Oslo Files on defence and security no. 1/2008
Title: The Democratic Peace Controversy. A Critical Survey
Author: Boris Barth
Since the 1960s the “democratic peace” theory (DP) has been extremely popular among political scientists, but there are a number of methodological problems attached to the exploration of DP theory. Quantitative tests with few variables raise the question of validity. How to distinguish between war and peace, and how to define democracy are but a few of the problems “democratic peace” theorists must encounter.
This study discusses several different concepts of democracy, showing that there has been a huge variety of more or less democratic systems through history; a point which is often lost when using cases spanning over a highly diversified universe in terms of space and time.
Another problematic aspect of the theory is that of democratisation as such. Democratisation has proven to be a potentially dangerous transformation process with the capacity of breeding lethal nationalism and intolerance. In spite of all these problems, there are regions in the world where democracies have been peaceful neighbours for decades. However, the idea of “democratic peace” does not satisfactorily explain these phenomena, and there is a need for further historical research into this field.