Democratic Peace Theory

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How can peace be measured? Well, when it comes to the topic of peace in the reality of today’s world, the absence of war becomes the introduction to this subject matter. In other words, deliberate policy can sometimes be a solution to perverse cycles of strife and brutality. Emmanuel Kant developed the theory of Democratic Peace so that democracies do not fight with each other, other than for the purpose of defending themselves. Kant first introduced this idea in his essay Perpetual Peace, in 1795. Although Emmanuel Kant’s work was way ahead of its time, the development of the Democratic Peace Theory has transformed world politics throughout the years for the betterment of the state of global democracy and peace. It is not necessarily as simple as it sounds, though.

As a matter of fact, there are three different theories of democratic peace. First, the monadic theory demonstrates that democracies have an aversion to war, and that they are more likely to be at peace because of this reason. The theory that is generally more accepted in society is the dyadic theory. This is the idea that democracies are always at peace with each other due to their common practice of democracy, but are prone to have conflict with other non-democratic states. Lastly, the systematic theory is the idea that the peace within international system increases when there are more democratic states (Dunne, Kurki & Smith, 2013).

The normative approach to the democratic peace theory is that peace will be present because democracies share common cultural and social norms, leading them to trust one another. Within institutional logic, the representatives of democracies are said to respond to the general public. Furthermore, these leaders are believed to go to war only when they know they are capable of winning. Interdependence theorizes that democracies gravitate towards free-market economies, henceforth opening up to international trade. As a result democracies all over the world would begin to have a sense of interdependence, allowing war to become less likely because it negatively affect all parties involved. These three theories are the foundation of what is known as the Kantian Triangle.

Democratic peace, when analyzed carefully, can produce many outcomes and findings. It is rare that democracies go to war against one another. In turn, an empirical law has been acquired within global politics. Although democracies are more likely to keep things peaceful, this does not mean that democracies have a lower chance of being involved in war than any other type of regime. In reality, there have been many empirical studies which show that the rate of overall involvement in war between non-democracies and democracies does not have a substantial difference.

The duality of these findings are what constitute the foundation of democratic peace. Just like any theory, democratic peace needs to be explained for the purpose of a whole and complete observation of the developments. For this reason, theorists focus on two things: peaceful affiliation amongst democracies and the involvement of war amongst democratic regimes. During the beginnings of research on democratic peace in the 1980s, there was more of a concentration on finding proof of the prosperity of whether or not democratic peace had the ability to be broken down into factual terms. In effect, theorists began to debate over the fitting definitions of the two fundamental concepts: peace and democracy.

The majority of studies found on defining these terms implement the bare definitions of democracy and peace. This meaning electoral democracy and the absence of war, as previously stated. Overall approval ratings and consolidation are also commonly considered. With this in mind, it has been found that there could be several abnormal cases that could be considered as war between certain democracies. Be that as it may, almost all of the countries that are observed in studies of democratic peace either do not completely qualify under the criteria for democracy, or any conflict that they were involved in did not turn into full-on disagreements. Under those circumstances, the general accordance is that the cases of so-called wars between those democracies do not discredit the proposition of democratic peace.

The second wave of research on democratic peace put more emphasis on findings of why democratic peace was able to exist. It was commonly noted at the time that the overall strength of these observations on the topic of democratic peace were still inadequate. There was an absence of credibility that could account for both components of the dual discovery. It was not until the third generation of research that theorists began to broaden their research and also find alternative explanations. The topic was approached with more perspectives and ideas. This allowed for new methods of investigation and significant research questions that were previously neglected, to be found. One of the main points that was finally expanded upon during this third wave of observational studies on democratic peace was the democracies involvement in war, including the substantial differences within their involvement.

Traditionally, when speaking on the different theories of democratic peace, there needs to be a distinction between monadic and dyadic alternatives. When approaching democratic peace in terms of dyadic logic, theorists investigate states, or dyads, in pairs. These approaches are based on the assumption that these democratic dyads hardly go to war against each other. Under those circumstances, democratic states are held to certain standards. In other words, they must be less hostile than mixed dyads and non-democratic states are with each other. On the contrary, the monadic approach states that democracies are generally less warlike than any other regime. This proposal is a comparison of the comprehensive democratic conflictual involvement, regardless of the variance of states. Nonetheless, there is a commonality within most studies of democratic peace. They administer second-level analyses, looking for originative factors mainly within the internal dimension of the state.

