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Liberalism and World Politics

  • Michael W. Doyle (a1)


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.



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