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The democratic peace research program and system-level analysis


  • Ewan Harrison

    () (Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis)


In a path-breaking article, Wade Huntley reinterpreted Kant's pacific union as a systemic phenomenon. This generated a new wave of inquiry into the evolutionary expansion of the democratic peace. The resulting literature examines how the effects of the pacific union vary over time and with the strength of the global democratic community. It investigates the possibility that the democratic zone of peace may spread through spillover effects, socialization dynamics, and positive feedback. In so doing, it has moved democratic peace research beyond the 'separate peace' formulation. Currently, however, this literature has accumulated insights on an ad hoc basis. New hypotheses have been developed and tested without systematically considering how these insights contribute to established knowledge about the democratic peace. This article uses philosophy of science criteria to assess the contributions of the systemic democratic peace literature. It shows how systemic analysis of the democratic peace is progressive in terms of Lakatos's methodology of scientific research programs. The article first considers how Lakatosian methodology has been applied to dyadic democratic peace research. Next, it refines this account of the democratic peace research program to make it more suitable for evaluating the contributions of the systemic literature. The last section shows systemic analysis is compatible with the Lakatosian vision of a cumulative series of theories (monadic-dyadic-systemic) building logically from a core assumption. It then uses the established structure of dyadic inquiry to frame a wide-ranging agenda for a second generation of democratic peace studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Ewan Harrison, 2010. "The democratic peace research program and system-level analysis," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 47(2), pages 155-165, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:47:y:2010:i:2:p:155-165

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