Authored by: David L. Rousseau , Thomas C. Walker

The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies

Print publication date:  November  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415463614
eBook ISBN: 9780203866764
Adobe ISBN: 9781135239077


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Liberalism is an expansive concept that carries a variety of meanings for students of politics. For Doyle (1997: 206), ‘liberalism resembles a family portrait of principles and institutions, recognizable by certain characteristics – for example, individual freedom, political participation, private property, and equality of opportunity’. In the realm of International Relations (IR), students look to liberalism to explain how human reason, progress, individual rights and freedoms can give rise to more peaceful interstate relations. Liberals predict that stable democracies and economically interdependent states will behave differently in several respects. First and most importantly, democratic states are less likely to initiate and escalate conflicts with other states (also known as the ‘democratic peace theory’). Second, democratic states are more likely to engage in international trade and investment, and the resultant interdependence will contribute to peace. Third, democratic states are more likely to seek cooperative solutions through international institutions. While there are significant differences between individual liberal thinkers, all have a general faith in the pacifying effects of political liberty, economic freedom, interdependence and international association.

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