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Democratic Peace Theory. A Philosophical Reconsideration

Final Report Summary - DPTPR (Democratic Peace Theory. A Philosophical Reconsideration)

The project contributes to a renovation of democratic peace theory (DPT). It does so thorough a systematic study of Kant’s original theory which is intended both as term of comparison for assessing the contemporary versions of DPT and as theoretical instrument to deal with its most acute critiques. The following were the main original research objectives that were all to be pursued through the cooperation of the scientific supervisor at Columbia (Doyle) and the scientific supervisor of the returning phase (myself). In particular, points 1 through 6 had to be carried out in the outgoing phase through the cooperation of Professor Doyle, while points 7 through 9 with the cooperation of the researcher:
1) Reconstruction of Kant’s original thesis not only from the essay To Perpetual Peace (1795), but also from other relevant political writings such as the Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784), On the Common Saying: ‘This May Be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice’ (1792), The Metaphysics of Morals (1797), The Contest of the Faculties (1798). Also keen attention will be paid to Kant’s entire philosophy. The scientist in charge considers this broader context as essential for the full understanding of Kant’s theory of peace.
2) Analysis of the DPT debate from its “pre-history” – the pioneer paper by Dean Babst (1964, 1972), noticed and quickly dismissed by Small and Singer (1976) – to the start of a truly Lakatosian research programme through the work of Michael Doyle (1983a, 1983b) in the early eighties, up to the most recent contributions.
3) Comparison between the logic of the Kantian peace as reconstructed in 1) and the peace-conducive causal structures discussed in the contemporary debate as reconstructed in 2).
4) Identification of a improved version of DPT (henceforth DPT1): as a working hypothesis we hold that a probabilistic and monadic, as opposed to a deterministic and dyadic version of DPT, is both closer to Kant’s intentions and in a better position to rebut recent theoretical and empirical challenges (Rosato 2003, 2005).
5) Analysis of possible objections to DPT1. Among those foreseeable: a) current data suggest that democracies have fought in absolute terms roughly as many wars as autocracies. How is this compatible with the monadic interpretation? b) if democracies are inherently more peace-prone, we need to explain why the USA, the most solid and powerful democracy of our times, engaged in a series of covert actions against legitimate governments, often democratically elected (Kegley Hermann 1995; Forsythe 1992; Avilès 2005; Russett 2005) during the cold war period and why it embarked on the second Iraq war.
6) Refinement of DPT1 through a reply to the objections: a) a strengthening of the argument – already sketched by Russett and Oneal (2001) – according to which some democratic wars were either wars of direct or indirect self-defence (Reiter Stam, 2003), or wars for the protection of human rights, or, more interestingly, wars of “sick” democracies (Russett 2005); b) the analysis of the contribution to the debate on DPT offered by John Rawls in The Law of Peoples (Rawls 1999). Rawls holds that a certain degree of social justice within the democratic polity is necessary to ensure democracy’s faithfulness to its peaceful vocation. Arguably this element – novel even from a Kantian perspective – has gone almost unnoticed in the contemporary literature (Mousseau 2000). To be sure, in his seminal work Doyle (1983a) defined liberalism – the ideology responsible for the separate peace among democracies – as committed to “such social and economic rights as equality of opportunity in education and rights to health care and employment, necessary for self-expression and participation.” This passing reference, however, dropped quickly out of the debate and was not recovered until Rawls (1999), before being forgotten again.
7) Refinement of DPT1 through the question of whether a certain degree of social justice at the global level is another essential ingredient for peace. One can hardly doubt that the diffusion of democratic global institutions regulating trade and intellectual property rights, as well as a fair distribution of wealth worldwide, have an impact on the prospects of world security. It is by now conventional wisdom that current aspects of the economic global order facilitate the permanence of dictatorial regimes (Pogge 2008). It is also rarely disputed that poverty and violence are related variables. Yet surprisingly these assumptions do not seem to call for the scrutiny of scholars working within the democratic peace research programme.
8) Analysis of data available (Correlates of war Project, Freedom house, Polity IV) to check whether the causal link (envisioned in points 6) between international conduct of democracies and their internal distributive justice stand the proof of the facts. Similar empirical analysis about the causal relations envisioned in 7.

The scientist in charge (henceforth SiC) has so far achieved the objectives 1-4, mainly through the cooperation of Professor Doyle and other colleagues at Columbia University (mainly Professors Nadia Urbinati, Rashid Khalidi, Chiara Bottici). In the course of his study he realized that the remaining research objectives had to change. This decision was made because of the on-going intellectual confrontation between SiC and the researcher (myself). We agreed that a focus on IGOs for the last part of the research was both more feasibility and more scientifically sound. I didn't object to these changes because they make the project shaper. New research objectives are now as follows:

5) Normative point. Comparison and evaluation of the two alternative models (DPT and DPT1) no longer from the point of view of the hermeneutical faithfulness to Kant but rather from a normative point of view. This means that research will determine, quite independently of empirical data, which of the two models constructs a prima facie more credible recipe for the promotion of peace.

6) Empirical Point Selection of one of the pillars of DPT1 on which research will run an empirical test. The scientist-in-charge intends to focus on the relation between IGOs and peace, based on the second definitive article in Kant. He intends to run the empirical check in the form of two case studies.

7) Study of two non-democratic IGOs (the Arab League and ASEAN) to determine if, as expected in DPT1) they also promote peace and if they do it in the ways predicted in the normative account of DPT1.(point 6).

These objectives have been completed.

If, as everything seems to indicate, this research project will be completed according to the new plan, the societal implications will be considerable, as we will have normative and empirical grounds to redefine the approach that liberal countries (in primis the EU) have for the promotion of peace around the world. More in general we will have clearer and more effective indications for policies devoted to increase international security way beyond the totem of democracy promotion that has been mainstream because of the huge influence democratic peace theory has had on Atlantic foreign policy.

The research is part of the Project Globalization of the IRPPS-CNR and the internet site is: