Liberalism was based on 18th-century enlightenment. The guiding principle is that education and reasoning are important in improving the state of the world. This would be achieved through international cooperation and support for mutual interests.
The driving principle of realism asserts that it is "characteristic inherent in every human to seek supremacy". This further implies that states are in a permanent state of war, offensively or defensively based on their interests.
The two schools of thought are different in that:
The neorealists assert that the global conflicts are difficult if not impossible to resolve because most nations involved in the resolutions are doing as much as is viably possible. On the other hand, liberals believe that global conflict can be reduced by building up trust and improving the access to information. The liberals believe that this would reduce the impediment on cooperation among the different countries and international institutions.
The liberals believe that the institutions working to reduce conflicts are independent entities with the capacity to make mutually acceptable decisions. On the other hand, the neorealists argue that the institutions are basically, state mechanisms, where cooperation is based on the states’ special interests.
The two are similar in that:
- The neorealists and the liberals believe that not all state interests conflict.
- Further, states accumulate power for the purpose of securing their individual interests.