Leonie Holthaus | 2021

Democratic Peace as a Horizon of Expectation: Liberalism and Pluralism Revisited

in: Springer International Publishing

In this chapter, I approach international political theory (IPT) as democratic theory via the pluralist tradition. I begin by observing a severe mismatch: while practice-driven observations prompted the (re-)introduction of IPT, the theory’s internal logics continue to favour theory-driven arguments, as evident in cosmopolitan democratic theory. Against this backdrop, I make an historical and theoretical argument to further engaged democratic theorizing within IPT. Historically, I revisit British twentieth-century pluralism vis-à-vis liberalism to reveal the long but forgotten history of IPT and the potential of a practice-driven IPT. This historical weaving bears the argument that we best define pluralism on the basis of opposition to oligarchy, criticism of representative democracy and concern with peace-promoting civil society activism. By implication, pluralists, rather than liberals, contributed to democratic peace’s emergence into a modern horizon of expectation. Then, I posit that three trends, or theoretical ruptures, lead to the marginalization of emancipatory perspectives on democratic peace theory: the respective rises of positivism and quantitative liberal democratic peace theory, and declining trust in democratization. Still, there are promising trends such as the newfound consideration of civil society activism as a necessary ingredient of democratic peace.

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