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Towards a Critical Theory of Democratic Peace

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2011


The Democratic Peace research programme remains a prominent and influential strand of International Relations theory. It occupies a central place in the discipline, both as a dominant version of liberal internationalism, and as a supposedly paradigmatic case demonstrating the strengths of positivist scholarship. Nonetheless, Democratic Peace scholarship has been challenged by recent real world events, notably the belligerent behaviour of democratic states during the so-called ‘War on Terror’, and the use of its findings to justify the US led invasion of Iraq. In this regard, Democratic Peace research has struggled to deal with the ethical and practical consequences of its work, as the focus has been on empirically observable and testable problems that fit within the remit of positivist social scientific practice. Responding to this state of affairs, it is argued here that there is a pressing need to further extend and pluralise existing scholarship by incorporating approaches which commence from different ontological, epistemological and methodological starting points. While there are multiple possibilities, Frankfurt School Critical Theory has great potential to contribute to an expanded research agenda. The article outlines what a Critical Theory approach to the study of Democratic Peace would entail, highlighting the substantial contribution it can make.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2011

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