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Liberalism and World Politics


  • Doyle, Michael W.


Building on a growing literature in international political science, I reexamine the traditional liberal claim that governments founded on a respect for individual liberty exercise “restraint†and “peaceful intentions†in their foreign policy. I look at three distinct theoretical traditions of liberalism, attributable to three theorists: Schumpeter, a democratic capitalist whose explanation of liberal pacifism we often invoke; Machiavelli, a classical republican whose glory is an imperialism we often practice; and Kant, a liberal republican whose theory of internationalism best accounts for what we are. Despite the contradictions of liberal pacifism and liberal imperialism, I find, with Kant and other democratic republicans, that liberalism does leave a coherent legacy on foreign affairs. Liberal states are different. They are indeed peaceful. They are also prone to make war. Liberal states have created a separate peace, as Kant argued they would, and have also discovered liberal reasons for aggression, as he feared they might. I conclude by arguing that the differences among liberal pacifism, liberal imperialism, and Kant's internationalism are not arbitrary. They are rooted in differing conceptions of the citizen and the state.

Suggested Citation

  • Doyle, Michael W., 1986. "Liberalism and World Politics," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1151-1169, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:80:y:1986:i:04:p:1151-1169_18

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