What Is Political Idealism?

political-idealism Credit: Keith Kissel/CC-BY 2.0

Political idealism is the belief that people are inherently good and that, in large numbers with similar values, they are encouraged to demonstrate their inherent goodness. It is considered a liberal ideal.

Political idealism is a term popularly used in reference to global relations and is based on the theories put forth by Immanuel Kant in his essay "Perpetual Peace." In it, Kant asserts several key factors. The first is that the long-term overall picture is more important than the short-term detail-focused one, and that nations should work together in cooperation to encourage the development of programs and organizations that promote this viewpoint. Second, democracy is the best political system. Kant believed that developed democracies with educated populations are the least likely societies to be willing to engage in war. This is based on the idea that citizens of democratic nations are satisfied because they have a voice in their government. Finally, states should actively engage in the trade of goods and services with each other. Trade promotes universally healthy economies, which leads to contentment and peace. Political idealism is often presented in contrast to political realism, which maintains that power and not peace is the true goal of nations when they engage in relations with each other.