is a product of interaction between the major world powers along with their national interests and the lesser world powers. This tension stems primarily from the desire to maintain power and protect one's own national interests at the expense of others. Several philosophers have suggested various methods to handle international politics through their works. One such work is "Perpetual Peace" by Immanuel Kant. The central argument presented by Kant rests on the interplay of practical political behavior and morality, which he considers the most important ingredients in maintaining perpetual peace.


The two World Wars have provided us with substantial data to support the thesis which states that perpetual peace cannot be maintained without morality guiding prudent political behavior. Therefore any layman, not acquainted with Kant, can acknowledge the fact that all kinds of political action are fraught with deception, lies, cruelty and self-interest. This makes political action morally questionable phenomenon. And this is Kant's central lament. However Kant is not propagating some Utopian political model; instead he is rather sure of the moral possibilities that might or might not exist along with the political behavior though he does maintain his stance regarding the political behavior as it should be in comparison to what it actually is. Therefore Kant's primary interest is convincing the reader regarding the practicality of combining politics with morality.

Kant describes the central importance of morality in politics. He maintains that a modern political state with established democracies cannot and should not work on power arrangements and strategies alone. As a moralist, Kant believes that politics should not be a function of material self-interest where the most consuming thought is to gain one's way at the expense of morals and in the end, peace. Instead, Kant suggests that there should be a limit to what politics should be allowed to do. This is applicable through a morally aware politician "who so interprets the principles of political prudence that they can be coherent with morality" (Kant, 1998) thus maintaining the "limiting condition of politics" (Kant, 1998). This point is central to Kant's suggestion for universal peace because he believes that in event of complete reliance upon political acumen, the basis for maintaining international cooperation and thus peace is eliminated. Furthermore, Kant believes that in event of total reliance on political prudence, politics will become a function of power struggles between those independent states which join the competition for greatest amount of power. In order to avoid politics from becoming a function of power struggles, Kant believes that there should be an in depth obligation to a moral code which is an essential ingredient in maintaining international peace.

Kant's argument can be understood in the context of major world powers which feel that they are superior to the rest on the grounds of material success. Any such world power will not exercise restraint in absence of a moral code. It will keep devising ways of conquering the rest and increasing the extent of its power for the simple pleasure of political gains. Kant believes that the absence of a moral code is the reason why all plans for meting out human rights tend to end up becoming just lip service; hence peace cannot be maintained or achieved.

It is interesting to note here that Kant is the first philosopher who writes about maintaining permanent peace at all times and discusses the ways and possibilities for the same. All the philosophers or thinkers who have come before Kant, have somehow or the other given the idea that warfare is an inevitable state of being for nations in a political environment.

It is apparent that Kant is convinced that the ingredient missing from the process of perpetual peace is the moral code. He wants to convince the reader that there are imperative reasons for believing in submission of political strategies, efficient and even effective display of political power, to the scrutiny of moral evaluation. He also wants the reader to realize that political behavior as it is, is morally incorrect and does not result in perpetual peace and that accommodating morality within political decisions what we ought to do. If the reader accepts this central argument, can he possibly benefit from Kant's literary skills. However Kant has also put forward firm grounds for believing in his argument for rational morality.

Kant keeps painting the other side of the picture as well so that the reader is put in the uncomfortable position of deliberating and deciding about the consequences of not believing in his paradigm towards world history. Since the reader is well intentioned and wants perpetual peace but does not have any guidelines or knowledge regarding how to achieve it, his failure to understand and give sufficient importance to Kant's theory deprives him of a code of political conduct. Secondly Kant seems to argue that in acceptance of the belief that there is indeed a need for morality in politics, a reader cannot just take the first belief without the second one. The corollary to the first is even more imperative which states that any politics based on self-interest or display of power for national survival and advancement is self-defeating in the process of moral politics. In absence of a moral code of conduct, politics is left to be guided by various, even dangerous survival tactics that in turn depend upon opportunism, deceit and cruelty. Thirdly Kant has made an empirical statement where he views the world history and in light of historical facts, states that prudential politics without the guidance of morality, is not always successful. In fact, Kant has used facts to illustrate that in event of employing prudential politics which serve self-interests only, the outcome can prove to be rather self-defeating. Therefore to base desire for perpetual peace upon prudent politics is faulty. Lastly, Kant makes a deterministic statement, in the second half of the book. He suggests that since forces of nature are already at work in trying to assert perpetual peace, human failure to do so will only result in disaster. As history repeats itself, it will force human beings to accommodate moral considerations into political conduct. This is because the evolutionary nature of the universe will gradually result in increasing awareness and desire for peaceful coalitions at the international level. However, Kant asserts that as rational human beings, it is our duty to take part in this evolutionary process, "to make the state of public right actual, though only through an unending process of approximation to it...." (Kant, 1998).

In conclusion, it can be stated that the central argument of Kant's "Perpetual Peace" is centered on accommodation of morality into political conduct. However, Kant makes it abundantly clear that this very belief is going to assert itself as it is the end goal in the evolutionary process. In Kant's words, "Perpetual peace is guaranteed by no less an authority than the great artist Nature herself. The mechanical process of nature visibly exhibits the purposive plan of producing concord among men, even against their will and indeed by means of their very discord."


The Realist theorists believe that it is important to acknowledge the importance of morality within political conduct but they state that it is not possible to accommodate morality as it is. It needs to be "filtered through the concrete circumstances of time and place" (Hans). Similarly, Kant also takes a very realist stance when he states that democracy cannot guarantee perpetual peace as opposed to popular thinking that democracy is the only tool for domestic and international peace. Kant does favor, in fact considers it to be of supreme importance, consensual government but is very opposed to the idea of democracy. Kant is more interested in "form of government" rather than "form of sovereignty" where how power is exercised is more important to him. Kant recognizes the lack of political prudence to the process of democracy where the executive is not separate from the legislature, thus there are chances that there is no one to stop the executive from serving his own interest rather than that of the nation. This would result in lack of political prudence at the international level since it diminishes the political power of that particular nation.

The second half of the book that contains the Definitive…[continue]

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