Small and Constrained vs. Large and Insular? The Role of Country Size and the Liberal Peace

Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 13 Sep 2010

See all articles by Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

University of Essex; International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

Erik Gartzke

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Existing conceptions of the liberal peace tend to emphasize the marginal effect of democracy, and assume that democracy has a homogeneous effect, independent of other attributes of states or dyads. We argue that a more meaningful assessment of the potential role of liberalism in international politics must consider net effects, taking into account differences in other features affecting state behavior, and how the effects of liberal factors may differ for small and large states. We show that common mechanisms highlighted in research on the liberal peace are unlikely to apply with equal force to large and small states. Large states are likely to be more insular, with a much higher capacity for unilateral action, and generally less interested in international cooperation. We show empirically that whereas standard liberal peace claims about the effects of democracy may characterize small democracies, large democracies tend to fight much more than the average for non-democracies.

Democracy fails to counteract the conflict proneness of large democracies, even when facing other democratic states. In this light, American exceptionalism may be seen as part of a more general tendency towards unilateralism for large and powerful states, including democracies.

Suggested Citation

Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede and Gartzke, Erik, Small and Constrained vs. Large and Insular? The Role of Country Size and the Liberal Peace (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643158

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (Contact Author)

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

Oslo
N-0260 Oslo
Norway

Erik Gartzke

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
San Diego, CA
United States

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