Emmanuel Kant is commonly considered an intellectual prototype to the present-day democratic peace theory. In his influential essay, Kant comes up with three different ways to promote and cultivate peace amidst societies and nations: (1) the existence of a “republican constitution”, in which Kant describes the necessity of approval from the public prior to military involvement or force, (2) the positive and democratic effects of intimate trade relations, or the “spirit of commerce”, and (3) a union of states to reduce lawlessness on the scale of international politics (Mello, 2014). Provided that Kant’s third method highlights the emphasis on international law, the foundation of his first two methods basically rely on practical cost-benefit calculations. Kant speculates that, in effect, citizens would not want to go to war if it directly affected them, thus promoting peaceful relations within participating states. Correspondingly, if states were to have devoted trade relations with each other, Kant concludes that it would be illogical for those states to go to war, due to the fact that it would mutually endanger their welfare.

As much as Kant’s Perpetual Peace is commonly referred back to in the research of democratic peace, studies have mainly focused on the first method proposed. In this, it is concluded that the idea of a representative democracy is the equivalent to Kant’s “republican constitutions” (Mello, 2014). Works amongst the rational choice attitude have interpreted Kant’s discourse as a determination of the kind of political expenses come with initiating war. The damage caused can be relentless, no matter the states involved, because of the possibility of national disapproval, public uprisings, jurisdictive interference, casualties, and the deficit of national wealth. For this reason, due to the general aversion of these risks by political representatives, they are expected to be unwilling to the use of military force. Nonetheless, some studies make sure to include all three of the methods that Kant developed. They come to the conclusion that democracy, economic interdependence and international organizations are factors that collectively reinforce peaceful relations between states.

Starting from the beginnings of research on democratic peace, theorists developed their ideas that focused on two explanations. Respectively, they mainly emphasized institutions and norms. An argument that could be considered dominant within normative standards believes that democracies project their domestic views of resolutions to conflict when they interact with other states internationally. Advocates of this proposal presume that states, when dealing with other states, naturally implement their national democratic norms of conflict resolution and political competition.

In effect, these democracies who are interacting with each other uphold one another to these norms, stressing conflict resolution in a peaceful manner. This can be achieved through political compromise and negotiations. However, democracies recognize the apprehensive and turbulent nature of global relations. This awareness is what makes democracies project their domestic norms when they know there will be reciprocation, like with other democracies. When democracies decide to interact with non-democracies, though, they try to accommodate to the latter so that they can avoid potential threats or exploitations by non-democratic regimes.

This whole idea of projecting democratic ideas upon any state-to-state interaction by democracies does give off the idea that it is an explanation for both peaceful affiliation between democracies and non-peaceful relations between non-democracies. Rather, if this idea is drawn out logically, then this argument of externalization must suggest that democracies in general should be less likely to be involved in armed conflict than any other regime and that democracies would only be prone to conflict if they are attacked. Neither of these two conclusions demonstrate the theories that have been researched on democracy and their involvement in war.

Henceforth, a development of the normative argument drew attention towards the function of mutual perceptions. This logic implies that other states are only regarded as legitimate by democracies when those states practice ideologies, institutions and values that parallel theirs. Moreover, states who are governed democratically are recognized as predictable and reliable. In effect, states that are non-democracies who rule despotically are recognized as unstable and unpredictable. This means peaceful relations are possible amongst democratic states, but simultaneously fosters hostility amongst non-democratic regimes since they are seen as unjust and oppressive towards their own people. In effect, this reiterates collective identity and the impressions they give off. Hence, this development of the normative argument gives a better interpretation than the argument of projecting democratic views in all state-to-state interactions in its narrative for the dual findings of democratic peace.

