Economic interdependence, the democratic state, and the liberal peace

Other Article (Chapter)

The debate about the relationship between economic interdependence and military conflict is one of the oldest in the field of international relations. Most recently, this debate has been dened by the starkly contrasting conclusions of John R. Oneal and Bruce M. Russett (Oneal and Russett 1997, 1999a; Russett and Oneal 2001; see also Oneal et al. 1996) on the one hand, and Katherine Barbieri (1996, 1998) on the other. While Oneal and Russett contend that economic interdependence promotes peace, Barbieri suggests that it can actually promote conict. These scholars differ in their research choices with regard to such important matters as the rules for data inclusion and the range of countries that should be analyzed. However, they converge in a decision to conceptualize their research question as one of trying to understand the individual, independent impacts made by economic interdependence and democracy on the occurrence of military conflicts between nations. We seek in this chapter to explore a new path for analyzing democracy, interdependence, and war. Specifically, we explore the possibility that the impact of trade and democracy may be contingent upon one another. We ground this interest in the possible interaction between economic interdependence and democracy in a review of the work of Immanuel Kant and a number of modern writers on interdependence and on the domestic incentives of political leaders. We contend that this literature implies that economic interdependence may reduce the risk of war between democracies but exacerbate the risk of such conflicts between nondemocracies. Thus-along with Oneal and Russett- we suggest that the classic liberals may indeed have been right, but in a manner more complex than anticipated by many modern scholars. Rather than the two acting independently, the combined influence of democracy and interdependence may create a powerful web of constraint that reinforces the zone of peace among increasingly interdependent democracies. However, the absence of mutual democracy may vitiate the pacifying effect of economic interdependence between nations. In terms of the paths of future research discussed by Edward D. Mansfield and Brian M. Pollins in the introduction to this volume, we view this work as an effort to substantiate the microfoundations of the liberal peace. Our contention is that the liberal peace cannot be understood without taking into account the incentives that state leaders have to engage in international conflict and the way that domestic political institutions shape and determine those incentives. Copyright © by the University of Michigan 2003. All rights reserved.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gelpi, C; Grieco, JM

Published Date

  • December 1, 2003

Start / End Page

  • 44 - 59

International Standard Book Number 10 (ISBN-10)

  • 0472098276

Citation Source

  • Scopus