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A liberal approach - the only explanation for the Democratic Peace Proposition? (ein liberaler Zugang - die einzige Erklärung für den "demokratischen Frieden"?

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2004 19 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Allgemeines und Theorien




I. Introduction

II. A liberal approach of the DPP
II. I The main liberal explanations for the DPP
II. II Criticism of a liberal DPP interpretation

III. An Alternative explanations for the DPP
III. I The end of an illusion?
Henderson's explanation of the DPP
III. II Critic of Hendersons explanation

IV. The Democratic Peace meets the International Institutions

V. The future of the DPP?

VI. Need for more complex theorie

VII. References


This thesis asks if a liberal approach is today the only way to explain the DPP. As an alternative Hendersons explanation of the DPP – a mix of (neo) realistic and institutional arguments – will be introduced. It will turned out that neither a pure liberal explanation nor a pure realistic one are suitable to explain the DPP nowadays. Globaliziation and the rising number of international institutions influence the behaviour of states as well as domestic politics and the anarchy in the international system do. To give satisfactorily answers why the DPP is still a stable one more complex theories are necessary: Theories which combine “images” and which are more adaptable towards changes in the international system than the traditional realistic and liberal approaches.

I. Introduction

In the early 80s political scientists discovered that they overlooked something. Earlier there was an agreement that democracies act as war prone in their foreign policy as non-democracies. The US was fighting in Vietnam; Great Britain in the Falklands and France was fighting in India and Africa, only to name three examples.

It was generally assumed that domestic politics had no influence on the foreign policy of a state. Michael Doyle initiated a dramatic change in this point of view in 1983.[1] He suggested that there was a huge and important difference between democracies and non-democracies: democracies do not – or very seldom – fight each other. Since this time uncountable numbers of essays were published, which tried to find an answer for this correlation called the DPP – the Democratic Peace Proposition. Most of them take a liberal approach, and today the liberal approach for explaining the DPP is the leading one. Although there are a lot of scientists working in this field, there are still questions, which cannot be answered with a liberal approach. In the first part of my thesis I will introduce the main arguments and aspects of the liberal explanation of the DPP and show in a separate part where this approach failed. Based on these findings I will introduce the (neo)-realistic approach as an alternative explanation for the DPP – particularly the explanation that is represented by Erol Henderson. As well as in the first section I will show at the end the problems and contradictions of this theory. In the last part of my thesis I will bring these two approaches together and try to give an answer to question, if today a (neo) realistic approach – faced by a superior number of liberal explanations – can help to explain the DPP or show aspects of the DPP which can not be analysed by a liberal point of view. I will also give a short overview of research fields which consider if perhaps both theories, the liberal and the realistic one, failed in a context of globaliziation.

II.A liberal approach of the DPP

II.I The main liberal explanations for the DPP

The main assumption, which is used for liberal explanations of the DPP, is that the use of violence in foreign policy is connected with domestic power and interests. Liberals argue that governments act in social contexts. So foreign affairs are strongly linked to the political system. A democratic system – that’s the crucial point for the liberals – leads to more peaceful behaviour in foreign affairs and makes these states so called doves in the international system.[2] To explain how it happens that a democratic system has such an influence on the behaviour of a states Kant and his essay Zum ewigen Frieden: Ein philosophischer Entwurf is often used:

“Wenn (…) die Beistimmung der Staatsbürger dazu erfordert wird, um zu beschließen, ob Krieg sein soll oder nicht, so ist nichts natürlicher, als dass, da sie alle Drangsale des Krieges über sich selbst beschließen müssten (als da sind: selbst zu fechten; die Kosten des Krieges aus ihrer eigenen Habe herzugeben; die Verwüstung, die er hinter sich lässt, kümmerlich zu verbessern; zum Übermaß des Übels endlich noch eine den Frieden selbst verbittende, nie (wegen naher, immer neuer Kriege) zu tilgende Schuldenlast selbst zu übernehmen), sie sich sehr bedenken werden, ein so schlimmes Spiel anzufangen“.[3]