Political institutions are the foundation of the second group of explanations of democratic peace. These interpretations consist of a variety of arguments that come from the separation of powers implicit to democratic governments and the accountability that decision-makers have towards numerous groups in society. This includes their involvement with the media and private interest groups, but it also includes citizens, the governing body, and the administration. The logic of institutional constraints implies that democratic representatives who do not have popular support amongst the citizens are almost repressed in the decisions they make by the need for public support, especially when it comes to matters of war and peace where the civilian and material consequences can be monumental. Therefore, some points of this argument imply that those democratic representatives will not act against the public opinion when it comes to war and peace. Provided that citizens as a whole are presumably drawn against war, according to the Kantian practical cost-benefit philosophy, the opinion of the public should be one of the biggest factors against engagement in armed conflict amongst democracies.

The argument of mobilization is an indication of how complex the process of military mobilization is. This logic implies that this adequately rules out the spontaneity of attacks or military operations, even if there were intentions from the political leaders to do so. In preparation for what may be an extensive war, the representatives of democracies must introduce an institutional process that is public and often times lengthy, in hopes of seeking the approval of the legislature and many other governmental organizations over time. During the mobilization process, conflicts are granted the opportunity of additional time so that political compromise, negotiations and resolutions of conflict are brought to the table. This contributes to the allowance of settling conflicts peacefully amongst democracies.

Lastly, the argument of transparency implies that democratic organizations practice dependable signaling in the event of a crisis. One of the biggest reasons war is started within international politics is because of security, which usually derives from the ambiguity of intentions from all those involved. The procedures implemented by democratic institutions enable transparency and they practice communicating their political goals with clarity. This practice reduces misjudgment and uncertainty about what the intentions of a political leader are. It also allows other countries to comprehend the intent of a democratic government and their domestic stance. As a result, two democracies who may be involved in a disagreement should have the ability to come to a political compromise and settle things through negotiations rather than violence.

When it comes to the causal logic of democratic peace, there are three critical arguments that stand out. Firstly, it is thought that the commonly known differentiation between monadic and dyadic variations is not well-founded. While democratic peace seems to be a phenomenon between dyads, the majority of the current theories that are established are based on methods of the monadic ideology that all democracies are generally prone to peace. Secondly, it has been argued that conflicting tendencies can be traced back to theories that currently exist. The logic behind its cause can go two ways: toward peace, but also towards aggressive action.

For example, liberal norms have the ability to both aggravate military action against non-democratic states the same way they might enable peace between democratic regimes. Although the institutional logic argues that the public turns away from the idea of armed conflict, they can also be misinformed, misled or just completely aggressive – leading toward the democratic involvement of war. Lastly, the idea of reversed causality is argued to be the case. This meaning, countries only become democratic if their surroundings allow them to. On one hand, hostile regions that are prone to conflict may administer the idea of developing dictatorships, and on the other hand, parts of the world that are peaceful may foster the ideas of trade and social security to shift towards a more democratized state.

Although there have been various works compiled on the matter of peaceful relations between democracies, research has only just begun to expand the conduction of systematically analyzing democratic behavioral conflict outside of democratic peace. Correspondingly, there has not been a lot of research done in attempt to connect democratic peace theories that exist to theories of democratic conflict behavior. In light of the leading statistical approach to democratic conflict behavior, there has not been much comparative research conducted on various types of democracies and present-day conflicts.

Nonetheless, there has been a democratic shift in the studies of security in recent years. This turn has broadened research done on democratic peace, drawing the much needed attention to ‘democratic war’ as the instinctive turn on democratic peace. This includes analyzing events that lead to democratic engagement in war, the undeniable vagueness of liberalism, and the substantial variety across differing democratic states concerning their constitutional structure, political culture, domestic institutions and partisan politics.

Cite this paper

Democratic Peace Theory. (2022, Mar 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/democratic-peace-theory/



What is Kant perpetual peace theory?
Kant perpetual peace theory is the idea that peace can only be achieved if nations are governed by reason and not by force. This theory also states that all nations must have a republican form of government in order to achieve peace.
What is liberal democracy theory?
A political theory that upholds liberty as the most important goal, and democracy as the best means of achieving it.
What is the main idea of democratic peace theory quizlet?
The main idea of democratic peace theory is that democracies are more likely to cooperate with each other and less likely to go to war with each other.
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