The Liberal Moment Fifteen Years On

Non-refereed Journal Article

Gleditsch, Nils Petter (2008) The Liberal Moment Fifteen Years On, International Studies Quarterly 52(4): 691–712.

Fifteen years ago, Charles Kegley spoke of a neoidealist moment in international relations. This article examines how the number of armed conflicts has declined in the decade and a half since Kegley's presidential address and shows that the severity of war has been declining over a period of over six decades. The number of countries participating in war has increased, but this is in large measure due to coalition-building in several recent wars. Overall, there is a clear decline of war. It seems plausible to attribute this to an increase in the three factors identified by liberal peace theorists: democracy, trade, and international organization. Four alternative interpretations are examined: the temporary peace, the hegemonic peace, the unsustainable peace, and the capitalist peace. The article concludes that the latter, while running close to the liberal peace interpretation, also presents the greatest challenge to it. Indeed, we seem to be living in a commercial liberal period rather than a world of neoidealism.

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Nils Petter Gleditsch

Nils Petter Gleditsch

Research Professor