In short: Liberals argue that for citizens wars are a nightmare. The consequence: democratic elected governments will need good reasons to go to war. Otherwise they risk loosing the confidence of their citizens and the chance to keep in power after the next elections are low. The way around this is a non-democratic system not too much dependent on the question of if its citizens like what they do or not. Usually in non-democratic systems elites decide about the preference of the state. These elites have naturally a different attitude towards wars. The reason is that they have the possibility of profiting from war („die Gewinne zu privatisieren”[4] ) but shift the costs on society (“die Kosten zu sozialisieren”[5] ). Another important aspect in the liberal argumentation is the political culture of a country. Liberals argue that a democratic system usually has a culture established which functions through a “Live-and-let-live” attitude and this influences the relation to other countries as well, because in such a culture, the citizens expect their governments to use as little violence as possible. That this peaceful behaviour is first of all visible towards other democratic states has for Russet a simple reason[6]: Democratic governments are not able to identify that non-democracies have the same restrictions using violence. Because of that there is a deep distrust towards non-democracies. The security dilemma works out here for the worst. The democratic country feels that it is necessary to be prepared against a strike of a non-democratic state. In some cases the democratic country may think that is necessary to strike pre-emptively against a non-democratic state. Something quite different occurs in the relation to another democratic state: the political elites know that it’s not possible to present the other state as a real danger. The chance that their citizens would accept such a war are low, the chance that if the government initiates a war against an other democratic state that the citizens will loose their confidence to their leaders is high. For a liberal explanation of the DPP there is the evidence that democracies are less war prone to each other. But they are also less war prone against states with a different political system, as you would expect from the international average.[7] Next to these direct measurements, which are expected from the liberal movement, there are some other results, which speak in favour for a liberal explanation of the DPP. For instance the field democracy and the management of international disputes, which uses a more dyadic approach. Dixon[8] and McLaughlin Mitchell both presented essays[9], which examined this issue. Dixons concludes: Compared to the international averagedemocracies tend to solve their conflicts with the help of third party dispute resolutions. McLaughlin argues in a similar way: her empirical analysis and concludes that the measured coefficient represents the impact of the proportion of democracies in the system on the probability of third party dispute settlement for democratic dyads. The coefficient for non-democratic dyad is negative. The coefficient for the interaction term is positive and significant as expected. The results supports her theoretical hypothesis that if the proportion of democracies increases, the probability of third party settlement increases for all dyads. The most important correlation: Non-democratic states are more likely to behave like democratic states, and adopt democratic norms, as the democratic proportion increases. It seems that non-democratic states are more likely to mimic behaviour characteristic of democratic interaction, such as the use of third party dispute solutions, as the proportion of democratic states in the system grows. The author ends with the proposal to examine in future works the evolution of other democratic norms. For instance the propensity for nations to uphold the international agreements that they sign. For liberals this is a crucial argument for a domestic cause of the DPP. To put it more abstractly, I will conclude my presentation of liberal explanations of the DPP with the following table, which summarize the most important categories of a liberal approach.


[1] Hasenclever, Andreas, 2003, Liberale Ansätze zum „demokratischen Frieden“. In: Siegfried Schieder and Manuela Spindler, Theorien der Internationalen Beziehungen, Oppladen, p. 199.

[2] Ibid., p. 202.

[3] Czempiel, Ernst-Otto, 1996, Kants Theorem. Oder: Warum sind Demokratien (noch immer) nicht friedlich? In: Zeitschrift für internationale Beziehungen 3/1, p. 79.

[4] Schieder and Spindler, p. 204.

[5] Ibid., p. 204.

[6] Ibid., p. 204.

[7] Russet, Bruce/ Oneal, David R./ Davis/ David R. 1998: The Third Leg of the Kantian Tripod for peace: International Organizations and Militarized Disputes, 1950-85, in: International Organization 52/3, p. 441-467.

[8] Dixon, Wiliam 1994: Democracy and the Peaceful Settlement of International Conflict, in: American Political Science Review 88/1, p. 14-32.

[9] McLaughlin Mitchel, Sara 2004: A Kantian System? Democracy and Third Party Conflict Resolution, Fothcoming in the American Journal of Political Science 46/4.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
472 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Freie Universität Berlin – Otto-Suhr-Institut
Democratic Peace Proposition Zugang Erklärung Frieden Demokratie




Titel: A liberal approach - the only explanation for the Democratic Peace Proposition? (ein liberaler Zugang - die einzige Erklärung für den "demokratischen Frieden"?