Neoidealism and the Democratic Peace

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Henderson, Errol A. (1999) Neoidealism and the Democratic Peace , Journal of Peace Research 36(2): 203–.

While analysts hail the democratic peace as an empirical vindication of neoidealist precepts of world politics, actually it is inconsistent with them. Neoidealism focuses on the role of international regimes - not shared political regime type - in reducing the probability of interstate conflict. In this article, I suggest a more consistent neoidealist conceptualization of the stability among democratic dyads. Focusing on the postwar era, I maintain that a combination of factors, including bipolarity, nuclear deterrence, alliance membership, and trade links, contributed to the formation of an international security regime among the major power democracies and their minor power democratic allies. Further, I maintain that the presence of this international regime and not simply joint democracy allowed for the postwar stability among democratic dyads. While democracy may have been associated with the creation of a security regime at the behest of the Western democracies led by the USA, the expansion and maintenance of this regime (and its conflict dampening attributes) are rooted, to a greater extent, in the interplay of alliance-aggregation and security externalities of trade. This argument is consistent with neoidealist precepts and by focusing on the role of security regimes it contributes to the neoidealist research program.